Fantasy Lands


Fantasy Worlds

Story setting is important in fiction however some things can be taken for granted depending on the genre e.g. Regency fiction is deemed to be set in Great Britain with the customs and manners that surrounded the period 1811 – 1820 when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, was instated as his proxy as Prince Regent… it is a ready-made time and place into which authors can populate their stories. In Fantasy peoples, nations and histories have to be built from the ground up. This is world building. I’ve created several fantasy worlds. Before I talk about then I’m going to look at the worlds built by fantasy greats:  JRR Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert E Howard and Jack Vance.

Middle Earth

The grand-daddy of them all is Tolkien. His masterful generation of new English Myth is gentle, sweeping and definitive in the genre, full of hidden surprises – no one who’d read LOTR (Lord of the Rings) expected that origin of the orcs until the hints, once the Silmarillion was published made it plain, erudite, and was imbued with gravitas (not twee – stand up all you imitators who aimed for ‘twee’). Middle Earth could be overlaid on our Earth. If this was done there were easy connections. First though you have to step back in time to an Earth of the Middle Ages when the main bastion of the West was Byzantium, which equates to Minas Tirith defending the lands of Arnor and Gondor from the multitudes to the south (the Haradrim) and the Easterlings of Rhûn. So let’s do this.

Gondor and Mordor, including the lands of Near Harad
  • Minas Tirith becomes Byzantium, and just as the land of Gondor was west of Minas Tirith, so the hinterland of Byzantium – Greece, Thracia and other holdings such as Sicily were to the west of Byzantium.
  • Rhovanion becomes Kievan ‘Rus (which later grew into Russia)
  • Rhûn with its Easterlings become the Central Asian steppes and the nomads
  • Haradwaith, which used to be part of Gondor, and its sea lords, becomes the former provinces of Rome in Asia – Syria and Mesopotamia which under Islamic rule make the Mediterranean into a Muslim lake.
Annotated contour map showing Minas Tirith and the surrounding lands
Annotated contour map showing Minas Tirith and the surrounding lands

Tolkien denied his work was a reflection of recent events (two world wars), but would he disassociate his work from my map-based comparison? As a student of civilisation and the maps that go with it, such speculation has long been second nature to me. He was a great map maker; indeed he used those maps to plan out Sam and Frodo’s journey, which is how we come to have such detailed geography of his literary genius. And his elves were brilliant game changers; like Sam Gamgee, I wished I could meet them.

Before Tolkien

Fantasy as we know it was changed forever by Tolkien. He breathed life back into a genre that had lost its way. That isn’t to say there were no other decent fantasy writers when LOTR came out. Jack Vance’s Dying Earth (published in 1950 which was before LOTR) depicted a far future Earth where the beings, powerful artefacts and landscape were clearly delineated. Jack Vance was economical with words but he mapped out a world that hung together well. Then there’s Robert E Howard’s Conan, a savage hero in a sorcerous world that, more so than Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Howard’s Hyborian Age maps well onto Europe and he made it plain that this was intentional. His Conan lives in a time before the nomad hordes of the east (Hyrkanians) crushes civilisation.

Map from the the Age of Conan (the Hyborian Map) which RE Howard places circa 10,000 BC (the Hyborian Map)
Map from the the Age of Conan (the Hyborian Map) which RE Howard places circa 10,000 BC

Let’s skip to post-Tolkien. So: the world has changed. Ace Books has tried to rip off Tolkien’s work and failed (and eventually pays the price for sharp business practise). But there’s new life in Fantasy as Andre Norton begins her depiction of Witch World and the High Hallack. Her first six works came in the 1960s, telling the tale of Simon Tregarth, his witch trained wife, Jaelithe and the adventures of their three offspring in the lands of Escore and Estcarp. Also in this f is the first of many tales of the High Hallack.

Andre Norton’s Witch World

Witch World is pre-industrial revolution, but it does not map onto our Earth. It is old and so is its magic. In its past, the witches of Estcarp cast a spell that twisted and rove the mountains to seal off Estcore from lands to the east known as Estcarp. In Estcore, magic can only be cast by the witch-trained and only by women who haven’t been with a man. This restriction doesn’t apply in Escarp whose adepts create gates into other places at whim. Estcarp is full of powerful magic wielders and dangerous , often magical, monsters.
The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.
The High Hallack lies west across the ocean from Estcarp. Its dales have recently come to be settled by men, but in the past, it used to belong to peoples who, some of whom had sorcerous powers or could shape-shift. There are traces of the former inhabitants all over the dales; places of power as well as their artifacts. These people retreated north to Arvon, however their were-folk and shape-shifters drifted west into the Waste.

