When I first read The Princess Bride, I thought Florin was a real place, or at least that it had been at some point. (Prussia was real.) Goldman crafted his novel so well that I really wanted it to exist. Also, my copy of the book included a map. It had to be real if some cartographer had written it down!
Okay, so I was a naive little reader. (Um, I still might be waiting for Goldman to finish Buttercup’s Baby–WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, GOLDMAN?!) But there is something exhilarating about fictional lands. World-building is difficult, but so necessary for novels, particularly in the fantasy realm. The Pevensies are great, but what I love most about Lewis’s books is the possibility of Narnia. As a reader, you want to go to these places.
Part of world-building requires actually knowing where these places might exist. Maps like the the one in The Princess Bride can help a writer figure out how events can unfold and keep the narrative on track.
The Awl has a great collection of some literary maps, including Goldman’s. Others I hadn’t seen, like A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood or Baum’s map of Oz. Although it wasn’t included in the actual books, the recent map of Panem also gets a shoutout.
In case that’s not enough map-love for you, make sure to check out this gorgeous post from the Horn Book by Julie Larios. One point I especially enjoyed:
“I ask my writing students at Vermont College of Fine Arts to think long and hard about the setting they develop in their books for children. Kids want to be explorers, too. They don’t always want to identify with a familiar character in a familiar world. Books, says Fran Lebowitz, should be doors, not mirrors. So I ask my students to think of offering the setting of their stories to young readers as a gift that opens doors. By doing so, they turn their readers into explorers, and what child doesn’t want to explore?…We explore, and we come to know the unknown.”
I love the connection between maps and children’s literature in particular. Books are a major way (maybe the only way) children get to freely explore. Why not have fun with it?