Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

The Maps We Wandered Into As Kids

If I ruled the world, or at least a publishing company, all books would contain as much supplementary information as possible. Nonfiction, fiction—doesn't matter. Every work would have an appendix filled with diagrams, background information, digressions and anecdata. And of course, maps. Lots and lots of maps. This predilection probably sprang from the books I read as a kid—books like The Phantom Tollbooth, The Hobbit and The Princesss Bride—all of which feature engaging maps that serve as gateways to imaginary lands. Here, say these maps, you're in this other world now.

Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
In the beginning of The Phantom Tollbooth, listless youngster Milo wakes up one morning to find a tollbooth has appeared in his room. He also finds a letter that includes “[o]ne (1) map, up to date and carefully drawn by master cartographers, depicting natural and man-made features.” The “master cartographers” here is, actually, the book's illustrator, cartoonist Jules Feiffer (with some author assist). Feiffer's involvement with Phantom Tollbooth came about incidentally—he and Norton Juster were neighbors in a Brooklyn Heights apartment bulding. Soon they became close friends,roommates and collaborators. As Feiffer remembers it, he would illustrate passages as Juster read them aloud. But the map was a bit of a sticking point. Feiffer hated to draw two things, horses and maps, and The Phantom Tollbooth included both. Juster sketched out the map's basic dimensions, which Feiffer then traced and made over into his signature style. If Juster made him draw a map (and at least a few horses), Feiffer was able to sneak in a jab in return: the Whether Man’s appearance, a bald doughball in a toga, is based on Juster. In the 50th-anniversary edition of the book, the author jokes, “This was quite unfair, since everyone knows I never wear a toga.”

As a map: It's a perfect example of where hand-drawn aesthetics work best in maps—across a small area mapped specifically for visitors, as the exaggerated landmarks are given weight over exacting spatial accuracy. In this way the unfamiliar can be easily spotted and identified. It’s a style commonly seen in attraction maps, like Anika Mottershaw’s Map of London or theme-park maps, like this one of Walt Disney World.

A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh
The map of the Hundred Acre Wood appears in the first Winnie-the-Pooh book entitled, wait for it, Winnie-the-Pooh. Created by E.H. Shepard (who also illustrated The Wind in The Willows), the map is meant to appear drawn by Christropher Robin, with “Drawn by me and Mr Shepard helpd” written at the bottom and the cardinal directions on the compass marked as P-O-O-H. The storybook woods are based on the actual Five Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest, near Milne’s country home in Sussex. The original sketch for the map was owned, curiously enough, for a long time by Pat McInally, known in some circles for having the only perfect Wonderlic Test score and also being the first Harvard grad to play in the Super Bowl, which he did for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1981 (zing at you, Ryan Fitzpatick). McInally’s collection, including that preparatory sketch, is currently up for sale at Peter Harrington’s rare book shop in London, yours if you happen to have a spare £115,000—that’s $182,241.73—to burn.

As a map: The key difference between a map like this one and the one from The Phantom Tollbooth is purpose. While Feiffer’s map is intended for exploration, Christopher Robin-E.H. Shepard’s map is a documentation of a known land. In an imaginary world, what's beyond the borders doesn't matter so much. Here the only indication of the world beyond is the "To North Pole" note, an obvious sort of landmark for a child's map. With its focus on the "here" and elision of the "there," a map of an imaginary world is not unlike early maps, such Hecataeus’ map of the world, drawn in approximately 500 BC, with its amorphous borders of "ocean.” Both Hecataeus and Christopher Robin are making the same point—sure there’s probably other stuff, but this is what’s important.

William Goldman's The Princess Bride
The Floren and Guilder kingdoms described in The Princess Bride are located “between where Germany and Sweden are today.” For any other geographic particulars about the countries, the reader has to consult the map found in the endpapers (in some editions, a fold-out map in the center), drawn by William Goldman (if other illustrators made the map, I haven't been able to find a reference to them). The map is a doozy—jammed full of details, landmarks, labels, and with no perspective whatsoever. I mean, the Sun is on this map. The trees are the same size as the ships.

