The Hollow Earth Theory in Literature

T. Barabas September 2, 2014 0

The Hollow Earth Theory lit the imagination of authors for centuries. It was the source and the fuel for some of the most memorable literary works, like Journey to the Center of the Earth by Joule Verne, and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the only novel written by Edgar Allan Poe. So, the Hollow Earth Theory served as a muse for many famous authors.

Photo by Jon Betts

Photo by Jon Betts

In short, this theory states that the Earth is actually hollow and that there are entrances to this lost world at the poles. This subterranean place is supposedly inhabited by humans or humanoid creatures. According to some theories, during the period of Atlantis, people withdrew underground in order to escape from war and devastation and their civilization has been flourishing there ever since. Also,  ancient legends from many cultures all across the globe speak of people who live underground. So, one cannot help but wonder, if there is some truth in their stories. Probably the Ant people of the Hopi Indians are the most famous underground civilization. The Hopi Indians believed that a benevolent race of humanoids, called the Anr People, which lived underground, helped their tribes numerous times, when they were in need.

During the last few centuries the Hollow Earth Theory suffered a series of alterations. In the 17th century Edmund Halley, a British astronomer, proposed that our planet is made out of four concentric spheres. The spheres from below were lit by a luminescent atmosphere and populated. After a century, a Swiss mathematician, Leonhard Euler reduced the multiple spheres to a single one and added a sun inside. He also believed in the existence of an advanced civilization there. John Symmes came along in the 19th century and he thought that the entrances to the underworld are located at the poles. More recently in the 20th century Admiral Richard E. Byrd from the United States Navy flew over both the North and South Pole. In his journal he writes how he entered the hollow earth with others and describes in great detail what he saw: landscapes, vegetation, large animals, unknown flying objects, cities, and an advanced civilization.

One of the earlier representations of the Hollow Earth Theory in literature was in Nicolai Klimii iter subterraneum, (Niels Klim’s Underground Travels) written by Ludwig Holberg in 1741. The novel tells the story of Nicolai who falls through a cave and he ends up on a smaller globe, where he lives for several years.

In The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe, the Hollow Earth Theory only makes a subtle appearance. At the very end of the novel, the mist surrounding a boat on water parts and a shrouded white figure emerges. These events take place near the South Pole and it is believed that the mysterious shrouded figure could be an inhabitant of the underground world.

Jules Verne relied more on the Hollow Earth Theory in his Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). In this science fiction novel the characters journey towards the center of the Earth through volcanic tubes. They go through many adventures and encounter prehistoric animals.

The Hollow Earth Theory has deep roots in our history and it still has a hold on people today. Cultures from around the world have legends about civilizations flourishing underground. But for now, we can only wonder what unites these legends spread across the globe and their modern version, the Hollow Earth Theory.

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