Through the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll.
I always got the two confused when I was younger, with the Lewis’s and the “C” names … but they actually had more in common than just slightly similar names. First off, they both wrote fantasy stories that were geared towards children … and they were both British. They both, however, also fell into the same sub-genre … Portal Fantasy.
In Alice’s case it was a rabbit hole–then later a mirror–that helped her pass from our more normal world, into the magical realm of Wonderland. And for those poor Pevensie children, it was a wardrobe filled with coats that transported them to Narnia. But in both we see children escape their troubles, and stumble across a hidden world.
Sure, Alice was mainly escaping a boring afternoon and the Pevensie kids were escaping war torn England, but both are pretty dreadful in the minds of children. Escapism is the key here, and the idea that mundane things could actually be camouflage, hiding the most fantastic of things of all. A hole in the ground … a smelly, old closet.
It’s quite literally one of the first fantasies I ever had, sparking my imagination as a youngster. I use to pretend that my stuffed animals, when they fell through the gap between my bed and the wall, would come to life. I use to pretend that they would call to me … ask me to follow them into their world.
The grass is always greener, or so they say … and even children believe it to some extent. And portal fantasy is the easy fix to that. Simply put … you live here, in the boring world as we know it … and there is a secret opening, a crack that lets us through into a more magical land.
Lewis and Carroll certainly didn’t invent the sub-genre, but they certainly are the best examples to lay out. A more recent example of Portal fantasy, would be the dark story of Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman. In that example, the main character actually passes into a world that’s a bit like a darkened, mirrored version of her own … spooky, but also still meant for children.
Check out these great examples of