February 22, 2013

Intelligent Underground Trees

Holberg's Journey into the Earth

        I've been spending a fair bit of time underground recently, what with Kircher and Verne, and today I've been on another subterranean adventure.  This time I discovered Niels Klim's journey under the ground, being a narrative of his wonderful descent to the subterranean lands; together with an account of the sensible animals and trees inhabiting the planet Nazar and the firmament, written by Danish author Ludvig Holberg in 1741.
        Actually, I didn't read the whole thing, but it seems that Holberg gets credit as being one of the first proto-sci-fi authors to depict a hollow Earth.  In Holberg's imagination the core of the Earth functions as a sun around which orbits a small planet, and the interior of the Earth's crust supports sentient life, as well.  This is a much grander and more ambitious conception than Vernes's mere caverns, and while dinosaurs are always excellent, you have to admit that it's more creative to populate the interior of the Earth with wholly imaginary beings than simply to allow a few prehistoric beasts to have survived down there.
        Of course I'm interested in the early illustrations, too, and found engravings from a number of different editions collected on Flickr by Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek.  Here I've posted the diagram of the interior of the Earth with its internal planet.   It reminds me of when you cut open a bell pepper and discover another mini pepperlet rattling around inside.  Also, here are two views of the intelligent tree people.  (Ents, anyone?)  According to the explorer Klim, those trees with the most limbs are especially honored as being able to do the most things.  But their one real shortcoming is that they have very short legs, so that Klim is always able to outrun them.
        If anyone's interested in reading the whole thing, you can find it here.  Have fun, and have a safe journey!

[Pictures: Klim's journey below, engraving from Niels Klim's Underground Travels by Ludvig Holberg, 1767 edition;
A citizen of Potu, engraving from 1767 edition;
Klim presented to the King of Potu, engraving from 1834 edition (Images from Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek Flickr collection).]
(And thanks to The Public Domain Review for introducing me to this work.)

No comments: