(n.) A detailed, prolonged, and imaginary world created by a child that includes humans, animals, or alien creatures. Can have a definite geography, language, and history.

pronunciation | \per-o-‘koz-m\

Illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith via Wikimedia Commons.

Examples of paracosm:

  • Middle-earth, the highly detailed fantasy world created by J.R.R. Tolkien, as expressed in his novels The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Tolkien had been inventing languages since his teen years, only later imagining the people who spoke them or their environment.
  • Gondal, Angria, and Gaaldine, the fantasy kingdoms created and written about in childhood by Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Brontë and their brother, Branwell, and maintained well into adulthood. These kingdoms are specifically referred to as paracosms in several academic works.
  • As children, novelist C. S. Lewis and his brother, Warren, together created a paracosm called Boxen, which was in turn a combination of their respective private paracosms Animal-Land and India. Lewis later drew upon Animal-Land to create the fantasy land of Narnia, which he wrote about in The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Hogwarts, invented by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.
  • Terabithia, the imaginary kingdom invented by author Katherine Patterson, in her beloved novel Bridge to Terabithia.
  • Never Land, from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
  • Wonderland, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Well, I could go and on, but what’s your favorite paracosm? And did you have your own that followed you into adulthood?

Leave a comment 7 Comments

  1. Karlyne says:

    “When I was sick and lay abed, I had two pillows at my head”… Love that illustration!

    I think I was always so busy getting into other people’s paracosms that I didn’t have an actual one of my own, but all the daydreaming I’ve ever done has involved mountains – which is probably why Narnia is my favorite.

    • MaryJane says:

      Do you live near mountains or merely long for them? Good morning Karlyne!

      • Karlyne says:

        I have always been lucky that even for short periods of time living in cities, the mountains were within easy reach. Our “last” home (hopefully!) is built on top of a hill in a smallish valley with views of mountains to the north, east, and west, and some pretty good-sized hills to the south. Purt-near perfect!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I can’t think of any paracosms from childhood or adulthood that have stuck. Typically, I am not drawn to these sorts of stories for some reason. My memories all track back to favorite stories about animals, like Uncle Wiggly and Babar. I also loved fables where animals, like the fox, were the examples of wrong doings.
    Even as an adult, I am drawn more to historical fiction, murder mysteries, and biography than stories like Star Wars or Harry Potter. I wish to learn more about culture and history than pure fantasy. Too much practical and pragmatic parenting from my parents deep in my head.

  3. Krista says:

    I love fiction and fairytales! My favorite world to experience is Hogwarts. I love “Harry Potter”. I could get lost is others worlds and languages all the time. I can’t say I ever created my own. Probably because I was so busy with everyone else’s. I do remeber when I was growing up though that I so badly wanted to be Mrs. Clause. I believed so much in that world. Still do!

  4. Lisa Von Saunder says:

    I lived in several fantasy worlds of my own imaginings, I invented languages, alphabets, even quasi religions for my own secret worlds. It was my escape from a very difficult childhood. I had one world where I was a cat on the outside and a human on the inside. I was very into my little worlds and it gave me much happiness over the years. especially the difficulty of my own linguistics.Yes ,I was considered a very imaginative and odd child.

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