About an hour from my house, in the village of Old Forge, NY, is an amusement/water park called Enchanted Forest Water Safari. We take our kids there a few times each summer. The water park is great, but I’m going to ignore that part for this blog. I’m going to focus on the Enchanted Forest.
As you may or may not guess from the name, the park leans heavily toward fairy tales and nursery rhymes. When you first walk in the main gate, you immediately find yourself facing a Paul Bunyan that stands a good 30 feet tall. Walking past that, you can go in one direction to the rides or you can take a stroll down Storybook Lane. There you’ll find life-sized recreations of classic children’s tales. There’s a crooked man with a crooked house, Ali Baba’s treasure-filled cave, or more common scenes such as the witch’s candy house from Hansel and Gretel or the seven dwarves’ house from Snow White. While my kids are too old for fairy tales at bedtime (we’re now onto things like Goosebumps or Fancy Nancy), they still like to walk down Storybook Lane and take a look at all the displays.
Then again, so do I. It’s fun to see these stories that we all know brought to life. On our next family trip to Orlando, I’m planning on getting us to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Everyone in our family has done some combination of read the books/watched the movies/played the Lego video games, so we’d all find something there to interest us. I, for one, really want to have a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.
That’s just one way to look at the link between fiction and real life. Sometimes, the book setting comes from real life. Take for example Night of Thunder by Stephen Hunter. In this book, protagonist Bob Lee Swagger goes to Bristol, VA/TN. I used to live very close to Bristol. When he described the city, I knew exactly what he meant. I have shopped at the same WalMart Bob Lee went to.
There’s another book that I can visualize even better. This would be Lysander by Monte P. Kelly. For anyone who doesn’t know this book (which I imagine is pretty much everyone), it’s a ghost story set in the hamlet of Lysander, New York. The haunted house in the book is based on the house I lived in when I was a kid. Maybe the wallpaper or carpeting was different, but I knew every room in the book in detail. I knew the crawlspace in the basement where the bodies were buried. In the book, that is, not in real life. At least, I hope not in real life.