top of page

Builders of Worlds//Refractions of Light

“Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light through whom is splintered from a single White to many hues, and endlessly combined in living shapes that move from mind to mind.” J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien On Fairy-stories

What a thought.

That we as a people, are refractions of the first and supreme creation power, and through us that same light is divided into an array of prismatic colors that our imaginings can form into something new—an entire world, perhaps. Not only that, but these new worlds, stories, and people we have sub-created can be made tangible for others, a transference from our own mind to one of a fellow refractions.

Sounds an awful lot like something you’d read in a fantasy novel, or see play out on the screen in a new sci-fi epic.

And the inconceivable reality is, it’s all true.

It all plays out time and time again in each and every story we absorb. Books, films, tv series, comics, or any medium that transfers the initially written word into light, sound, and color, be it in our minds or via a screen. They all had their genesis first in the nether reaches of someone’s mind, neurons firing and coalescing bit by bit and phantom atom by phantom atom to create new people, or characters as we call them. Unreal creatures, magic, and items of wondrous craftsmanship. New lands, new seas, new life.

A new world.

As he is affectionately referred to among the literary fantasy community, Grandfather Tolkien was in many ways the foremost pioneer of the modern realms and tropes most associated with the genre today.

Since his seminal works set in the realm of Middle Earth (a world so real and rich it’s now cemented in the minds of hearts of the cultural collective) the art of ‘world building’ has been taken to new, dazzling, and different heights by authors, filmmakers, game designers, and artists through the subsequent generations the world over.

And yet even the likes of early fantasy writers such as Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, E.R Eddison, Evangeline Walton, and other genre pioneers had to look to the past, and the created story worlds of others for their inspirations, from the myths and legends from cultures before. Many fantasy stories are indeed myths and legends passed down through the generations of various cultures, retold and refitted with a new skin, with nuances given to the world and the magic at play. Ancient myths that have stood the test of time, such as Beowulf or Homer's epic poems, helped shape how people view the world and life itself. Be it the hero’s journey or a romance of tragic happenstance, and they are stories that invite us to wonder:

‘How would I handle that trial? Would I be able to navigate and survive that world?'

This is why I write, and its what drew me to begin a journey to create worlds, and to tell stories set in those worlds that would be unto themselves, refractions of what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, and what I’m learning. That those very lessons might help to encourage or comfort whoever absorbs them. That is the humble hope.

As represented by the quote which began this particular rambling, we are all capable of this. This should be self-evident as we look to the incredible array and number of stories written and told through the past few decades alone, and the worlds created and built from the foundations of creation upward.

Each day there’s an imagining burgeoning in your brain, a figment longing to be free. And each Wednesday, I’ll post a tidbit of thoughts on this vast subject of worldbuilding. The creation of story worlds either far flung from our own or perhaps a dimension unseen of the one in which we live. The possibilities are truly endless.

For now, I’d love nothing more than hearing about some of your favorite worlds. Ones you’ve taken a headlong dive into and emerged with new thoughts, deep cathartic emotions, or sheer awe. From the violent unforgiving world of G.R.R. Martin’s Westeros, to the hidden-in-plain-sight whimsy of J.K. Rowlings Wizarding World, or yes, the uncannily ancient and lived in Middle Earth, I’m sure you have gotten lost in someone’s refracted light before. Leave a comment below!

Lastly, I invite you to wonder—what sort of world would come of your refractions?

59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page