Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Memorable Worlds: Xanth


My Experience with this World: 

When I came up with the punny title of Sew, It's a Quest for my (then) newest and freshest plot idea, I immediately told it to my mother. She liked it and declared it much better than my previous idea of "The Needle and the Sword," and thus the title was set in stone never to be changed.

She also told me I needed to read the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I'd seen other books of his come into our house, all with a strict "Kendra, you are not to read these" orders on them, so I was wary to say the least. But mother ILL'd two three-in-one copies of the first six books and handed them to me, so I opened them up and started to read. Then I started to laugh.

I have since managed to put my hands on and read through book 11, though I do plan to ILL twelve as soon as I finish reading my current book (Eye of the Oracle by Bryan Davis. Very good book, though I knew it would be since I've read his first series and loved it). I have also played around on a really cool fansite, but I don't know what happened to it because I can't seem to find it anymore. Ah, well. Reading all of Humphrey's answers to the questions people asked him was funny while it lasted.


The origins of Xanth are shrouded in mystery, but every few books or so, a layer is pulled back and you get to see a bit more of the picture. So far I have discovered that the world itself became magical when the Demon X(A/N)th lost in a very complicated contest and as punishment, had to encase himself in stone until a mortal came along and released him. While in this "sleep" his magic leaked out into the peninsula under which he hid, making everything, well, magical. And punny.


This is the map in book four, and I found it online somewhere, but I forget where.

This particular map resembles Florida, but in truth, Xanth can resemble any peninsula. The author happens to live in Florida, so it's only natural that its most common representation is his own state. The land border of Xanth connects to anywhere there is a natural peninsula, and travel across it can be quite random. Natives can always get back to where they belong, but those from Mundania (the real world) have no assurance of ending up in Xanth if they cross, and they could end up in any time period.

There are many, many important landmarks in Xanth, and I could probably fill this whole post with them. However, I will not. I will just talk about the most important spots.

First there's the Gap Chasm, which makes travel from north to the south (and vise versa) very difficult. First of all, it's very deep, and while there are bridges, some of them are a bit ... crazy. One, for instance, is a one-way bridge, and once you go across it, it disappears. Second, there is a dragon in it ready to eat any unsuspecting traveler that stumbles into its lair. Third, no one can remember that it exists. There's a forget spell on it, you see, so once you get too far away from it ... you just forget.

Also important is Good Magician Humphrey's Castle. Humphrey is the magician of Information (more on this in the culture part) and if anyone has a question that they can't seem to answer on their own, they can go there and if they're willing to give up a year's worth of labor for his cause, he'll answer the question. Not always to their satisfaction ... but, he'll answer it. (In rare occasions, he'll waive the year of service, but this is, well, rare.)

And then you have Castle Roogna. It's named after the king who built it, and is very old, but is picky about being the seat of power. It lay empty for a good many years, but in book one of the series, the main characters stumble upon it and it doesn't let them leave until they promise to bring back a king to rule in it.

Connecting these lovely spots are all sorts of trails and roads that wind through jungles, swamps, rivers, lakes, mountains ... and anything else that might show up.

Peoples and Culture:

The inhabitants of Xanth are as varied as the land itself. We have humans, who emigrated from Mundania in waves. The emigrants themselves are perfectly normal, but any child born in Xanth has a magical talent. It can be anything as useless as making a spot appear on the wall, to the ability to turn invisible, to being able to turn other people into animals. Every talent is unique, however. Those with especially powerful talents, like those able to turn people into animals, are called magicians, unless they're girls, in which case they are Sorceresses. The King of Xanth is always a magician, and they aren't always of a line.

And then there are the Centaurs, who don't wear clothing (what is it with centaurs who don't wear clothes? It's ... embarrassing!), but do find magic ... obscene. They mostly lived down on the big Centaur Isle at the lower tip of Xanth, but a few live around Castle Roogna and some other colonies. There are a few who have talents, but most of them try to hide them. They prize knowledge and rationality, and frown on anything that steps out of the normal scheme of things.

There are also ogres, who are strong and stupid. Amusingly, they speak in rhyme (if you can understand them). "Me think me stink!"

There are also any other type of fantastic creature that you might have heard of before. Elves (the little sort), goblins, harpies (both some pretty foul creatures who you might want to steer clear of), nymphs, fauns ... you name it, Xanth has it. Not only that, but there are also a LOT of crossbreeds, for in Xanth, as long as two creatures are similar (and if they're not, if there's a love spring involved), they can, um, have a kid together. 

What I like about this world:

The variety and puns. You never know what to expect when you open up a Xanth book. There is a slight formula, (they always begin with a visit to Magician Humphrey's, and there's always some sort of serious romance involved.) but a book might begin with Grundy deciding to go find Princess Ivy's pet dragon, but end with him rescuing Rapunzel by doing a role-play scenario for X(A/N)th to show how the poor demon can improve his chances of winning his games.

I also like the fact that ever so often, a fairy tale shows its head. Like Rapunzel. The last book I read had Sleeping Beauty in it. (And also, possibly, the best love triangle I've ever read. The guy in the picture, you see, is a prince, and the first girl needs to marry him because the alliance is necessary for her people. The other he broke a spell on, and because of that, she must marry him or she'll die. He likes the first girl, because she's very pretty, but he hasn't known girl two long enough to make a verdict on that. The first girl doesn't love him, she's older than him, you see, but she's willing to go through with the marriage if it'll help her people. The second does because of the spell. Complicated like that.)

What I don't like:

There is a Good Reason why my mother won't let me read any of the author's other books. Piers Anthony likes to, um, spice up his books a bit. Xanth is borderline when it comes to what I'll read. They never show anything worse than kisses and girl's legs, but the topic of "how to summon the stork" (which is, in Xanth, a real stork) isn't avoided, either.

What I learned from this world: 

I learned that puns, even bad puns, can be quite fun. Also, if you're going to do a long series, they can be very random and haphazard.

The world most obviously affected by Xanth is Bookania. My first Bookanian pun (the punch line), you see, was not contrived until after I had read a few Xanths. Bookania is also a long-haul series that can be a bit ... random.

However, my other books have had influence. The Land of Magic, for instance, is a world packed with lots of random you name it, you have it creatures. Also, the inhabitants call the normal world "The Land of Ordinary."

Even The Ankulen has had influence, for I suspect that the Old Woman that Jen visits was distantly inspired by Humphrey. Distantly.

These world-building posts are for the promotion of the upcoming release of my book The Ankulen. Feel free to do one yourself, just make sure you refer back to my blog and let your readers know about my upcoming book. If you do write a post, post a link in a comment somewhere on my blog and I'll add you to a giveaway for a copy of my book.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...