As a map: The map is deliberately evoking the feel of a Medieval illuminated manuscript, as this is an exaggerated version of how many maps looked around the times of princesses and feudal castles. Though examples of these kingdom-level maps are abundant and accessible, I’d like to particularly draw your attention to collection of sixteenth-century maps of Jerusalem, made available by The Jewish National University Library. The gallery beautifully illustrates the diversity to be found in this type of region-specific map. While none of them include the Sun, like Goldman's map, they often use multiple perspectives to show the mapped lands.

L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz
All told, Baum drew forty individual maps of Oz to accompany his novel. This is the major one, though, showing the entirety of the land and its surrounding areas. The Emerald City, in the center, is surrounded by four distinct countries. The countries are bordered by deserts (Great Sandy Waste is the obvious winner here and a great potential new name for the litterbox). Beyond the deserts like a number of intriguing countries that make at best a passing appearance in the story, such as Merryland and the Country of Gargoyles. "Kansas" of course appears nowhere.

As a map: A straightforward map if ever there was. One thing to note, though: the compass is reversed, East and West are switched. This is an L. Frank Baum original error! The first copy of this map was on a glass slide, when Baum went to make a paper copy he traced it backwards. It's a great example of a political map—it's easy to imagine it as a pulldown over the chalkboards of Oz classrooms. I'd direct you to a political map to look at for comparison, but we all know what those look like. Instead, let's take a peek at the map drawn for Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. First of all, while there's no North arrow, the cardinal directions have been corrected from Baum’s original. This map gives a more nuanced view of Oz, complete with a legend and some topographical definition. If the first map was a classroom pulldown, this is the map on the quiz at the end of the chapter on which you have to label all the features.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
Like The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit contains many, many maps. Most of them were drawn by Tolkien’s son, Christopher, but Thror’s Map was drawn by Tolkien himself. In the story, Gandalf gives this map to Bilbo at the beginning of the story, the impetus for our hero’s “unexpected journey” to recover the dwarves’ treasure from Smaug, the dragon of Erebor.

As a map: Drawn more or less to scale, Tolkien’s map shows locations in relation to each other with only sparse detail—only what you absolutely need to know to get where you’re going, no hints of what else is out there. A modern example would be something like this charming map called "Getting Drunk on Passyunk." Only the information you require, all of the in-betweens omitted. It’s the sort of map you might draw on a napkin for a friend from out of town who isn’t sure where she's going. “Oh, sure, once you leave my house, you take a left. When you get to the donut shop make another left, then veer right at the house with the spaceship mailbox. If you get to the traffic circle, you’ve gone too far. Presto: you’re at Erebor!”

Ellen Raskin's The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)
Okay, so this one isn’t a map of an imaginary land—the United States wasn't conjured out of Raskin's imagination—but it is a lovely chapter title page. I include it here because a) Ellen Raskin is the bee's knees and b) this was one of my favorite books as a young girl (I borrowed it from the library so often that the librarians finally just gave it to me one day). In this case, the map serves as a symbol of what’s happening in the book: Protagonist Mrs. Caroline Fish Carillon’s search for her missing husband is centered on her only clue, a half-heard phrase from a drowning man, "Noel(glub) see (blub) all… I (glub) new…". The power of words, right? Anyway: she takes the final word as an indicator of location and crisscrosses the country to check every town that starts with “New.”

As a map: This typographic style of map has become incredibly popular over the past few years, particularly as a way to show a city by its neighborhoods. But a map made completely of words is nothing new. Edwin Morgan's Chaffinch Map of Scotland, a poem published in 1965, uses the regional variations of names for a common songbird to create a map of his country. Howard Horowitz’s poem "Manhattan," reproduced here, appeared in The New York Times in 1997. Flickr user amapple has created a small but impressive set of maps focusing on such linear features as the Mississippi River and the Silk Road. Typographic mapping makes an impact even when the words aren’t locations. National Geographic included a type map of US surnames in its February 2011 issue, and an an interactive viewer is available on their website. My last name is everywhere.

