July 13, 2022

Unusual Modes of Transportation

         Who doesn’t love imagining new and exciting ways to travel?  They may be faster or safer or have a longer range than anything we know today.  They may be more exciting, or involve wonderful companions, or be self-driving or self-directed, or they may be more interesting in any number of ways.  Sci fi and fantasy are full of staples of unusual transportation, from broomsticks, flying carpets, and all manner of winged creatures, to flying cars, space elevators, warp drives, and living spaceships.  But along with these understandably popular recurring motifs, you may also occasionally run into some quirkier ways to travel.  Today I’ve gathered a few block prints depicting some unusual modes of transportation.
        Seven-league boots are known from the fairy tale in which they belong to a giant and are stolen by a little person.  A league equals roughly 3 miles or 4.8 km, so seven leagues would equal about 21 miles or 34 km.  Probably more important, though, is that a league represented the distance a man could walk in an hour, so the seven-league boots allowed you to walk in each step what would normally have taken 7 hours, or a full day’s hike.  Or to think about it another way, you’d be striding along at something like 2,520 mph.  Illustrators often depict this by making the landscape tiny so that one illustrated stride is clearly covering vast distances.  In the little piece above the boots are very large for the person’s feet, and the person is very large compared with the mountain.  An additional suggestion of speed is provided by the billowing wind.
        Next is a pleasing block showing someone riding a rooster.  It can serve to represent the entire category of riding on animals, and in this case we can wonder whether the rooster is enormous or the rider is tiny.  I like that her hair makes a bird-like crest, demonstrating a certain affinity with her mount.
        A more scientific mode of transportation is being used by our next character, who is apparently called Dr. Puff.  An apparatus of five kites carries him aloft, with separate steering on the smaller ones.  It looks like carnations attached to the ends of the tails and on the sides of two of the kites.  Are they for decoration, or do they serve some functionality?
        Here’s my own most recent piece, showing tiny people hitching rides on dandelion parasols for wind-borne dispersal.  Although the concept delights me, I confess that I’ve struggled with the execution.  I tried printing just the single block in black, but that looked too plain.  So I 
tried adding the background blocks for interest, but I’m not 100% happy with them, either.  Still, it is undoubtedly an unusual method of transportation, and I offer it up to your imagination.
        A hot air balloon is of course not science fiction, but flying all the way up above the moon in it is.  Unfortunately, our passenger is falling out and it looks as if the moon is going to swallow him whole!  I also have a question about what looks like a flying dagger to the left.  Is it actually a rocket of some sort?  Or a shooting star?  Or indeed a flying dagger on its way to slash the balloon?
        I’ve also featured a number of fun modes of transportation in previous posts, which you can revisit if you’d like a little inspiration for your next speculative vacation.  Today I’ve included a block print depicting Alexander the Great’s griffin-drawn space chariot, and if you want to see learn more about that, in addition to his voyage to the bottom of the ocean in a glass barrel, you can see

the sci fi adventures of Alexander the Great

        Plus lots of other interesting ways to get around:

Parasailing on a sea monster

Riding in a house that walks with chicken legs AND flying in a mortar and pestle

Flying by lung power machine

Driving in personal fish-shaped aeroships

Wafting by hanging garden

Transport by magical brass horse

        My final piece today is a magical flying horse ridden by two sons of the Emperor of Greece.  I don’t know more details of their story, but I will note that the wood block print, while charming to me, is pretty low quality.  Much of the 
border is missing, either due to mistakes 
in carving, or due to damage from excessive printing.  The people are fairly crude, without much detail.  Nevertheless, the king looking up to watch these adventurers fly over exemplifies our perpetual wonder with innovations in transportation.  It seems to be a universal human fascination to imagine better, faster, and more exciting ways to get from here to there.  Which unusual mode of transportation would you most like to experience?

[Pictures: “Seven-League Boots,” woodcut by Allen Lewis from Journeys to Bagdad by Charles S. Brooks, 1915 (Image from Project Gutenberg);

Run Rooster, lino print by Teresa Winchester (Image from Teresa Winchester Greeting Cards);

“Dr. Puff in a kite,” engraving from Un Autre Monde by J.J. Grandville, 1844 (Image from Carl Guderian Flickr);

Wind-Borne Dispersal, rubber block print by AEGN, 2022;

Wood block print by anonymous artist from The Loyal Man in the Moon, 1820 (Image from British Library Flickr);

“How Alexander went up into the air,” illustration by Fred Mason from The Story of Alexander told by Robert Steele, 1894 (Image from Project Gutenberg);

Wood block print by anonymous artist from The hystory of the two valyaunte brethren Valentyne and Orson printed by William Coplande, c 1565 (Image from Beinecke Library).]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Oh, I like your dandelion peole, and I see your struggling wuith the background.
I would like to try a "travel while staying at home" device. Like the Outllok in the castle Sterling Silver in Landover (Magic Kingdom for Sale)

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Being able to open portals from my house to interesting places would definitely be a great feature!