The topic this week isn’t far of a stretch for me, because I may have already written up lessons for fantasy-type classes. Last year I had quite a bit of fun poring through old fantasy books I’d read and “teaching”/discussing them to students within a virtual roleplay site. It’s always fun to see how many people love the same worlds you do, and by the end of the year I ended up with even more books I didn’t know about and would love to read!
Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Fantasyland 101
The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones
First and foremost, I would never delve into any fantasy land without this nifty guide written by the late Diana Wynne Jones. I keep my physical copy right beside my computer at all times in case I need to review the common tropes found within fantasy worlds and the people living within. It’s compact and quite lovely, really, and worth having if you’re a fantasy fan.
Now that that’s out of the way, onto the actual Top Ten (because I was totally not counting the one above as one of them XD).
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin – The world in A Song of Ice and Fire is rich with history, and readers of this series will have seen that many of the viewpoints encompass not only the events occurring within the seven kingdoms of Westeros, but also that of the far eastern, exotic lands. A discussion of fantasy lands taking place today wouldn’t be much of a discussion if we didn’t mention Westeros at least once or twice.
The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett – I could probably pick any number of the late Sir Terry’s books to talk about his Discworld series, and goodness knows that most of the books in the series can be considered standalones. But the first book has one of the most vivid descriptions of what Discworld actually is. Plus, the book features Rincewind, one of the awesomest–and most amusing–Discworld wizards ever.
The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz #2) by L. Frank Baum – While this book is the second in the Oz series (the first being the well-known The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), it is certainly the first one that showcases much more of Oz as a country. Wizard of Oz gives only a small glimpse of what Oz and its surrounding lands hold, and it is through the subsequent books that Oz becomes much more than four counties and an Emerald City.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – What is a class on fantasy land without the father of high fantasy? The man was a master world builder, and Middle Earth has a special place in any fantasy girl/guy’s mind. Choosing just one book to talk about Middle Earth doesn’t really hold the world to justice, and I’d probably use the rest of The Lord of the Rings series as supplemental material. Still, The Hobbit won out because of the vast number of places Bilbo visited on his adventure.
Terrier (Beka Cooper #1) by Tamora Pierce – Boy, I could probably do a full-blown syllabus just on Tortall alone, but I’m a pretty huge fangirl over this world, so that would be no surprise. Beka Cooper’s world is not exactly the most “modern” view of Tortall and its surrounding lands. In fact, the Beka Cooper trilogy is considered a prologue to the main Tortall storylines. That said, I liked the focus of fantasy cities within each of the Beka Cooper stories, and Terrier was fantastic in bringing Corus to life.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Wonderland is definitely a place I would try to visit if I had the chance. It is filled utterly with children’s imagination, from its vivid, mad world to its elocuting caterpillars and turtles. Many an artist has had a hand in trying to depict Wonderland and its characters, and often the results are fantastic.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Narnia #2) by C. S. Lewis – Who wouldn’t want to be a Pevensie at this time period? In fact, who wouldn’t want their cupboards and closets to lead them to the fantastic world that is Narnia? Like Middle Earth, Narnia is definitely one of the founding worlds within high fantasy. It certainly earns its place in a lesson, that’s for sure.
Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix – Keeping it easy here, so why not look at the Old Kingdom through the eyes of an Ancelsterrian? Sabriel makes for a great viewpoint, especially where the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre are concerned. The book itself gives us quite a bit of a view of both worlds in any case.
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin – Le Guin has always been a woman ahead of her time when it comes to fantasy. Her Earthsea books are prime examples of non-Western inspired fantasy, and Earthsea itself resembles the Southeast Asian islands. She has been a huge influence in much of modern fantasy today, and I would definitely point to her work as a starting point for diversity in fantasy literature.
Bitterblue (Graceling #3) by Kristin Cashore – I could probably find several other examples of beautifully created worlds within young adult fantasy. But I’m not going to. One of my fascinations with Cashore’s books is that there are two distinct worlds living within the same. The seven Kingdoms hold a very different magic from that of The Dells, and it is in Bitterblue that we get a look at both worlds combined.
I am definitely missing several more fantasy worlds I’d love to throw into a lesson plan. Honorary mentions include Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere (because Scadrial–Mistborn series–is not his only world within his fantasy universe…), Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts’ Kelewan, Maria V. Snyder’s Ixia, Sarah J. Maas’ Adarian, Tanya Huff’s Aydori, and Jim Butcher’s Alera.