Fantasy worlds, they have the power to transport us to new universes, fulfilling our most wild and vivid dreams of escapism. These locales offer us singular and exciting experiences by which we may traverse our dull lives and explore lands of grand adventure. We all have dreamed of living in our own cozy hobbit-hole in the Shire or of living as royalty in gleaming Cair Paravel on Narnia’s Eastern Shore. And for good reason. Without further ado, here are our top ten fantasy worlds.
- Middle Earth: The penultimate fantasy land, Middle Earth is full of strange creatures and delightful characters. From Tom Bombadil to Nazgul, it seems that adventure is around every corner, behind every tree, and especially in every mountain crevice (as a certain Hobbit and company of dwarves discovered). This fictional predecessor to our current world-state is not just ripe with interesting beings like elves and dwarves, however. The geography itself is beautiful and glamorous. The Shire, the epitome of the Western Ideal, beckons all who seek peace and rest after an honest day’s work to its gently rolling hills and quiet waters. The Misty Mountains offer adventure and spectacle to the most daring. These contrasting geographies are melded into a beautiful hybrid in the sprawling expanse of the plains surrounding Rohan. And topping it off are the beautiful emerald canopies of the Greenwood. These are just a few of the expansive and interesting milieus in Middle Earth.
- Narnia: I doubt any of us can forget our initial feelings of awe and wonderment upon our first visit to the snowy woods of Narnia on our travels from the far away land of Spare Oom. One can almost feel tangible magic being loosed from the pages of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It is as if adventure itself has been personified in a land that seems almost as alive as its colorful and exciting characters. The shining royal residence of Cair Paravel lights up the eastern coast, while the mysterious deserts to the south dress the land in modesty. The many islands off its eastern coast offer intrigue and supernatural mystery rounding off a pleasant geography filled with fauns, talking animals, and living stars. With such a rich world, it is no wonder the Pevensies desired so much to return.
- “The World”: The world in A Song of Ice and Fire has no actual name. Instead, the rugged and always soon-to-die characters just simply refer to it as “the world”. However, unlike the previous two worlds, it is not a land of whimsy and merriment. This dark and foreboding land is shrouded in misery, strife, and immense bloodshed. It is a land and a time reminiscent of the European Dark Ages, where the skies seem bleak, and one’s future even bleaker. However, this austere world has a stark beauty of its own such as the great ice wall protecting civilization from the wildlings and the Grey Waste in the far off east.
Editor’s note: There’s a lot of debate among the fan base as to what the world is called in ASOIAF, with “Planetos” being the most common name. It’s actually called Earth. That’s right, it’s been confirmed. By George himself. Check out his interview here.
- Perelandra: In CS Lewis’s The Space Trilogy, the planet Venus is known in the Old Solar tongue as Perelandra. Upon breaking through the thick cloud layer, one is immediately confronted by a sea of emerald-colored ocean. Splashing down into this warm, pleasure-giving water, it becomes apparent that the waves and swells are larger than the mountains of Earth. The sky looks like a solid gold ceiling, bathing the world into perpetual dusk. Thousands of mobile, floating islands dot the horizon filled with strange and exotic creations like dog-sized dragons and trees with great blobs of water suitable for bathing in! This is a world ruled by innocent green humanoids and without fault.
- Discworld: The world as we know it does not exist, in its stead is a flat world on the back of a cosmic turtle! Such a zany creation could be none other than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Filled with silly characters and even sillier deities, this world is full of enough satire and parody to satisfy even the most cynical. Discworld is much like our own world, only…well flat, and a disc, and on a giant turtle. What else could you want?
- Alagaesia: The rich and intense world of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle has delighted and excited fans for years. Home to dragons and their riders, among other races like dwarves and elves, Alagaesia is steeped in drama and political intrigue. However, the geography of this world is as stunning and varied as the characters who inhabit it. From the mysterious hand-shaped island of Vroengard to the desolate Hadarac Desert, this world has adventure around every turn.
- Camelot: Camelot is perhaps the progenitor of the contemporary fantasy world. Well-known and beloved by all, it is the capitol city of Arthur’s Britain. Made wide-known and most famous in Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, it has become the epitome of high-fantasy atmosphere. Camelot’s French romantic feel, its sword and spell action, and its idyllic flora and fauna allow us all to escape our mundane lives to a world of knights and damsels.
- The Wizarding World: The hidden Wizarding World of Harry Potter lies just out of our muggle senses. Filled with dragons and warlocks, bogarts and house-elves, this world is rife with unique creatures. The most noteworthy features of this world may be its most mundane: the wizarding world’s ability to blend in. For example, Hogwarts, a castle filled with continuous magic activities, is seen as only an abandoned castle by we muggles. A warning to my fellow muggles: never think you are safe from this world; what you think is the most regular and humdrum places on earth are where our witch and wizard friends are lurking!
- Dark Materials Universe: Philip Pullman’s award winning Dark Materials trilogy has what is perhaps one of the most intriguing worlds ever put to paper in the way of natural philosophy. Pullman’s mind-blowing depiction of quantum physics, written in such a way that even a child can understand it, is a fantastic addition to the fantasy genre. Blending science fiction and fantasy, Pullman creates a compelling and beautifully woven parallel universe that is eerily similar to our own, yet dissimilar enough to leave you breathless with its novelty.
- Riordanverse: For lack of a better term, the universe that Rick Riordan has crafted is a beautiful intertwining of complex narratives and myths. The spiritual and supernatural construction of the universe is reminiscent of American Gods, but is put on a much grander scale. Like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this is a hidden world, one that lurks just below the surface of what we mere mortals can detect. It appears to us as the normal world, but dip below that surface and a veil is removed showing a universe filled with not only mythological creatures, but fascinating and fearsome locales as well such as Mount Olympus and the Egyptian underworld!
This is our list for the top ten fantasy worlds. What do you think? Did we leave out your favorite world? Let us know in the comments!