I am somewhat behind, so I haven’t done N is for the Nine Worlds yet, but if you’ve been reading along this month’s posts, you’ve probably gathered that I have this narrative universe containing, you guessed it, nine worlds, which are somehow interconnected, and that one of them is ours. (For a certain degree of ‘ours’.)
Now, while nine worlds is quite a big playground–I’d say one is sufficient, but as I’m a fantasy novelist, obviously it isn’t (quite)–nevertheless, every once in a while I feel cramped in my imagination by having my worlds too defined. Too set. Too … ordinary. This despite there being room enough for dragons and moving mountains and mermaids and magic of many different sorts, and for the discovery (fairly recent, to me) that one of the worlds as a continent full of dinosaurs.
(The non-magical palaeontologist who is going to go on an accidental journey thither will totally amaze the locals by her reaction to finding the tooth of a Triceratops prorsus in their refuse pile; though their amazement at her being able to accurately draw the skull of the Triceratops based off the tooth will, perhaps, be matched by her astonishment at the realization that it is not a fossil tooth.)
Sometimes, however, I need something more. I need my magic to not be explicable, my worlds to not be bounded, things not to be settled. I need there to be not only no acceptable scientific explanation for something, but no acceptable in-story magical one either.
Sometimes, in short, I need myth.
That’s what the Lands Beyond are. They are the other side of Faerie from the mortal worlds. They are the Dreamtime, the land of myth, the place where the Sun and the Moon live, where the gods dwell, where Beaver dives to the bottom of the sea and brings back the little clot of mud that becomes the world, where the World Tree is rooted, where Raven dwells, where the North Wind walks, where the well of story is.
There is a story by William Morris (yes, the wallpaper designer William Morris) called The Well at the World’s End. I think it’s C.S. Lewis who says that although the story is good (and it is, if somewhat precious in its diction), it can be no match for the title.
It is the air of the wood at the top of Mt Purgatory in the Divine Comedy; Aslan’s country, in the Narnia books; the place where the mountains begin in Leaf by Niggle. The Woods Beyond the World (another novel by Morris, an idea taken up by Lewis)–yes–that is the note that is struck by the Lands Beyond.