On a final note, I'll point out a notable map omission from recent literature: I couldn’t believe The Hunger Games didn’t include a map of Panem!!! This is exactly what I meant when I said that books should have as much supplementary information as possible. But evidently, there are a lot of us spatial types out there, and an assortment of reader-drawn maps have popped up. My favorite belongs to Livejournal user “aimmyarrowshigh,” who describes the process she used to determine national borders and each district's location. The result is a spectacular map that would make any cartographer proud.

Previously: Blame It On Volcanoes and Pictures Of You From Space

Victoria Johnson is The Awl's resident cartographer. Hobbit and The Princess Bride maps via Woodge.

39 Comments / Post A Comment

KeithTalent (#2,014)

Did Lord of the Flies have a map? Or maybe a teacher drew one on the blackboard.

ohk (#201,911)

@KeithTalent I think my teacher had us draw our own maps (plus, an illustration of each chapter).

Bittersweet (#765)

"Presto: you're at Erebor!" Just watch out for the spiders in the woods, the devious mayor of Laketown, the desolate parts, and the large fire-breathing dragon.

(Loved this, thanks!)

No contemporary discussion of this topic can be complete without inclusion of Other-in-Law's map of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from Game of Thrones!


(Follow link then click to enlarge.)

Moxie (#81,363)

I personally prefer Baudrillard's map of the empire.

hockeymom (#143)

Swallows and Amazons.
It was my dad's book and each time I look at the map, I remember him reading to me.
Thanks for this.


Shanz (#216,080)

@hockeymom Oooh yeah! Almost forgot about S&A! The maps (drawn by one of the characters if I recall) helped hugely with setting the scene.

Dan Packel (#10,421)

My lucky day: my two favorite map series on the interwebs (this and that British guy in the Times) both have new posts.

bthny (#2,907)

@Dan Packel would love a link to that Times column!

Mr. B (#10,093)

When I was 12-ish and setting out to write a fantasy epic of my own, naturally I would have to start with The Map. (The Map was typically as far as I got.)

This was awesome.

Andrea K@twitter (#13,386)

@Mr. B Stumbling upon the maps again as an adult, usually while trying to move yet another box of stuff out of my parents' basements, is now my favourite part of the teenage fantasy novel writing phase.

Onlyasandwich (#214,243)

Did anyone else spend more time looking at the maps in Teddy Ruxpin books than listening to the eponymous bear gnaw his way through the story?

Onlyasandwich (#214,243)

@Onlyasandwich For those of you unfamiliar with the glory of the Land of Grundo, look here: http://monolith507.deviantart.com/art/The-Land-of-Grundo-97496379

mrtinwern (#214,259)


Could someone please forward this to Neal Stephenson? I'm knee deep in Anathem and could really use a map.

Poubelle (#214,283)

When I was a kid, one of my favorite parts about the Redwall series was the maps. Especially since the stuff added in the later books tended to fit pretty well with what was already there.

I don't know what happened to it, but growing up I had a full-color poster of the map of Narnia (I think it was promo thing a local bookstore was giving away?). It vanished when my parents moved, sadly.

Grown-up books need more maps.

hoke001 (#214,301)

Like a maps..

ranran (#189,059)

Mrs. Carillon!!

Nothing to add, just, what a great book!

Miss Violet (#214,691)

@ranran YES! All of her books are so wonderful. I believe Ellen Raskin was also a graphic designer by trade, which is one of the reasons that typography plays such an important role in her illustrations. (It has long been my plan to get a tattoo of the beautiful Garamond ampersand that she uses to great effect in "Figgs and Phantoms".) So glad to see her get a shout-out here.

