It’s Banned Books Week. No, this doesn’t mean you get to go and ban any book you want or highlight all the pages of your least favorite classic. Hey! Put the highlighter down. Nobody needs to get Sharpie’d here–and I will totally Sharpie you.
Instead, Banned Books Week is a celebration of the right to read. The American Library Association annually compiles a list all books that have been banned or challenged in the US. There are some amazing stories on these lists, filled with emotional points, famous classic scenes, and sometimes bondage. (Is anyone surprised Fifty Shades got challenged somewhere? Didn’t think so).
But what about the worlds these stories inhabit? The fantastic ones, I mean. What unique and enthralling settings got the axe because something was considered Satanic?
These are my top 5 fantasy worlds. Feel free to comment with your top 5 below! Now then…
5. Carrie by Stephen King
This one barely counts as fantasy, but I added it because Carrie’s world had telekinesis. What does a world where people have telekinetic powers (among others maybe?) even look like? It’s a bit like Harry Potter, magical realism but without the wands. And with a lot more death–wait, no. Not really. (I’m looking at you, Book 7.)
Sure, telekinesis might make most think “science fiction,” but there are no other science-y explanations about Carrie’s powers. She just has them. Science isn’t really mentioned much until the end so IT COUNTS. And I just think telekinesis is cool, okay?
Not surprisingly, this book is one of the most frequently banned books in the US. I couldn’t find out specifically why, but there are more than a few scenes in that book that could make parents want to ban it. But then there’s…
4. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Who wouldn’t love a world with yellow brick roads, good witches, and flying monkeys? What is there to challenge?
Oh. Right. Witches.
Speaking of magic…
3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I remember this controversy as a kid (which might show my age). My mom debated for a long time whether or not to let me read the books because of the witches and wizards, the magic and everything. I took the decision out of her hands, though, when I read Harry Potter in school–which might explain why some parents and activists have persistently wanted to get the book out of schools.
The world of Harry Potter is fun, entertaining, and memorable. Flying around on brooms, talking and moving pictures, I mean, seriously, the world is amazing. It is fantastic in a way that Tolkien’s works don’t quite reach(more on that later). The universe of Harry Potter is both familiar, in that it parallels our own, and yet so abstract and different to our Muggle reality that kids and adults around the world are still being captivated by it.
In fact it’s one of the most influential series in the world, ever. But it wasn’t as important to me as…
2. The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
This world has influenced most of modern fantasy. It’s beautiful – described at length, page after page. Even though I wasn’t fond of the Lord of the Rings books growing up, The Hobbit shaped me as a writer.
But what’s so bad about the Lord of the Rings? It’s been challenged for satanic themes. What other fantasy series could possibly be worse–oh…
1. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
I wanted to be Lyra so badly as a kid. And I read the books at around that time I was becoming more aware of myself as a girl, so I could relate to her a lot. The fact that she had a daemon – a shape-shifting constant companion that represented a part of her – was the coolest thing ever. Plus armored polar bears. I mean, seriously.
Lyra’s world was unique. And I encountered it when I was asking all sorts of questions about life and stuff. The setting and concept of this trilogy, with the parallel universes and universe-defying quests, was just too fascinating. It spawned all sorts of ideas, and man, some of them are still visible in some of my works.
It was banned because, well, as Pullman puts it, they literally kill “The Authority.” Enough said.
Of course, there are a ton of classic books that I could’ve mentioned, but these are my top fantasy worlds – the captivating, influential, and awesome. I didn’t want to use mesmerizing. Or riveting. BUT THEY ARE.
What are your top 5 banned books, fantasy or otherwise?
Great list. I too loved His Dark Materials. Some of my favorite books of all time, no doubt.
Thanks! And yeah, they were really good. 🙂