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Top 50 Fictional Countries: From Ambrosia to Zuy

A guide to the greatest imaginary lands, from books, films and cartoon strips, nominated by readers and collated by our maker of lists

John Rentoul
Saturday 27 August 2022 08:54 BST

I compiled a Top 10 Fictional Countries for The New Review, the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, in 2015, and this was such a popular one that I expanded it to the Top 50.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. Ambrosia. Location of many of the fantasies of Billy Liar, in the 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse, and the 1963 film. Nominated by Alan Beattie.

2. Angria. Created by Charlotte and Branwell Brontë: Penguin has published the resulting novelettes (Tales of Angria). Nominated by David Crawford.

3. Archenland, Calormen and Narnia. The countries of CS Lewis’s Narnia books. Nominated by Xlibris1, Jonathan Ford and James Bennett.

4. Atlantis. Pictured above: Athanasius Kircher’s map of 1669 (with north at the bottom). First mentioned in Plato’s Timaeus, c. 360 BC, so almost as old as Cloud Cuckoo Land (see below). Xlibris1 and Graham Kirby.

5. Avalon. Island in Arthurian legend that first appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 History of the Kings of Britain. Richard Morris.


6. Averna. Tiny oil-rich principality on the Adriatic Sea, featured in the Albert Campion novel Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham. Simon Draper.

7. Buranda. A Commonwealth mess; Qumran (later Qumranistan) a “dry” Middle Eastern country, and St George’s Island. Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Giles Dilnot, Ian Dunn and David Crawford.

8. Carbombya. Arab state featured in The Transformers cartoon. “I am not making this up,” said Tom Doran.

9. Cloud Cuckoo Land. Possibly the earliest example: the city built by birds in Aristopha nes’ play, Birds, 414 BC. Steve Van Riel.

10. Costaguana. Setting of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, 1904.

11. Drenai Empire. David Gemmell’s fantasy land perpetually saved by hard-bitten antiheroes. John David Blake.

12. Eastasia, Eurasia and Oceania. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell. Ms Person and Kevin Higgins. Also Airstrip One, although technically a province of Oceania, nominated by William Barter.

13. El Dorado. Candide, by Voltaire, 1759. Where the streets are paved with precious stones and all the king’s jokes are funny. Rupert Myers.

14. Elbonia. Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams. Nick Reid, Ian Dunn.

15. Erewhon. Samuel Butler’s novel (1872). Martin Cable and David Crawford.

16. Freedonia. Duck Soup, starring the Marx Brothers, 1933. Stewart Wood, Ian Dunn, David Crawford.

17. The Republic of Gilead. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985. Piali Das Gupta.

18. Grand Fenwick. The Mouse That Roared (novel, 1955, film, 1959). Stewart Wood, Matthew Burchell and Simon Parker.

19. Herzoslovakia. The Secret of Chimneys, Agatha Christie. Peter Milburn.

20. Ishmaelia. Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh, with its “very promising little war” (Lord Copper). Nick Reid, Dan Kelly and Fiona Laird.

21. Laputa. This list began with Lilliput, island nation of tiny people in Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, 1726, nominated by Ben Ross. Other countries in the book include Laputa, the flying island in whose thoughtful inhabitants move only if struck by a bladder; also in the 1986 film by Hayao Miyazaki. Jonathan Ford.

22. Latveria. Doctor Doom’s kingdom in Marvel Comics. Willard Foxton and Rogan Dixon.

23. Laurania. In Winston Churchill’s novel Savrola, 1900. Nominated by Thatchersrise.

24. Loompaland. Home of the Oompa Loompas, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl, 1964. Stewart Wood. ‏

25. Molvania. Eastern European country in the eponymous 2003 travel book parody, subtitled “A Land Untouched by Dentistry”. Adrian Brodkin.

26. Isle of Naboombu. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971. Rob Warm.

27. Neverland. Originally “the Never Never Land” in the 1904 play, Peter Pan, but shortened by JM Barrie in the 1911 novel. Simon Wilder. ‏

28. Paflagonia. In WM Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring. David Crawford.

29. Pimlico. Passport to Pimlico, 1949. Will Oulton and Don Thomson.

30. Qumar (generic Arab petro-terror-state) and Equatorial Kundu (generic sub-Saharan hellhole) from The West Wing. Popular nominations: Tom Doran was first.

31. Ruritania. Possibly most famous fictional but realistic nation, setting for trilogy by Anthony Hope: The Prisoner of Zenda, 1894, The Heart of Princess Osra, 1896, and Rupert of Hentzau, 1898. Nominated by Sir Dick of Hearts, Martin McDonald and Willard Foxton. ‏

32. ‏San Lorenzo. Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Graeme.

33. San Marcos. Woody Allen’s Bananas, 1972. Rhys Needham. ‏

34. San Pedro. Central American state whose exiled dictator, “The Tiger”, eludes justice at the hands of Sherlock Holmes and the police in Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge”. David Crawford.

35. San Serriffe. The Guardian’s April Fool of 1977. John Ruddy.

36. Shangri-La. Valley in Lost Horizon, by James Hilton, 1933. Nick Reid. ‏

37. The Shire – “although technically the Shire is a region, not a country, located in the Kingdom of Arnor”, said Tom King. Ian Dunn also nominated Mordor and Gondor in Middle-Earth.

38. ‏Syldavia and Borduria. Tintin. Tom Doran and Jake Goretzki.

39. Tazbekistan. Setting for the Mitchell and Webb comedy Ambassadors. Faye Harland.

40. Themyscira. Home of Wonder Woman and the Amazons, DC Comics. Rogan Dixon.

41. The Three Islands. Pirates’ lair ruled by Missee Lee in the eponymous tenth book of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. The islands – Dragon, Tiger and Turtle – are a confederation. David Crawford.

42. Uqbar. The subject of Louis Borges’ story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”. “It is doubly fictional, as it is fictitious in the story as well. Uqbar is the subject of a centuries-long hoax by a secret society in the story with a series of fabricated articles, encyclopaedias and artefacts connected with the country. The conclusion of the story sees the ‘real’ world of the story being assimilated by the fictional world as it adopts the culture described in the fabricated writings. That Borges, eh?” Paul T Horgan.

43. Utopia. Thomas More, 1516. Not so much fictional as theoretical, it is a Greek pun meaning both no place and good place. Nominated by Graham Kirby, Will Oulton, Ms Person. ‏

44. ‏Val Verde. Latin American dictatorship responsible for foiled terror plots in Die Hard 2 and Commando. Paul, John Clarke.

45. ‏Vulgaria. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film of Ian Fleming’s book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang (which is hyphenated, and which does not feature Vulgaria). Fiona Laird.

46. Wakanda. Kingdom ruled by Black Panther in the Marvel comics. Twlldun, Rogan Dixon.

47. Wonderland. As in Alice in. “It has a king, queen, aristocracy, class structure, court of law, education system (mouse gives lecture on William the Conqueror), equality policy (caucus race has no declared winner), sports infrastructure (the Queen’s Croquet Ground), legislation that has yet to ban outdoor smoking (the hookah-using caterpillar sitting on a mushroom)...” David Crawford.

48. Zembla. “If only to underline the brilliance of the novel it features in – Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov, 1962,” said Patrick Hennessy and John Meredith.

49. Zubrovka. Grand Budapest Hotel. Paul Colligan, Tom King.

50. Zuy. Prosperous elfin kingdom in the Netherlands, in Kingdoms of Elfin, by Sylvia Townsend Warner, 1977. Ben Ross.

Thanks again to you all. Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top 10s from Politics to Pop is out now.

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