A number of the national UK newspapers have reported on a particular blog post from Graeme Whiting, the head teacher of an independant school in Gloucestershire, called The Imagination of a Child. In this post, Whiting rails against the alleged tendency of modern parents to allow their children to read inappropriate fiction.
I will not go into detail on the irrelevance of his account of his own school life, which he mentions but fails to tie into his point. Nor will I explore the message he has about therapy and mental illness, being as I have no interest or expertise in it. I will only say that I very much doubt Whiting’s expertise on such subjects exceeds my own.
On what Whiting has to say about fantasy, however, I have a great deal to say in response.
Following on from An Unexpected Journey, the Desolation of Smaug follows our hero Bilbo, the dwarves and Gandalf as they continue in their quest to defeat Smaug the dragon and reclaim Erebor. This 2 hour 41 minute instalment sees them meet Beorn, a man who turns into a bear, and travel through Mirkwood and Laketown before entering the mountain.
As always, the visuals were stunning. New Zealand’s landscape offers a gorgeous and varied backdrop for chase scenes, and it’s clear that no expense was spared on the built sets and CGI either. Each location felt right for what it was and who built it and lived there; the Laketown set in particular had a very lived-in feel, and the scale of the interior of Erebor was breathtaking. At Dol Guldur, unusual and unsettling camera angles add to the sinister atmosphere.
It has recently been reported that a Roman ring, suggested by some to have inspired Tolkien when he was writing The Hobbit, has been put on display at The Vyne, a Tudor house in Hampshire, in association with the Tolkien Society.
I have some reservations about this story, both from the perspective of a writer and as the holder of a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology.
The media reporting this story, as well as the people at the Vyne and in the Tolkien Society, display a lack of understanding of how inspiration works for a writer. In fairness, I can’t speak for other writers, but I find inspiration is never about one thing. Inspiration comes from a thousand sources, and the way I link my experiences to one another.
One thing fantasy excels at is presenting incredible new worlds to the reader. The imagination of fantasy authors knows no bounds when worldbuilding is involved. So below I have picked out some of my favourite fantasy locations to celebrate and illustrate the variety and brilliance on offer.
The Mines of Moria
Tolkien’s Middle Earth contained such incredible places, from Hobbiton to the Lonely Mountain, the splendour of Gondor to the windswept plains of Rohan, or the dark cave of Shelob to the great troll-operated gates of Mordor, that picking just one location is a difficult task. Tolkien put so much into developing his world and its varied peoples that I could create a whole article series on memorable places in Middle Earth. I have picked Moria because of its size, its atmosphere and because of the contrast between Gimli’s expectations and the dark, frightening truth the Fellowship finds within. Continue reading Five great locations in fantasy→