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Re: [mythsoc] Landscape

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  • dale nelson
    Much is available online via Project Gutenberg or other sources. One of Machen s nonfiction efforts was the introduction to Fred Hando s The Pleasant Land of
    Message 1 of 31 , Nov 12, 2012
      Much is available online via Project Gutenberg or other sources.

      One of Machen's nonfiction efforts was the introduction to Fred Hando's The Pleasant Land of Gwent, which is attractively illustrated.  It's interesting to correlate the decorative map endpapers with the Ordnance Survey map that I mentioned.

      William Morris was fascinated by landscape -- see his very fine Journals from his Icelandic expeditions.  I recommend the Praeger edition; a recent paperback version received a critical review in the Times Literary Supplement.  Incidentally I wrote a piece for Beyond Bree, "William Morris at Home and Abroad," based on the journals. It is also available here:


      Writing about his demanding travels brings out a humorous side of Morris that I don't associate with his fantasy. 

      Landscape is very important for Rider Haggard, such a favorite of C. S. Lewis and such an influence on Tolkien.  He wrote several nonficition outdoorsy books including one about travels in Egypt etc.  His best-known adventure novels, King Solomon's Mines and She, qualify as topographic romances.  (So do a host of less well-known books.)

      Lewis's love of George MacDonald's writings includes appreciation of landscape-related passages, e.g. in Sir Gibbie the "lovely journey 'up Gaunside'" --


      Fantastic landscapes are important in William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land, while eerie but more mundane landscape is a presence in his House on the Borderland.

      If you are interested in fantastic landscape with a strong symbolic element, you'll no doubt admire Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus.

      From: John Davis <john@...>
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 9:06 AM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Landscape

      Interesting post. Most of those I've read, but some had passed me by - I'll look them up. (Then hunt for them on ABE, then no doubt give up and get them on Kindle.)
      (I wonder sometimes whether writers like H.V. Morton might sometimes almost be included among fantasy/fiction authors. Certainly the rustic England he described in, say, "In Search of England", was largely vanished even when he was writing, whilst his chance encounters were often set up in advance if not invented entirely. I don't see much distinction between his 'fictionalised non fiction' and Blackwoods' frequent 'non fiction presented as fiction'.)
      As for sorting LotR readers by whether they consider the landscape descriptions to be essential, I have a feeling people change in that regard over time. Certainly when I first read Tolkien as a child, it was the battles and heroic deeds that I found exciting, but it is the landscape descriptions and poetry that draw me back time and time again as I get older.
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 2:50 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Landscape

      I think this is true of some readers, certainly of myself, but probably some readers skip or skim, for example, Tolkien's descriptions of the Old Forest or Ithilien.  Whether the landscape descriptions are an essential element in the allure of LOTR or an obstacle to its enjoyment would be one way of sorting LOTR's readers.

      Somewhere C. S. Lewis makes a related point, along the lines of being disappointed by the famously adventurous Dumas because in the latter's romances there are no weather and no sense of the distinctness of places.

      Evocation of place is important in some of the best weird fiction, such as Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows" and "The Wendigo" or Arthur Machen's "The White People."  As with Garner's Weirdstone, so with Machen's "Tree of Life" -- you can follow the story on an Ordnance Survey map (in Machen's case Explorer Map 152 Newport & Pontypool).  Any more, I find that often when I revisit Lovecraft, the story is not compelling, but I still enjoy reading his descriptions of, say, Innsmouth.  Lewis, Tolkien, Blackwood, Machen, and Lovecraft were all great ones for walking, at least during some years in their lives.  Blackwood wrote excellent nonfiction about his Danube canoe journey (a two-art essay), his Canadian camping (in his book Episodes Before Thrity, etc.), and so on, and Machen writes of the Welsh countryside of his youth in Far-Off Things.  Lovecraft wrote very lengthy travelogues for his own and his friends' enjoyment.  Lewis's descriptions of his walking tours are highlights of his letters.  One supposes that some of these authors may have been influenced by the -- at one time -- very popular George "Gypsy" Borrow and his books Lavengro, The Romany Rye, etc.  Before Borrow, Walter Scott brooded over specific places. 

      I believe that T. H. White wrote several outdoorsy books, about Ireland etc.  I've already mentioned John Buchan.  His weird novel Witch Wood lovingly evokes a specific time and place.

      I mentioned the vogue of travel books in the Twenties and Thirties.  Along with this interest in exotic parts went a national "fad" for rural walking.  There were groups like the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift who advocated strenuous walking.  The Kindred even had a costume that somewhat suggests the hooded cloaks of the dwarves in The Hobbit.  (I contributed a note on this to a recent issue of Amon Hen.)

      Dale Nelson

      From: John Davis <john@...>
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 3:33 AM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Landscape

      ....much of our love of fantasy is driven not by a desire to read of heroics and sword-play, though those of course have their place, but from a wish to simply explore other worlds....

    • aveeris523
      Some more contributions: City of Lost Children Dreamchild (part fantasy bio of Lewis Carroll, starring Ian Holm) Return to Oz The Navigator (1988, party of
      Message 31 of 31 , Nov 14, 2012
        Some more contributions:
        City of Lost Children
        Dreamchild (part fantasy bio of Lewis Carroll, starring Ian Holm)
        Return to Oz
        The Navigator (1988, party of 14th Cent. pilgrims travel into the future to find a way to fight the plague)
        Time Bandits
        Wings of Desire
                Steve Gaddis
        Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 11:06 AM
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Truly great films of the fantastic

        Tarsem Singh's "The Fall".

        Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth".

        Everything Hayao Miyazaki has done for Studio Ghibli.

        -- David Emerson

        Would listfolk like to offer their nominations for films that prove that the motion picture may be an art form truly worthy of the fantastic imagination?

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