Today we pay tribute to the map of the country of Narnia. This is the setting for the Chronicles of Narnia, which was one my favorite book series when I was growing up. Three of the seven books have been made into movies, and the future is uncertain for the remainder of the movies, but I hope they get made eventually. It was a fascinating, engrossing world, which is full of metaphor and meaning. C. S. Lewis is, in my opinion, one of the most talented writers of the 20th century, and I’ve read nearly every book he’s ever written. He also has a science fiction trilogy for adults, but the Chronicles of Narnia can be enjoyed by both children and adults.
I could go on and on about Lewis (I took a college course on him), but I’ll stop myself here and we’ll go to the map:
I think most people, myself included, are most familiar with the events of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. In that book, four children enter a wardrobe in their house and find a strange world on the other side, which they learn is called Narnia. You can see where they first enter the world in the top left of the map, marked “The Wardrobe”. The lamp-post nearby is another famous landmark of Narnia, having been created at the beginning of the world when the White Witch threw an iron bar at Aslan. The iron bar became a lamp-post which continued burning brightly without need for fuel. In the book, the lamp-post is where Lucy, the youngest girl, meets Mr. Tumnus, whose home can be seen north of the lamp-post. Also nearby is the beaver’s dam, home of the beavers who befriend the children in the book.
Looking beyond that corner, we can see more important landmarks, such as the Witch’s Castle, the Battlefield, and the Stone Table where Aslan was taken to be executed by the Witch. We can trace all the events of the series from this one map, and each place is imbued with a certain emotional dimension as we recall the scenes that happen there. I think this is a very well-made map, because the style harkens back to an earlier time period of magic and mythology, and the names of places and accompanying pictograms evoke a sense of foreboding.
I start to wonder, though, what lies beyond the borders of Narnia. In the south is the mountainous country of Archenland, but what’s south of that? How about the eastern ocean… is there land on the other side? And the question most exciting for a cartographer: Is there still unexplored territory out there somewhere?
Well, I looked into it, and I found another map which shows a much greater span of the world:
Apparently, there are names of many cities and countries beyond Narnia, although the exact locations of some of these places is hazy. Additionally, the ocean continues to the east until it meets the sky. To my surprise, Narnia is actually flat. I wonder how this would be in real life. Would one walk to the border and be stopped by an invisible barrier? Or fall off? Or be swept up into the sky?
Personally, I wouldn’t be convinced that the world was flat and self-contained. In my book the Map of Daggers, Zinke the Cartographer lives on an island which people believe to be the whole world. Sail too far away from the coast, and one may disappear forever into the Mist. But he, like I, would not be convinced. There has to be something more out there, he would argue. It’s the endless drive for discovery, after all, that defines us as humans.