A World Made of Ink
The best fantasy worlds are the ones that come to life
You know when you’re a kid and you have that one trait that basically becomes your entire personality? Well, I was the bookish girl in school and it was often a lonely person to be.
These days the internet is filled with hundreds of like-minded bookworms (look no further than the ever-burgeoning Bookstagram trend), but at the time it made me feel like I was different from everyone around me. Sure, I had friends who read, but I didn’t know other kids who loved falling into the worlds between the pages of a book the way I did. No one seemed to understand the longing ache of desperately wanting a fictional world to be real.
There’s an instinct that’s sharpened when you’re a kid. Anything that makes you different needs to be toned down. I hid my excitement for books so I’ll never know if there was someone who would have geeked out with me. The fictional worlds I loved were entirely my own. At least, that’s the way it felt. I say all this because I can’t help wondering if that’s why the worlds I loved as a kid are the ones that have stuck with me the most.
Of all the literary worlds I stepped into in my formative years, the one that has had the most long-lasting impact is the Ink World.
I can still remember how I felt the first time I entered Cornelia Funke’s universe in the Inkheart trilogy. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever loved a book, but it was the first time I felt like a book had been written specifically for me. How could it not have been when it contained everything I never knew I wanted from a fantasy world?
It was a world where a young girl named Meggie and her father have the ability to bring characters to life when they read. A world where reading is quite literally magic. In Inkheart, being a reader was powerful. Being a reader opened doors to other worlds. My preteen self was in awe.
God, how I wanted it to be real.
That was when I learned that it’s possible to miss a place you’ve never been and a person you’ve never met. It wanted it to be real so badly that it hurt. I was having big feelings and I was so young I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t understand the painful longing I was feeling.
And the more I read, the more the feeling grew.
Because the story gets ever better. It also features the book within a book trope, something I’m always a sucker for. It features characters that practically dance off the page. It features a mischievous marten that I still think would make for a great companion.
There are so many things I love about this beautiful story. It remains one of the most imaginative worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure to fall into. And I still find myself returning to it, wanting to live within its pages. Wanting, still, for it all to be real.
That’s at the heart of every fandom, the desire for the world we love to become our reality. That desire is built into the fabric of Inkheart. The Ink World seems to gaze back at its own fans and acknowledge the feelings that so many bookworms have.
That’s why I’ve always felt that Inkheart is the best fantasy world. Any story that validates its own audience and shows them that they aren’t alone in their feelings is nothing short of a masterpiece.
After all, that’s what Inkheart did for this weird, shy, bookish girl. It showed me that I wasn’t the only one who dreamed that the fantastical things I read about in books could be made real. Somewhere out there was a grown adult, an author, who believed in the power of stories, who wished the same wishes that I did.
Years later, I had the opportunity to meet the author, Cornelia Funke, the woman whose stories made me feel less alone. I came armed to the book signing. I owned every book she’d written.
When an author’s words have a profound effect on your life, it can feel like you have a connection to them, even though you’ve never met. That connection between reader and author is one of the strongest bonds we can create as humans. To be able to share a feeling with someone without ever having met is a remarkable part of the human experience. And one of the most underappreciated.
But sometimes, you do get to meet your heroes.
Having the opportunity to tell Ms. Funke how her stories inspired me felt like a full circle moment. I was an adult by then, just starting my own journey as a writer, and I couldn’t help thinking that Inkheart was part of the reason I’d started telling stories. Before I read Inkheart, before I realized how fully a fictional world could wrap itself around you, I’d never thought I could be a storyteller. But the version of me who went to that book signing was, wholeheartedly, just that.
Stories have power. Words have power. Even if I couldn’t conjure the characters into reality the way Meggie could, as I read Inkheart, pieces of the story spilled into the real world. The story changed me. The characters and the world and the power of words all became part of who I am.
That’s a kind of magic, isn’t it? Using nothing more than words printed on a page, you can change the way readers view the world. And the way they view themselves. You can affect who they are as they move forward in life. In my case, Inkheart created another storyteller and maybe one day my own stories will do the same.
So maybe the story of Inkheart was a spell. After all, what’s a spell but words spoken into being?