Reality. Sometimes real life can get us down. But, that’s why we read fantasy. Like Bilbo, we all want to go on adventures, even though Gandalf doesn’t ever come knocking. Even though owls haven’t delivered our letters, we all want to go to Hogwarts. Admit it: you’ve stepped inside wardrobes, hoping that they would transport you to Narnia!
Certainly, we read fantasy stories because the characters are engaging or the plot is suspenseful, but for me, I am always drawn in most by the setting. When I’ve finished reading a book or seeing a movie, I always spend a few days wishing I could live in that book’s (or that movie’s) fictional world instead. I can be hard to focus on “real life” while the “what if” question continues to float in my mind. “What if I could visit or even live in that world?”
But this question always leads to an even more difficult question: “What if I could choose only one?”
There are so many fictional settings that I enjoy, it can certainly be difficult to choose only one. That’s why, two days ago, when I decided that I had grown tired of the same “Great Hall” header that this website has shown for months, I thought, rather than choose only one new location to display in the header, I would find a way to show several. I now have locations from Harry Potter (namely Hogwarts), Middle-Earth, Narnia, Star Wars and others.
Even though, with this new rotating header, I don’t have to make a choice between my favorite fictional locations to show on this website, the question still remains: “What is my all-time favorite? Do I even have an absolute favorite?”
Let’s break it down, universe by universe. Hopefully I can decide on one (or two) when I’m done!
No doubt everyone’s favorite location within the wizarding world is Hogwarts. No doubt everyone wishes they could have gone to school there. However, people tend to forget the other wizarding locations when they think about their favorites. What about Hogsmeade? Certainly, nothing can compare to the magical castle of our daydreams, but now that I’m a teacher, I dream less often about going to school at Hogwarts and more often about teaching there (specifically Charms, because I am a Ravenclaw). But I wouldn’t live there, even though teachers can. I would have an office there, certainly, but in addition, I would also have a house in Hogsmeade. Ever since Pottermore Home released the “House in Hogsmeade” virtual apartment, I admit I have thought about what it might be like to live in it.
In conclusion, I would love to visit Hogwarts, but I would live in Hogsmeade.
There are far more locations on my list of favorites for this realm. This is going to be tough.
There are four primarily “good” races in Middle-Earth: hobbits, humans, elves, and dwarves. According to my “Sorting the Middle-Earth Races” article, they can be rather neatly sorted into the four Hogwarts houses. At Hogwarts, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff get along pretty well with each other, but they all basically hate Slytherin. In my case, the same basically holds true here. While I like dwarves well enough, particularly Gimli, I would not enjoy living among them, underground in their mountains. I need to be outside and able to see the sky on a regular basis in order to thrive.
As for hobbits and humans, I would definitely love to live in The Shire—or better yet, Bag End. Having walked through many areas within The Shire on Lord of the Rings Online and having read about them and seen them in movies, it seems like a rather peaceful place to live. Bree is a little bit shadier, but seeing as it’s built for humans, it might be better suited for me. However, there are other locations in Middle-Earth where humans live: Edoras in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. Both I think are magnificent locations to visit, though I’m not sure I would want to live in either place.
Finally, however, we have Rivendell and Lothlorien. Since Lothlorien is more heavily forested than Rivendell is, you’re less likely to regularly see the sky under all those trees. I think, all in all, I would choose to visit many places within Middle-Earth, but I would ultimately choose to live in Rivendell, as that’s why my people (the Ravenclaws) live.
Probably my favorite scene from all the Narnia films is the moment that Cair Paravel is shown, and Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie are crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia. Later, Lucy has a conversation with Mr. Tumnus on a balcony overlooking the sunset on the sea. Following that scene, there is a stag chase in the Western Woods, which is another of my favorite scenes. It’s tragic to me that the four siblings were kings and queens for only sixteen years—known as the Golden Age of Narnia. What I wouldn’t give to have lived in Narnia during that time!
