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Here Be Dragons

Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings

Stefan Ekman

Publication Year: 2013

Fantasy worlds are never mere backdrops. They are an integral part of the work, and refuse to remain separate from other elements. These worlds combine landscape with narrative logic by incorporating alternative rules about cause and effect or physical transformation. They become actors in the drama--interacting with the characters, offering assistance or hindrance, and making ethical demands. In Here Be Dragons, Stefan Ekman provides a wide-ranging survey of the ubiquitous fantasy map as the point of departure for an in-depth discussion of what such maps can tell us about what is important in the fictional worlds and the stories that take place there. With particular focus on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Ekman shows how fantasy settings deserve serious attention from both readers and critics. Includes insightful readings of works by Steven Brust, Garth Nix, Robert Holdstock, Terry Pratchett, Charles de Lint, China Mieville, Patricia McKillip, Tim Powers, Lisa Goldstein, Steven R. Donaldson, Robert Jordan, and Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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1 : Introduction

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pp. 1-13

Reading fantasy was always like going on a journey for me. It might have been to a curious place spied through the window, or to an impossibly exotic country far away. Sometimes the landscape was comforting and familiar; at other times, disturbing and alien. Blinding beauty or nauseating ugliness assailed my eyes. In these places, there were adventures and heroes, enigmas...

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2 : Maps

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pp. 14-67

Maps are wonderful tools that can help us find our way and divide up our surroundings: into our land and theirs, into safe places and unsafe, and, ultimately, into the known world and the unknown. Exploring has become tantamount to mapping, turning the empty margins and blank...

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3 : Borders and Boundaries

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pp. 68-128

Just like the actual world, all reasonably complex secondary worlds are divided into areas of various kinds. Divisions may be geographical or administrative in nature, with areas demarcated by, for instance, rivers, mountain ranges, beaches, hedges, ditches, dykes, or simply lines on a map. Crossing from one area into another may be...

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4 : Nature and Culture

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pp. 129-176

One of the most intriguing divisions that fantasy literature enables us to rethink is that between the domains of nature and culture. Many scholars maintain that the principal cause of today’s many environmental problems, from ozone depletion to the proliferation of genetically manipulated organisms, is...

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5 : Realms and Rulers

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pp. 177-215

The previous chapters discussed divisions that are, in one way or another, mainly peculiar to fantasy—either because they do not exist in the actual world, such as polder boundaries, or because, as in the case of the nature–culture division, they can be constructed differently in a fantasy world. This chapter...

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6 : Some Final Thoughts

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pp. 216-220

I consider myself a seasoned traveler in the realm of fairy story. I have long since lost count of all the places I have visited in the myriad fantasy stories I have read over the years. Often, a setting feels more well- known than wonderful, like a vacation resort one has visited several times before. Equally often, however, I blink (my mind’s eye, at least) at the fresh wonders that glitter between the pages: ...

Appendix A: Method for the Map Survey

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pp. 221-224

Appendix B: Map Sample

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pp. 225-232


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pp. 233-262


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pp. 263-276


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pp. 277-285

About the Author

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p. 297-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573247
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819573223

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013