Geography of Xanth
Xanth is a fictional universe created by author Piers Anthony. It is a magical land most often described as being shaped like the state of Florida. The geography of Xanth is, therefore, very similar to that of Florida. As is typical with the series, many geographical landmarks are puns based on real-world locations. As an example, the With-A-Cookie River in Xanth is roughly parallel with the Withlacoochee River in Florida.
Xanth is described as being similar to, and magically coincident with, various peninsulas that extend roughly southward:
- the Korean Peninsula, with the Gap Chasm being used as a metaphor for the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and the location of Castle Roogna being similar to the location of Seoul, South Korea
- the Italian Peninsula, with Castle Roogna likewise being close to the location of Rome, Italy
In the far northwest corner lies the Isthmus, the point where Xanth connects to Mundania. The connection is not static, but instead randomly connects to any place where there is a southward-reaching peninsula, at any time in history. Thus, Xanth can appear anywhere, and anywhen.
Near the northern border, east of the Swan Knee River (Suwannee River) lies the Ogre-Fen-Ogre Fen (Okefenokee Swamp), the location where Ogres settled after migrating away from Lake Ogre-chobee (Lake Okeechobee) in the south.
Five forbidden regions
North-central Xanth is dominated by the five forbidden regions, each representing one key element of nature and magic. From north to south they are the void and the regions of water, fire, earth and air. Each region is dominated by its key element. The region of air is beset by high winds and funnels; earth with constant earthquakes and volcanoes. The region of fire is an area of rapidly moving firewalls as plant life is rapidly burned, then regrown to sustain the inferno. Water is dominated by snowstorms, torrential downpours and vast lakes. The void is mostly illusion, appearing as an idyllic and peaceful location for any traveller; but as the centre of the void is a black hole (Dragon on a Pedestal); one who enters has almost no chance of escape, with the exception of Night Mares, who are non-corporeal.
East of the forbidden regions lie several animal kingdoms. The Kingdom of Birds lies east of the region of water. South of the birds and east of the region of fire is the land of the griffins. South is the land of goblins, followed by the land of dragons. The farthest south is the land of the flies. Every region has its own ruler, each believing they represent the dominant species in Xanth.
Southwest of the forbidden regions lies the North Village, the largest human community, and former seat of the King. Its most prominent landmark is Justin Tree, a former human being transformed into tree shape by Evil Magician Trent. He was later restored to man-form in Zombie Lover.
The Gap Chasm is a deep gorge that bisects the magical land, but does not exist in real-world Florida, although it is vaguely based on a railroad track that ran through Anthony's backyard. It may also be related to the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. It is impossibly deep, and guarded at its base by the Gap Dragon. For 800 years, the Gap had a massive forget spell on it, causing anyone who strayed too far from the Gap to forget it existed. The spell was cast by Prince Dor during the time of King Roogna as he attempted to break up a war between the goblins and harpies. The spell began to break up following the 'time of no magic' caused by Bink, and is generally memorable in contemporary Xanth.
Castle Roogna was built by King Roogna during the first golden age, about 800 years before the present. Intended to be the centre of human government, the castle instead fell into obscurity following the death of Roogna, and was eventually abandoned following the death of King Gromden (Crewel Lye) by his successor, evil magician Yang. It remained lost for centuries, with subsequent kings ruling from their home villages, until rediscovered by Bink, Chameleon, and Magician Trent (later King Trent) in A Spell For Chameleon.
Yang deserted it with Rose of Roogna, leaving it untouched until it was restored by King Trent at the outset of the second golden age.