That’s probably why The Horse and His Boy is my favorite Narnia book, though The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a very close second. This book happens during that Golden Age of Narnia. However, most of the action happens in a desert country to the south of Narnia called Calormen, which is not a very pleasant place. Between Calormen and Narnia, though, we have the mountainous country of Archenland. The Horse and His Boy certainly expanded the setting beyond Narnia significantly! That’s another reason why I enjoy it—there are new places to explore.
Despite that the time spent in Archenland is very short compared with Calormen, I loved this country, particularly Anvard, where the King and Queen reside in their castle. Here’s a paragraph from the closing pages:
Meanwhile at Anvard everyone was very glad [when] the real fun began, which was a grand feast held that evening on the lawn before the castle, with dozens of lanterns to help the moonlight. And the wine flowed and tales were told and jokes were cracked, and then silence was made and the King’s poet with two fiddlers stepped out into the middle of the circle. Aravis and Cor prepared themselves to be bored, for the only poetry they knew was the Calormene kind, and you know now what that was like. But at the very first scrape of the fiddles a rocket seemed to go up inside their heads, and the poet sang the great old lay of Fair Olvin and how he fought the Giant Pire and turned him into stone (and that is the origin of Mount Pire—it was a two-headed giant) and won the Lady Liln for his bride; and when it was over they wished it was going to begin again.
Strange as it may seem, I might have to choose Anvard over Cair Paravel on this one.
Here’s the thing you need to understand about the moons and planets shown in the six Star Wars films: for the most part, each one has only one “terrain”. Bespin is all clouds due to its being a gas giant, Curscant is one large city, Dagobah is a swamp, and Endor is primarily forest. Hoth is all ice, Kamino is aquatic (Naboo also has a primarily watery surface), Kashyyyk and Yavin 4 are both mostly jungle and rainforest, Mustafar is volcanic, and Tatooine is all desert. The only planet shown in the movies that really had any variety akin to our own is Alderaan, but it was only shown for a few brief seconds at the close of Episode III, and again from space during Episode IV, for a few seconds before it was destroyed.
Long story short, I’m not sure that I have a favorite among the remaining locations.
There’s no way you’re going to get me to visit, much less live in, Panem. Just forget it.
If Jurassic Park had been successful on the primary island, it would be fun to visit, but given that the dinosaurs roam freely on both islands (presumably), “Las Cinco Muertes” are very dangerous islands and are not worth the visit.
Downton Redwall Abbey
I love Downton Abbey. I think my love for this show stems from my fascination with British culture, monarchy, and royalty. However, Downton Abbey doesn’t really belong in this article of favorite locations. It might be fictitious, but it is not rooted in fantasy, as the others locations above have been. Given the time and the money, I could fly to the United Kingdom and visit Highclere Castle. I could never live there, because the Earl and Countess of Carnavon (arguably the luckiest people in the world) already do. However, I can think of another (entirely imaginary) abbey that I would love to visit:
Redwall Abbey. Created by Brian Jacques, Redwall is a 1986 novel that became the first of a 22-book series. I’ve only read three of these books (Redwall, Mossflower, and Mattimeo), but I hope to return to the series someday. When I do, I’ll write about them here, so I don’t want to give too much away about them now, but Redwall Abbey is truly a magnificent place and definitely belongs on my list of favorite fictional locations.
After I set my mind to writing this article about my favorite fictional locations, I am finding that, rather than narrow my list down to a favorite, instead I can’t help but think of more locations that should be on this list. What about the many “ages” from the Myst video game and book series? What about the many locations within Westeros from Game of Thrones? Or Christopher Paolini’s Alagaesia? Or Anne McCaffrey’s Pern?
In the end, though, there really is no contest. I’ve loved Harry Potter the longest, and my desire to visit Hogwarts (and to live in Hogsmeade) is the strongest, though Rivendell is a very close second.
What would you choose? Share your favorite fantasy locations in the comments!