Maphead by Ken Jennings, Chapter 6 “Legend”-Reviewed by Barrett B.


My name is Barrett and I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. I spent the first few years of my life in Atlanta, Georgia and I moved to Texas when I was four where I have lived ever since. I spent six and half of those years in San Antonio and three and half in Lakeway.

I enjoy traveling to places that have rich histories and that have points of historical significance. I spent this summer in Washington, D.C and last summer in San Francisco. I have also traveled to Jamaica, Mexico, and Bahamas as well as almost half of the U.S. States.


In chapter six Ken Jennings focuses on the part maps play in literature, specifically fantasy literature. He draws conclusions that there is fine line between what we today would call a “real” map (like you might find in glove compartment of a car) and a fantasy map that is drawn on the pages of a book. He discusses how a hand drawn map from Robert Louis Stevenson’s young son was the inspiration for the book Treasure Island and in addition how the drawings of Neverland, in Barrie’s Peter Pan create a visual masterpiece for the reader.

Jennings goes on to stress that traditionally fantasy maps were a focus in children’s literature but that they find their way into adult literature that can be for lack of better terms, a focus of “geek culture.” (Jennings, 112) He references the map of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series as well as the multitude of mappings that have been done of the Starship Enterprise. He even concludes that Hogwarts and the Starship Enterprise have been mapped more times than Africa.

One might ask why this is, but Ken Jennings answers that question when he says, “Reading text is a purely linear process. Look: you are reading this sentence. Now you are reading this one. The words from the line above are gone; you are only here, and the words from the line below don’t exist yet. But maps tell a different kind of story. In maps, our eyes are free to wander, spatially, the way they do when we study new surroundings in life.”(Jennings, 115) He goes on to express why fantasy maps in today’s literature matter to the reader. To do this he talks to Brandon Sanderson a best-selling author in the genre of fantasy. Brandon says, “I believe the map prepares your mind to experience the wonder, to say, ‘I am going to a new place.’”(Jennings, 113)

In closing Ken Jennings shows the reader that the border between fantasy maps and “real” maps is either very narrow or maybe not a division at all. He talks about looking at a map of his hometown; just as the reader can envision a map of their hometown. He focuses on the places he has never visited and roads he has never driven on. He tells the reader since he has no first hand experience with these places, he has to use his imagination. He wraps it all up by saying “I can imagine those places from the map, but that’s all it is; my imagination. All maps are fantasy maps in a way.” (Jennings, 120)


As a person that is not an avid reader, I really enjoy that maps can showcase information in a non-linear fashion. The amount of information on a map is so intense it is hard to say how much text it would take to explain what the eye sees spatially. Unlike reading a passage, the reader of a map is not restricted to absorbing information from left to right and top to bottom. They can allow their eye to follow the map in a way that makes sense to them, not in a fashion that is pre-determined.


Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.58.56 PM

Map of Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. This map not only tells a story but creates stories for all the people that walk its paths. But the main question is….is this map real or fantasy?


2 thoughts on “Maphead by Ken Jennings, Chapter 6 “Legend”-Reviewed by Barrett B.

  1. I think your blog post was very well written. I also really liked the way you compared reading a book to maps. Pointing out that people can look at maps in all different ways was a very interesting point. Your map and caption was a very unique and creative.


  2. Barrett! I appreciated your commentary on how maps in books can be quite helpful, and they liven up the book in your own eyes! But I think sometimes maps in books can overwhelm a reader. Some maps have too much information to even process, and you can only truly understand it all after you’ve finished the entire book. But I definitely think maps in books, even if it’s fictional, are are fun utility!


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