Some fictional settings intrigue. Others delight. Some are so compelling they become a part of your inner landscape. The stuff of daydreams. Maybe it’s the characters that make the setting so appealing. It could be a culture (real or imagined) or a different time period or, in the case of fantasy worlds, their epic scope and adventure. We all have our favorite book settings. In no particular order, these are 10 of mine.
1. Mitford, North Carolina from At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. While I love the setting (Karon based it on Blowing Rock, NC, where I’ve been and I can certainly see the inspiration) it’s most definitely the characters who make me want to visit the little town of Mitford tucked high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Who wouldn’t want to drop in on the Turkey Club at the Main Street Grill, or hear an Uncle Billy joke, or visit with Miss Sadie and Louella at Fern Bank, or peer over Cynthia’s shoulder as she’s illustrating one of her Violet books?
2. Rivendell from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Rings and The Hobbit (as well as Peter Jackson’s visual interpretation). “[Elrond’s] house was perfect whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley.” Couple that description from The Hobbit with Peter Jackson’s Rivendell movie set, and it’s starting to feel like how I sometimes envision the Kingdom of God, and what I hope to be doing there for a very, very long time.
3. Narnia from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (and series). These books were my earliest introduction to fantasy literature and these stories set the bar. There are very few places in these books I wouldn’t want to visit (that underground kingdom with the mole-men creatures in The Silver Chair being one of them; it gave me nightmares), but some of the places that top the list are the wardrobe and Lantern Waste, Mr. Tumnus’s cave, and Cair Paravel. And of course it, too, is now a movie.
4. Hobbiton from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and The Hobbit. Because round windows and round doors and full larders and Hobbits are such jolly good hosts and know how to throw a party. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” And the best thing about this setting is that we can actually go there. I know people who have. When Peter Jackson finished shooting the Hobbit movies in New Zealand, they turned the Hobbiton set into a place where people can visit. Bilbo’s home at Bag End and the Green Dragon pub, they are still there. I want to go… on an adventure!
5. Medieval Shrewsbury, England, near the Welsh border from One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters (and the whole 20 book series). I’d love to have a nice long chat with Cadfael in his herb garden, or the wood-scented herb shed where he brews his medicines–and maybe a tour of the town of Shrewsbury and all its shops, then a tour of the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, where Cadfael lives and works (best of all would be a sojourn into Cadfael’s native Wales). But only if I didn’t have to be entangled in that English civil war that forms the backdrop of the series!
6. Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Not the movie version. The version that’s in my head from reading the books (quite a few times). But I’d like to go as a guest of someone on staff, preferably Professor McGonagall, who seems consistently formidable, sensible, and capable, three qualities it strikes me as good to have about oneself at Hogwarts.
Or else an invisibility cloak.
7. The Hallelujah Mountains from the film Avatar. Floating mountains? Yes please! And I’d fly there on the back of one of those creatures they fly on in that movie.
8. Meduseld, King Theoden’s Golden Hall from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. This one is most definitly the movie version. The hall itself as well as its setting on Mount Sunday in New Zealand are unbeatably epic and wild and so very Celtic/Anglo Saxon. My first love, historically speaking, is Pre-Roman Briton culture, and Meduseld puts me right there in my Celtic-loving heart–though I know full well the actual Celtic halls of chieftains up in those hill-forts were more likely constructed of wattle-and-daub. This is fantasy! And if I had any sewing skills at all I would make copies of those horse banners that hang behind King Theoden’s throne.
9. Beorn’s House from the second Hobbit movie The Desolation of Smaug. Yes, even with those giant honey bees because the woodwork! The craftsmanship! Such beautiful carvings all over that place. Although I think I’d like to visit when Beorn is away from home as he’s actually a little alarming; he does turn into a bear, after all!
And since I’ve chosen predominantly Lord of the Rings fictional settings to visit (can’t help it, they’re just too cool), I’ll end with something closer to home…
10. 18th century Scottish Highlands from Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott (and pretty much any other 18th century Scotland-set story) because I’m endlessly interested in this time and place, and particularly about Clan MacGregor, and would like so much to see it for myself, for a very brief visit. This includes the area in Scotland called The Trossachs.
And speaking of 18th century Scotland, I’m giving away TEN SIGNED COPIES (with bookmarks)** of my latest release, The King’s Mercy which begins in… wait for it… 18th century Scotland
To enter: list the fictional book or movie settings you would like to visit (as many as you want; it needn’t be 10). And if you’re so inclined, tell me what you find appealing about them. I’ll choose winners from the comments randomly on Friday December 6.
Read the first two chapters of The King’s Mercy
Back Cover Copy for The King’s Mercy
**USA Addresses Only Please
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