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11.12.13 An Author’s Journey: Finding the Literary Side of Epic Fantasy: 5.2 Transported into Another World

Poulnaborne Dolmen Tomb (megalithic portal, Ireland; Rob Shaw, Irish

Poulnaborne Dolmen Tomb (4200-2900 BC, megalithic portal, Ireland; photo by Rob Shaw, Irish

11.12.13  An Author’s Journey: Finding the Literary Side of Epic Fantasy: 5.2 Transported into Another World

Hello, Again, Friends:

One of this past weekend’s book excerpts from CL 1, Pt 2 (http://ajcarlisle/Codex Lacrimae/Samples_Bk 1 Pt2_Alfheim) saw one of the main characters transported into a completely different world — Alfheim, the Land of the Light Elves in Norse mythology. 

As I write this series of blogs about how I approach the writing process, Aurelius’s moment of awakening seems as good a place as any to highlight another literary standard that impressed me as a youth, and which I’ve made a prominent feature in The Artifacts of Destiny series:  the transportation into another world

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (3rd ed., 2008)

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (3rd ed., 2008)

This transition into another world is a literary device that’s thousands of years old, and which (for me) Joseph Campbell best described in the “Monomyth” of his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces ( with a Thousand Faces):

          “…This first stage of the mythological journey—which we have designated the “call to adventure”—signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.

Theseus & Minotaur

Theseus & Minotaur

         The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, as did Theseus when he arrived in his father’s city, Athens, and heard the horrible history of the Minotaur; or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent, as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon. The adventure may begin as a mere blunder, as did that of the princess of the fairy tale; or still again, one may be only casually strolling, when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man. Examples might be multiplied, ad infinitum, from every corner of the world…” (end excerpt; p.48, 3rd ed.)

Interior Chamber of Newgrange, Ireland (built c. 3200 B.C.; World Heritage Site)

Interior Chamber of Newgrange, Ireland (built c. 3200 B.C.; World Heritage Site)

In the Middle Ages, the borderlands between our world and others were often very close, with medieval people in the Scandinavian and Celtic countries believing that a passage to the underworld opened during Samhain (festival celebrated on October 31st and November 1st, midway between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice). Often, you’ll find that megalithic sites such as eastern Ireland’s Newgrange (built around 3,500 B.C.) or even natural formations like Iceland’s Helgafell were believed to serve as “doorways” into other worlds.

While sometimes miraculous, in literature or oral tradition, a hero or heroine’s transference into another realm isn’t the only aspect of an other-worldly experience that intrigues the reader — it’s how he or she acts when confronted with the people, creatures, and places in that other world is what draws us in.

Leaping over the Wall into another world, in Neil Gaiman's, "Stardust"

Leaping over the Wall into another world, in Neil Gaiman’s, “Stardust”

For the fantasy books that I appreciate, an author doesn’t have to create a new mythology for me to enjoy the adventure of going to another world. However, the better-rendered environments and universes that my favorite authors created were ones that might be fantastic, but which were also places where I could imagine myself because of the careful attention paid to the humanity of the heroes and heroines in the story.

That’s the gripping part for me as a reader, and for my influences and approach to the writing process, I seem to take the most pleasure in crafting tales that draw inspiration from the two forms of entertainment I’ve enjoyed since childhood:  Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Next time: Alternate Worlds from Sci-Fi & Fantasy that Influence The Artifacts of Destiny…

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. How accurate does a site or artefact have to be in relation to its myth base. The Norse link to an Irish site for example. 20 years of people watching time team will leave an author being pressed on issues that used not to exist. Perhaps take off a fe whundred years off the age or Newgrange. I have seen TV period dramas sink on such these days. Liminal places have been respected for thousands of years, but if someone went through Poulnabrone at the right time they would most likely have met Sidhe or Tua De Dannan, or heavens forbid, Formorians.
    If you are interested on Liminal issues perhaps there are works yet to be printed. A lecturer I know is working exactly that – thresholds and the space in between here and there in monuments and landscapes. The openings are particularly weak (apparently) at cross quarter days and solstice points.

    November 28, 2013
    • Hi, timberbookshelves!

      Appreciate your reading my blog, and think that (where recoverable) myth-base may indeed give context to the use of artifacts/monolith-sites at specific point-in-time; agree with you, though, that as the years and millennia pass, use and function of those spaces can change drastically. Still, think we can find some context for some aspects of “thresholds and spaces,“ but need to bring in a host of disciplines to make a persuasive argument (e.g., anthropology, archaeology, folklore studies, etc.)…and, even then, still feel as if the Sidhe & Tuatha de Danaan might be circling our interpretations and laughing with Banshee screams!

      For my area of interest here, much work’s been done recently in late antique & early medieval studies, & if you want some compelling reading, here are a few popular studies that are accessible & readable.


      Hilda R. Ellis Davidson, Myth and Symbols in Pagan Europe…(1988)
      Claude Leconteaux, Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt…(2011)
      James MacKillon, Myths and Legends of the Celts(2005)
      Stephen A. Mitchell, Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages(2011)

      November 29, 2013

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