Featured image via Tenor.
I intended to write about how some of my favorite childhood fantasy books and movies touched my life and steered me down the path to become a writer. As I made my list, I realized that my memory is even worse than I joke about. I remember the books and movies I loved, but I can’t seem to recall why I loved some of them so much. More distressing, as I read summaries of some of them, I started to question how I came to decide that I loved them. So for now, these are partial lists, in no particular order.
I tried to stay away from major spoilers (not hard, considering the memory issue), but some plot and character details are mentioned below. If you haven’t read or watched any of the following, read at your own discretion.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
You’ve probably guessed by now that Through the Mirrah is inspired by Through the Looking Glass. Alice in Wonderland was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up, and I was thrilled to discover there were books. As much as I enjoyed Disney’s amalgam, after reading the books, I found myself drawn to the second tale, intrigued at setting up a world by the rules of a game. Add to that Carroll’s signature word play and anthropomorphic characters. I can’t imagine ever not loving these stories.
The Wizard of Oz series by Frank L. Baum
I don’t remember very much about my first elementary school, or about this series, but I do remember checking out each book in the Oz series, one by one, from the school library. I wonder why they changed the color of the slippers for the movie?
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Being a day-before-Halloween baby, I’ve always embraced the creepy and haunting. This was an early favorite (along with the Goosebumps series and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark).
Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
I remember the first grade student teacher, Miss White, reading this to us in class. The idea of toys coming to life intrigued me, and once they brought Little Bear’s horse to life, I knew I had to find my own magic cupboard to do the same with my Fashion Star Fillies and My Little Ponies. I went on to read the next two books in the series.
The Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee
I couldn’t remember the plot of this book, despite reading it several times as a kid. But reading reviews brought back the memory that I used to pretend I was Tanaquil. To be mechanically inclined (so useful) and go on an adventure in a world with magic (so fun)? Sign me up. (Actually, that sounds a lot like Aideen…)
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King
Really, everything I’ve read by Stephen King has been an inspiration, even if they aren’t considered fantasy. I deeply enjoyed reading this series, but what fascinated me the most was how elements were also woven into many of his other books. (I’m a huge fan of callbacks and references and deeper meanings.)
This one probably goes without saying for my generation. How many times have you wished that your annoying sibling (or parent, or anyone) would just go away . . . but then you feel horrible at even having the thought. Sarah gets a shot at redemption—and the chance to dance with David Bowie—on an adventure full of curious creatures and puzzling logic (much like Lewis Carroll’s stories).
The Neverending Story
Another classic for my generation, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember much of it and haven’t watched it more than once. Perhaps because of Artax’s experience in the Swamp of Sadness?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
I think I saw the movie before I read the book. I was a little creeped out by the Oompa Loompas, but I adored Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. (I also enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp, but that one had less to do with shaping my childhood, as I in my 20’s by the time that came out.)
I have a very vivid memory of seeing this for the first time on TV sometime before I was ten. I don’t remember much else from that viewing, except it made me cry at the end.
Another of my favorite Disney movies. I was always fascinated by magic, and seeing Mary’s magic in the “real world” had me dreaming I could have magic, too.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
This is on the Non-Books list because I saw the TV mini-series before I ever read the book. But I do remember my mom reading at least part of the Chronicles of Narnia series to my sister and me as kids. (Are you noticing an adventure theme to my list, too?)
Ocarina of Time
I wasn’t into video games much when I was a child. Mostly, I would watch my sister and her friends play on her N64. I’ll admit, I hopped on the Pokémon bandwagon. But that was more because I thought they were cute (well, most of them). When I was introduced to Ocarina of Time, I was excited to actually play it. It’s got magic, adventure, music, puzzles, and horses.
I remember thinking I needed all the games in the Legend of Zelda series. I’m not even close. And I still haven’t gathered up the courage to try Majora’s Mask. (It seems like a pretty intense commitment for a casual gamer like me.)
This one, I have to admit, I never read. Not the novel. We had a book with scenes from the movie. I did watch the movie several times, even though it made me cry. (The poor bunnies . . . )
The Secret of NIMH
This is another one of those movies I questioned: widowed mom with a sick kid, the family gets displaced from their home, experimentation on animals, murder plots, yardwork . . . Seriously, though. It’s a depressing premise, but I have soft spots in my heart for Mrs. Brisby and Jeremy.