The “Land of Giants” thought experiment

federico respini sYffw0LNr7s unsplash
federico respini sYffw0LNr7s unsplash

“Land of Giants” was the nickname given to the country by John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of “Astounding Science Fiction”. 

This thought experiment led to what has become known as the “Campbellian Monomyth”, an outline for a typical story arc in heroic journeys. 

The term can also be used to describe any post-apocalyptic dystopia with an authoritarian ruler, 

whose world is inaccessible or out of reach for most people.

This article by Kyle Mathews discusses both the Land of Giants and its relevance in modern society.

 It explains how Campbell’s thought experiment sets up a hero’s journey 

how this story arc can be seen throughout popular culture, especially in dystopian fiction like George Orwell’s 1984.

The Land of Giants is an imaginary country created by John W. Campbell in “Astounding Science Fiction” magazine in 1937. 

It was modeled after the United States, but a few percent larger; the inhabitants of this country were all giants,

 each about 10 feet tall, and all were ruled by a single superpowerful leader. The ruler, Big John Bigbootleg,

 received his power from a magic wand worn on his belt by a giant witch doctor who lived up on Mount McKinley.

Many writers have dealt with this example and its relevance to modern culture. 

According to Matt Fraction’s writing guide for comics, “The Land of the Giants” is “a story about how we see ourselves in relation to other people”.

In the “Manga Encyclopedia”, it is described as a dream sequence where all the characters are giants. 

It was specifically created to further establish the strangeness of Yubaba’s domain, and the fact that this land exists in a parallel realm to Oto-san’s world.

 It was chosen because it was not part of an existing story, but rather something entirely new that would be easy to draw.

 The encyclopedia also states that Yubaba is inspired by Hōjō Yoshitoki, who in turn was modeled after Kangxi Emperor,

 who lived from 1654 to 1722 and ruled China from 1661 until his death. 

He was the longest ruling Chinese Emperor, and the longest ruling sole monarch in the history of China.

Some have pointed out that the correlation between Campbell’s thought experiment and modern society is a negative one. 

According to Mark Rein-Hagen, it shows how easily a leader can be created when desperation and fear exist in a people.

 He also says that this “land” is “our land”. It has been said to be an allegory of America, particularly during World War II or even today. 

In this regard, the dictator would represent Joseph McCarthy who was very active in stirring up anti-communist sentiment. 

However, it could also represent the events that took place during the French Revolution.

The first use of the word “Campbellian” to describe a story was made in 1961 by Robert A. Heinlein. 

He defined it as having “a hero who wins all battles with trickery and cunning rather than good honest violence”. 

In layman’s terms, it refers to a character who is “smarter than everyone else”. The story arc was popularized by Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book:

 “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”, which Campbell called “the most influential work of our time on mythological structure”.

According to Campbell, the hero’s journey can be seen in religious stories and myths all over the globe. 

He describes a heroic journey as an individual or group that goes on a quest in search of something, 

and is faced with adversity along the way. In the end, the hero makes it back to his or her community with 

whatever quested-for item he or she found, and has changed into a better person because of it.

Campbellian Monomyth (sometimes referred to as “Hero’s Journey”) refers specifically to one pattern within that story arc.

 This pattern has been observed by scholars and artists throughout history, which point does fullinwider intend to make with the “land of giants” thought experiment?

but was first compiled in 1949 by Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”. 

Campbell described a journey beginning in the ordinary world, progressing through frustration and trials, to a symbolic transformation of that character.

In comic books, the protagonist’s journey is typically seen in the form of a 6 issue story arc. 

The first issue sets up the situation, the second introduces a new character

 who will be important to the tale (villain or hero), and so on until it reaches its conclusion.

The Campbellian Monomyth can be seen in comics such as “Heavy Metal” magazine. In “Heavy Metal”, 

Mark Schultz depicts a series of short stories set in an alternate future; each features one or two characters 

who go on a quest for something magical which will help them achieve happiness and success in their lives.

The Monomyth is also seen in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, where Snow White goes on a journey to find her prince. 


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