Witch World map showing Estcarp andEscore,  including the High Hallack and Arvon
Witch World map showing Estcarp andEscore, including the High Hallack and Arvon

Andre Norton was the by-line of Alice Mary Norton and she went on to write many books in her Witch World series. Her stories feature respect for the old ways and coming of age, and they resonate; yet her work went under the critical radar. She was of American Indian blood and had a love of cats.


Fantasy Worlds I’ve Created

When I write Fantasy I start with a status quo that is about to be disturbed. The hero or heroine rarely knows what their actions will lead to. Each setting is different and these are the themes:

  • Myth brought into the Present Day
  • Mercenary for Hire
  • The Gates to Faerie
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Seekers and Quests

Myths

Status: published on Kindle
Title: The Turning Stone
If you’d like to support me please mark this as Want-to-Read on Goodreads

Imagine a world in which the collateral damage due to the wars between elementals is so destructive it threatens to destroy all life on Earth. This is the setting for the Turning Stone. Thousands of years ago, long before that start of human civilisation, there was war between the beings of fire and the lava elementals. The conflict affected all: old myths, new myths, star-seekers and of course the humans.

The Turning Stone cover
The Turning Stone
(a star-seeker)

Mercenary for Hire

Title: Brant
Status: incomplete

Imagine a fantasy world where the hero doesn’t believe in magic. Magic has retreated from human lands but is never far away, especially in the darker corners of the world. This is the world of the Northland Steppes where the armies of the Khaif have forged a mighty empire and where there’s plenty of work for mercenaries. From the banks of the West Caulderin in the far west, comes Brant. He’s still new to the game of mercenaries for hire but knows the best odds of staying alive are in joining a reputable mercenary company. If he knew anything about guarding runaway princesses, that would come near the bottom of the list – the only likely pay being an unmarked grave.
The town of Orby in Brychon Woods is under threat by mercenaries with Princess Aralie (who is hiding there) as prize. Unconcerned by these affairs of state, Brant walks the forest trail that leads to Orby. Not far from Orby, Ysarie, a very powerful (and beautiful) magical being makes plans to snare the next unwary adventurer.
This is a world of soul-bleeds, night-frights, muut-inimes (floating people), and the magical mirror realm of Turalam.

Soulbleed in Brychon Wood
Soulbleed met in Brychon Woods

The Gates to Faerie

Title: Blue Belle
Status: complete but not yet published

Far to the west of the Northland Steppes lies Angelynn, capital city of a realm with many parallels to medieval Britain. In that realm lies Pleasant Wood. It marks one of the ways into faerie and so it is well guarded by wood nymphs; all ways to the lands of faerie are guarded by the fae. The fae live in harmony with nature so there can be no increase in population. Eventually one of the wood nymphs decides to sample the delights of man. her actions have repercussion for the nearby village of Tranby which has its own secrets that tie it to other guardians of Faerie: the Seneschal of Light and the Seneschal of Night.
Meanwhile, the Augeruch, who rules men from the city of Angelynn decides on a foreign war, with unexpected consequences to Tranby and Pleasant Wood.

Nymphs of tree, storm, ice and sea
Nymphs of tree, storm, ice and sea

Dark Fantasy

Title: Erisse of the Illyany
Status: incomplete

Imagine a world of dark fantasy set in the present day. A New Silk Road is being built to bring prosperity to the ancient cities of the Old Silk Road. Construction work means disturbing archaeological sites. When it does, the experts are called in. Nearby Urumqi is a melting pot of humanity where East meets West, and there is where an American contractor meets a girl with a strange past. She is one of the Illyany, a people who have kept their connection with the dark world, where death and life are terrifyingly merged.

Quests and Seekers

Title: A Sending
Status: Incomplete

Quests are the currency of heroes. A quest can be to steal or loot (Conan), to rescue (many of Andre Norton’s works), or to lose a ring (Frodo). Imagine a world driven by quests.
Deep in the lost realm of Harether, in the tundra’d forests where icy winds blow most of the year round, are two sentient sparks. Ting and Ming. A party of Seekers approaches them. The Seekers are headed by Beau Wanderlode. He used to be of the Ghovarian Guard from the county of Ghouv’d which lies in the princely state of Tokui. Of late, Tokuish has been overrun by the Rosekhi and its heroes have been banished.
This is a world of Seekers and it is uber-quest driven. Beau Wanderlode was a hero but when his homeland of Tokui was conquered he was bound by an unbreakable geas and sent on a quest to wild and uninhabited lands. Though he doesn’t know what he seeks, he cannot turn away and so can’t, for example, foment rebellion. He is a Seeker. All the warriors and heroes he once knew have, like Beau Wanderlode, become Seekers.
Ting and Ming are both magical and capricious. They have scoured their forest haunt for miles around and cleared it of all animals and birds.

Ting and Ming
Ting and Ming

Note: this blog post was produced using the new WordPress Gutenberg block editor. It’s not clear to me yet how to make this work better on mobile for which my apologies.

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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