What the heck is a Hyperborea?

Geography

Simply put, Hyperborea refers to an area in the distant north, from the Greek words hyper, meaning “beyond,” (as in hyperspace or hyperactive) and borea, referring to the northern wind (as in the aurora borealis). It has sometimes been used to refer to Scandinavia, which is about as far north as you can get in Europe, or the north polar region. Okay, so why choose such a name for a website?

Mythology and Literary Roots

I first encountered the name of Hyperborea on TV, back when network stations would actually show movies on weekends (before video rentals took off). It was Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, in which Sinbad and his crew had to sail to Hyperborea, a land beyond the North Pole where winter never touched. It was apparently the last of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad epics, and frankly, I don’t remember much about the movie other than their destination.

Hyperborea does have its origins in Greek myth, as a land much like that which appears in the Sinbad film. Untouched by the long northern winter, the land was a virtual paradise, and was said to be the winter home of Apollo. (Some have argued that Hyperborea lies not in the north, but in the East Indies, and some have associated it as well with Atlantis.) Over time, especially when the peoples of southern Europe came into conflict with those of northern Europe during the middle ages, the frozen region took on aspects of darkness as the home of giants, demons, and sorcerers.

Those later legends likely led to Hyperborea entering the Conan and Cthulhu mythos—which, it turns out, are actually related. Writers H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith frequently wrote within each others’ universes, and the stories of Conan were set in the same era as Smith’s Hyperborea. Lovecraft’s own stories, such as “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” would refer to relics, writings, artifacts, and even the dark god Tsathoggua of vanished Hyperborea.

Hyperborea has cropped up in many other places: Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, a Tangerine Dream album, various role-playing games (Epiphany: The Legends of Hyperborea [archive.org], Darkwind, Hyperborea), etc. I suspect that the Blight in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series may have been inspired by combining the two sets of legends—the place of warmth in the north, and the domain of sorcery.

Hyperborea.org

Since so much of my website deals with fantasy and fantastic realms beyond the real world—whether my own writings or the worlds of comic books and television—I wanted a name that would suggest an exotic, far-off land outside reality. Atlantis has been done to death (and was taken), and then I remembered that old Sinbad movie and the land of Hyperborea.

References

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© 2001 Kelson Vibber.