Good Magician Humfrey's Castle
The Good Magician Humfrey's castle was originally the Zombie Master's when he was alive for the first time. Humfrey discovered it while on his quest to become a Magician, as at the time it was lost. However, alternate histories state that the castle was purposely built for Humfrey after he answered a question for the whole Centaur race, thus gaining a year of service from all centaurs. Though not directly stated, this apparent contradiction may be due to Humfrey having occupied the Zombie Master's Castle originally, and then moving to the castle built for him at a later date; or it may be that Humphrey had the castle modified by the Centaurs to make it more easily adaptable to fit his needs; or perhaps the author just forgot, and has invented two alternate histories for the castle. It is located just south of the Gap Chasm, and to the east-north-east of Castle Roogna. In order to gain entrance into the castle, the Querent must overcome three Challenges, tailored to their skills, abilities, and fears. As a result of these challenges, the appearance and properties of the castle change often and dramatically. In addition, Humfrey will only answer a Question if the Querent agrees to give one year of service, or equivalent thereof. The only exception to this rule is if the Querent is on a mission for the current King of Xanth, who can command service from any loyal citizen of Xanth. The creatures often fulfill their year of service acting as obstacles for other challengers to overcome. The combination of the year of service and the daunting challenge of overcoming the obstacles acts as a deterrent to all but the most motivated seekers.
Based on the Greek mythology of the Muses. It is located to the southwest of Castle Roogna. The nine Muses reside upon Mount Parnassus, guarded by the Python and the Maenads. The most famous Muse in Xanth is Clio, the Muse of History. On the neighboring mountain, the Simurgh (based on the mythical bird of the same name) resides, caring for the Tree of Seeds.
At the extreme southern tip of Xanth, near the edge of magic, lies Centaur Isle (Key West). It is inhabited by a highly conservative herd of centaurs that consider magic talents to be obscene, going so far to exile any centaur that displays a magic talent. The centaurs of Centaur Isle are generally peaceful, devoting themselves to arts and crafts. They create some of the finest artwork and weapons in Xanth.
Region of Madness
Located in the center of southern Xanth, the Region of Madness is an area of intense magic that creates extreme puns and changes things in adverse ways. It is a trace leakage from the body of Demon X(a/n)th, which infuses the rock and rises up in the form of magic dust. The Magic Dust Village is centered within the Region of Madness, and its inhabitants are responsible for the even distribution of the dust throughout Xanth.
No Name Key
Located close to Centaur Isle, No Name Key is home to a carefully guarded gateway between Xanth and Mundania. It is used in multiple books as a two-way passage between the two worlds, including Heaven Cent, Man from Mundania, Yon Ill Wind, Swell Foop and Cube Route.
Moons of Ida
Located orbiting the Head of Princess Ida of Castle Roogna. The Moons of Ida are recursive, because every moon has its own civilization, and its own Princess Ida, each of which has a differently-shaped moon orbiting her head, which inevitably loops back around to Xanth.
Counter Xanth is a territory won from Demon F(O/R)nax in Up in a Heaval. It is explored in Cube Route. Being made from contra-terrene matter, Counter Xanth is the complete opposite of Xanth geographically. For example, instead of the Gap Chasm, there is a mountain ridge. There are different areas of Counter Xanth, where natures are reversed. For example, in one area tall people become short and vice versa, while in another sick people become healthy and healthy people become sick. Even species can be changed here, depending on the territory.
Counter Xanth can only be reached by sidestepping, which is done with the help of Cory and Tessa (real names Corybant and Tessarect). The two link hands and step backwards into the "other realm", an invisible region existing alongside Xanth. They can take other people with them. By sidestepping, they can bypass any dangers or other inconvenience in their path, such as rain. It can also serve as a shortcut to places, once they know the route.
- Night Mare, pg. 101
- Centaur Aisle, Ch. 8: Mundane Mystery
- Ogre, Ogre, Ch. 14: Ogre Fun
- A Spell for Chameleon, Ch. 1:Xanth
- Castle Roogna, Ch. 11:Disaster
- The Source of Magic, Ch. 13: Magic Loss
- A Spell for Chameleon, Ch. 16: King
- Castle Roogna
- Question Quest
- A Spell For Chameleon
- Question Quest
- A Spell for Chameleon
- Centaur Aisle, Ch. 7: Dastardly Deed
- Geis of the Gargoyle