Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

...and then there is The Map

Right, then. I've had a few beers in me tonight, and I actually feel like blogging a little. Been doing some writing; managed to get some rebuilding/editing done on The Woodreeve's Tale. I remembered the name of the dragon in the story, which for me is a big deal, since it is a very good dragonish name and I came up with it almost all by myself, with only a little help from Lord Dunsany.
Anyway: The Map. I capitalize it to help emphasize the importance of maps in any fantasy story. You may not know this, but Robert Louis Stevenson drew his famous Map well before he wrote Treasure Island. I read that in a book about a map thief (I disremember the title, though it was an entertaining true story). Any student of Tolkien knows well (and probably loves, if they are true fans) his various maps in The Silmarillion and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and knows also that those works of art evolved over time, as author and publisher errors were corrected (and as Tolkien's storyline evolved). What is probably true of both Stevenson and JRRT is that their Maps came first. They may change as the needs of the story dictate, but a Map is indespensible to the writer of a fantasy story that takes place over a large geographical area of their own creation. It reins the writer in, as needed; gives them a bit of grounding in reality that their readers will appreciate later. My own fantasy world of Enea works the same for me: the Map came first. It was always so; the stories of Ramandyra and Kuronia and their surrounding Frontier Realms only came later.
Fine. A Map is a necessary first step towards great epic fantasy. (I have not really proved this, I know; but I believe it.) There have been many imitators of Tolkien's maps over the years. What keeps these imitators from approaching the grandness, the fullness, the wonder of JRRT's rendering of Wilderland, or the West of Middle-earth in the Third Age, of Beleriand? Lack of imagination, mostly. Am I the only potential reader of fantasy who picks up a volume off a bookstore shelf and turns almost immediately to the Map, if there is one (the latter being almost a sure requisite for purchase and/or further reading in said volume)? Only to be disappointed upon being presented with yet another view (often with a strangely familiar Western orientation) of a "Sea of Storms" or "Dragon Mountain" or some other such uninspired drivel? (The latter was a sentence fragment, I know. I offer no apology. Blame the Guinness.) The Map must be original both in its nomenclature and in its geographical orientation. The latter is often accomplished; the former, not so much.
My own Map faces East. My names are not particularly imaginative; but a greater command of archaic geographical nomenclature has helped, as well as a willingness to go beyond my own language and to utilize the tongues of my imagined world. (Which, admittedly, do not approach Tolkien's linguistic accomplishment on any scale.) You would have to see it to understand... and I am not yet willing to let it be seen by the world without; not without compensation, at any rate. Too much imagination has gone into it; things that have crept into my mind over the past twenty years have found their way to the plains, forests, mountains, rivers, and seas of the east of Enea: my own world, my Creation.
Jeez, writing this while slightly inebriated has been easier than I thought. I doubt it will hold up under scrutiny later. But there you have it, and I am done talking about Fantasy for a while. I am mad about other things at present, mad about the felling of trees and the general ruin of the natural world that comes in this latter age of foolish desires and misguided mores. And I am nearly drunk, and the wife does not know it yet. She may be disappointed, but will love me all the same, bless her! Her birthday is this week, and our daughter's, too. Blessed days for them, and for me. The mornings are cooler now with the advent of autumn. I am writing again, some. Life is good here in my little Angle; but the world without darkens still, and I worry.

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Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"