@ranran Figgs & Phantoms is the best. http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/letsread/25959729/ Random fact: despite the fact that the book actually says the ampersand is Garamond, it's not. It's ITC Caslon 540 (the italic). Always kinda wondered how that mistake got made.

Seeing Mrs. Carillon in this post made my day.

Miss Violet (#214,691)

@Evelyn Pollins@facebook Oh my goodness I think you're right – that does appear to be Caslon Italic! I'm not so sure about 540 though, since the amp in question has an open loop on the left side and 540 has a closed one. Nonetheless, it is really strange that the book cites it as Garamond – and now generations of kids have grown up thinking it was a different font…

Love this. My favorite has always been The Phantom Tollbooth. Thanks for the backstory about Feiffer hating to draw maps — and his subsequent jab at Juster.

Vicky (#7,168)

@The Well-Versed Mom@twitter Thanks! The book had its 50th anniversary last year, so there are a bunch of recent interviews out there. The newest edition has a ton of extra information as well (and Juster is on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/NortonJuster1)!

SeanP (#4,058)

Oh, how I loved The Phantom Tollbooth when I was a boy. Thanks for this.

There is also an excellent book to complement the exploration : The dictionary of imaginary places, from Alberto Manguel (some maps included!)

bennimaddi (#314)

there are different Oz maps of varying levels of complexity as I recall; not sure of their history or in what editions they were originally used but I know the ones I read growing up had a much more detailed map, and that later Oz books (the ones not written by Baum, probably) had a map that was even more elaborate.

LDiggitty (#214,548)

I was obsessed with maps as a child; I used to make up all kinds of my own. Probably because of these books! I just adored "The Phantom Tollbooth" too… probably because it involved maps AND a little car!

Vicky (#7,168)

@LDiggitty You know what seemed nuts to me about that? Milo ALREADY OWNED the car. He just had a car in his bedroom, nbd.

dinoterror (#201,854)

Was no one else obsessed with Sweet Pickles as a kid? http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kveskwYzNI1qarezho1_500.jpg

gigglyfart (#207,205)

YES YES YES!!! I've spent hours looking at these maps.

area@twitter (#179,370)

Phantom Tollbooth! DELIGHT.

Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books have crude but wonderful maps that are particularly valuable given the amount of legendary journeys her characters go on.

I grew up in Hartfield where AA Milne lived and based Winnie the Pooh. I spent hours relating the names on the map to the real place names on Ashdown Forest – re-mapping the map, building relationships, trying to work out where Eeyore's gloomy place was in real life. It was magic. I now design maps… Thank you for this!

Shanz (#216,080)

Of *course* Panem (from the Hunger Games) doesn't get a map! It's both "North America after some kind of apocalypse" and also a metaphorical landscape for 1st World (The Capital) versus 3rd World (the Districts).

Every place is an overnight train ride from every other place (impossible!) — and there are tropical districts, mountain districts, and temperate districts. It doesn't make any sense geographically, but that (thankfully) isn't the focus of the terrific story.

I hearted "books with maps" as a (much) younger person, though, so enjoyed the article. Can still close my eyes and clearly see the various maps of Narnia and surrounds…

wee_ramekin (#33,118)

Does anybody remember the maps in the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander?

Ed Acker@twitter (#218,191)

All the maps are the same. You have to combine the journey with the map to see it. Like in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Indy travels along the map but it's a journey. And specifically, it's a hero's journey, for which you need to see the videos at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html

ProID (#219,254)

It's like maps in chronicles of Prydain ?

Pos001 (#219,561)

Hey, there are tropical districts !

First map I remember was in The Restless Robin by Marjorie Flack.It was a map of the east coast of the USA. A robin family flew up the coast searching for the perfect place to build their nest. They chose New Hampshire. A wonderful introduction to maps and I have been mesmerized by them ever since!

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