Friday Five: Fictional Places to Visit

A lot of what I talk about on this blog has to do with books.  I love books, whether fiction or non-fiction, historical or theological, sci-fi or western, I just love books. 

I spend a lot of time reading or listening to fiction, especially of the genre variety.  The best genre authors create  a world (or worlds) where you absolutely want to visit, and maybe even live in.  So that got me thinking, what fictional places would I most want to visit?

Middle-earth.  I can’t narrow it down to one particular place, although if forced to I would probably pick the Shire.  Given the right time (not during the War of the Ring) and the right traveling companions, Middle-earth would be the absolute in a fictional vacation.

Arrakis.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, that Dune would be the worst place in the universe to visit.  But, can you imagine riding on a sandworms back with the Fremen, or collecting spice in the open desert with the smugglers, or even drinking spice coffee in Arrakeen?  I grant you that visiting Kaitain might be more pleasant, but not nearly as fun.

Hogwarts.  I would probably have to get some sort of special dispensation to visit the school, seeing as how I’m not a wizard, but if I went during Dumbledore’s tenure, I’m sure something could be worked out.  I might even be able to take in a few clases and then hop on over to Hogsmeade for a butterbeer.

Coruscant.  Like Middle-earth, I would have a hard time choosing just one place in the Star Wars galaxy.  I’m already going to Arrakis, so there would be no need to go to the rip-off planet of Tatooine, but I’m sure Alderaan, Corellia or Naboo would be beautiful places to visit.  As with M-e, visiting this galaxy proves tricky because there is always armed conflict going on.  I would probably go to Coruscant about 100 years before Episode 1, so as to avoid the Sith.

Neverland.  (Not the ranch, unfortunately that is not fictional.)  Okay, maybe only ten year old boys want to visit Neverland, but since I’m travelling to fake places, I might as well be able to change my age.  Anyway, think about all the adventure and excitement you could have on a quick trip to Neverland: pirates, alligators, boys with animal hats; the list is practically endless.

Honorable Mention: Metropolis, Gotham City, the world where Mario lives, Arthur’s Camelot, the Tardis, Pern, Wheel of Time world, and that planet from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where it’s always Saturday afternoon.

You’ll notice some places I’ve left off, namely Narnia and Oz.  To tell the truth, as much as I love the Narnia books, I never found the world itself terribly interesting.  It just doesn’t have that same lived in feeling that Middle-earth or Hogwarts has.  Also, I find Oz to be uncompelling (plus, there are those wheeler things from the second, crappy movie).

I could also add many real places I would like to visit with fictional characters.  I could travel down the Mississippi with Tom and Huck, visit Spiderman’s New York (talk about a dangerous place) or even Conner Macleod’s Scotland.

Friday Five: Books That Have Changed My Life

The Friday Five will be a weekly series, I hope, of lists that somehow pertain to me which you will probably not find entertaining (hey, I’m just warning you in advance). This week’s list is the five books (fiction) that have changed my life. They are presented in no particular order.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Of course there are a lot more books that could go on a list like this (see this one from two years ago, for example), but the limit is five. If I could give a few honorable mentions it would include The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Review: J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth by Bradley Birzer

TolkienJ.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth by Bradley Birzer is a book that explores the elements of Christianity (Roman Catholic Christianity) in The Lord of the Rings. While most readers know that Tolkien never intended his classic book to be understood as an allegory, must do not understand the philosophical and theological underpinnings essential to the story. This book seeks to remedy that ignorance.

Perhaps a few illustrations will help. Tolkien was an unashamed Roman Catholic (his views sometimes make this Protestant bristle) and many of the most popular elements in his books are directly influenced by RCC theology. Take Lembas bread, for instance. The bread that sustains the Fellowship through their journey into Mordor cannot be understood outside of the Eucharist (again, while denying a one to one correspondence or even an allegorical view).

The Church Tolkien loved so much can be seen in the Fellowship, although it does change drastically over the course of the story. Galadriel can be seen in the Marian doctrines and Morgoth/Sauron in traditional Christian teachings of Satan. The three-fold character of Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King is seen in Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn. Birzer maintains these elements would not exisist were it not for Tolkien’s Christianity.

Two of the most memorable chapters involve heroism and modernity. The first deals with the question of who is the hero of The Lord of the Rings. Birzer goes through all of the characters (Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir) and lists their heroic qualities, especially in light of medieval values. He then concludes with this, “It is the hobbit in Frodo’s shadow, Samwise, who proves to be the true of The Lord of the Rings” (71). Aragorn is the long-lost king, with the blood of the West in him, he must fight. Gandalf is Maiar and thus is required to fight. Frodo, despite being a mere halfling, carries the ring and in a way is compelled to go to Mordor. Sam alone goes for no other reason than loyalty. (An aside-this presents an interesting thought: who is the hero in Harry Potter?)

The chapter on modernity is especially interesting because it gives insight into Tolkien’s view of industrialization. He detested modernity, thinking it a blight on the beauty of creation. He referred to machinery as instruments of Mordor and once called a motorcycle an Orc. Knowing this, you get a better understanding of Middle-earth, and especially the Shire. Orthanc, and Mordor to a lesser extent, represent all that was wrong in the world: factories, industry, mass production; the Shire represent pre-Reformation England. The England (never Britain, the United Kingdom, or the English Commonwealth) he grew up and loved.

I’ve probably babbled too much over this book, so it is needless to say that I enjoyed it. I heartily recommend it for any fan of LotR (even the films) and especially those who want to delve deeper in the mythical land we enjoy so much. Read it and enjoy.