In a world ravaged by the Great War, Bernard Sleigh found an escape into a magical place he called “Fairyland”. Described in detail in his 1917 map, titled ‘An anciente mappe of Fairyland: newly discovered and set forth’, this fictional place features the collective universe of several well-known fairy tales. As envisioned by Sleigh, a British landscape painter, the place is home to Rapunzel’s Tower, Humpty Dumpty, Hansel and Gretal, Red Riding Hood’s house, Belle’s palace from Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve-authored fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast.
Greatly influenced by English fantasy writers, George MacDonald and William Morris, Sleigh (1872-1954) got the idea for this unusual atlas after witnessing a stage production of Peter Pan. In the year 1926, he wrote his own book about fairies, named The Gates of Horn: Being Sundry Records from the Proceedings of the Society for the Investigation of Fairy Fact and Fallacy. As Tom Harper and Tim Bryars point out in A History of the Twentieth Century in 100 Maps, Sleigh’s map offered its creator, and others during his time, a much-needed respite from the heart-wrenching misery and violence brought on by the First World War. Harper and Bryars explains:
Compared with the devastated, bomb-blasted landscape of northern France, this vision of a make-believe land may have seemed a seductive escape for a European society bearing the psychological and physical scars of mass conflict.
Following its publication in 1917, the Fairyland map became hugely popular again in the 1970s when it was reprinted for the first time as a poster. To know more about it, head over to the Library of Congress’ website.
To view the map in its original size, click here.