Although stories often veer off into wildly imaginative terrains, they often set off from real life spaces. Whether peculiar, mundane or unexpected, these places are nonetheless imbued with potential and serve as important gateways into the constructed literary worlds. These places are created in collaboration between the imaginations of the writer and reader, but comparing this vision with the reality can also offer added insight. With this in mind, I thought I would try to track down some of these points of departure.
Vancouver’s Cassiar Connector, which serves as the entrance way to the realm of the Half World, was pretty easy to locate, thanks to some rather specific instructions the antagonist, Mr. Glueskin, gives our heroine.
…”Where was I? Ahhh, yes. If you ever want to see your mummy again, and so on and so forth, leave the house immediately and proceed to the Cassiar Connector. Enter the tunnel that is farthest west. I really don’t know where you’ll end up if you go through the wrong Gate. So PAY ATTENTION!” he roared.
“West side,” Melanie sobbed.
“Good girl,” the vile voice soothed. “You’ll find there are numerous doors lining the inside wall. Go through Door Number Four! Get it? Door Four! Your prize-winning entry into Half-World!”
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is inspired by an experience of a cemetery near his childhood home. As he recounts in the foreword to the book:
“The idea had been so simple, to tell the story of a boy raised in a graveyard, inspired by one image: my infant son, Michael – who was two, and is now twenty-five, the age I was then, and is now taller than I am – on his tricycle, pedaling through the graveyard across the road in the sunshine, past the grave I once thought had belonged to a witch.”
London's Kings Cross Station became one of the most famous rail terminals in the world after Harry Potter used it as the starting point of his journey to Hogwarts. It is now a tourist destination for countless Potter fans who continue to flock there in search of platform 9 ¾. In honour of the literary homage, a luggage cart was installed halfway through the wall. However, as intrepid fans have noted, the platform isn’t quite in the same place as mentioned in the books. Rowling admits her memory was a bit foggy on this detail, and had based it on another nearby station.
The Impassable Wilderness, otherwise known as Forest Park in Portland Oregon, is the world that Prue has to enter in order to rescue her baby brother, along with many other quests and adventures in Wildwood.
As long as Prue could remember, every map she had ever seen of Portland and the surrounding countryside had been blotted with a large, green patch in the centre, stretching like a growth of moss from the northwest corner to the southwest, and labeled with the mysterious initials "I.W."
Even in real life, the forest lives up to its literary moniker, leaving so much to the imagination.