Finding Fantasy Settings

by P.H. Solomon

Fantasy always seems to have some basis in fact or real world. The further along I’ve written in The Bow of Hart Saga the more I realized how much the real world had influenced my settings. All too often, the settings arrived from places I had visited long ago or even some I frequented many times over the years. Here are three places that ended up in the series without almost a thought for a long time:

1. The Auguron Oaks and the forest – I lived in Oregon as a child one summer. It was a wondrous time with many visits to various locations on the west coast that really impacted me. Having begun the original version of The Bow of Destiny some thirty years ago, I turned to places then that I had seen as a child and some of that included the rain forests of western Oregon and Washington which I visited often during that long-ago summer. On one visit, I saw trees so large that they were hundreds of feet tall – including a few redwoods. Those forests held a wonder for me and still do to this day. Auguron is a vast forest-land but the roots of those trees lie in my memories of that summer in the mid-1970s.

2. The Drelkhaz Mountains – that same summer, I first witnessed the sights of high mountains in the forms of the Cascade Mountains and the Rockies. All summer, I viewed some of the highest mountains in North America just by driving into Portland from Beaverton. Looking north on a clear day you could see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens (before it erupted and what a memory!), the Three Sisters and even Mt. Ranier. Growing up in Alabama, I didn’t get to see white-capped mountains so these majestic wonders were the first I saw in person. I even visited Mt. Hood one summer day and stood on snow while dressed in a t-shirt – quite an experience for a kid used to the humid weather of the south.

Later that summer, we drove back from Oregon cross-country. The trip took us over the Rockies and that was an even bigger thrill. Once into eastern Montana, we viewed the Grand Tetons which still stick in my mind (not to mention a trip to Yellowstone!). The Drelkhaz Mountains are a major setting of An Arrow Against the Wind and owe much of their origin from those distant days during an adventurous summer that still rides high in my memory.

3. The Funnel – this is a setting in An Arrow Against the Wind that involves a deep gorge with sheer sides at the bottom of which runs a deep river. This fictional location finds as its origin a real place near which I grew up. This little-known National Preserve is named Little River Canyon and, with drops of sometimes over 600 feet, it’s one of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi River. There are dramatic cliffs with incredible views and a river that runs through it. About 26 miles long, the river is a favorite for kayak enthusiasts and a place I visited several times when I was a kid until today. It’s a geologic wonder with several unique species of plants growing within its confines.

Bonus: the Troll-Neath is a deep and dark network of natural caves leading into the dwarf kingdom of Chokkra. I’ve visited many caves in the southeast that run into the southern Appalachians. Some caves in the area are rumored to go on for days according to old native American tales. A number have been explored and some have not. Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, TN, is a place where an underground river flows over a falls but no one is sure of the source and certainly not where it goes. All of these make for great sources of fantasy settings.

Finding a fantasy setting can be as easy as looking out your back door or remembering a favorite trip. I have any number of memories upon which to draw. What places would you choose to use as a fantasy book setting?

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