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43 votes
Accepted

Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

Circumnavigation was nothing new. Speedy circumnavigation was new, but not unheard of, and Around the World wasn't positing anything outlandish or even vaguely sci-fi. It's a story celebrating what ...
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33 votes

Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

It was possible, but not easy. The difficulty of the task accounts for the substantial amount of the bet: £20,000 in 1873 is worth about £2,000,000 or more than US $2.5 million today. William ...
  • 15.4k
32 votes

Is Babar an African or Asian elephant?

In the original story L'histoire de Babar: le petit éléphant (translated and published as The Story of Babar), his companion's absence is communicated by a 'vieux marabout' (an old marabous [bird]). ...
  • 4,360
30 votes
Accepted

Is Babar an African or Asian elephant?

Inasmuch as Babar is from a specific continent, he's either from Europe or from Africa-as-perceived-by-Europeans-in-the-1920s. Which is not exactly Africa, but definitely not Asia. Babar's adventures ...
25 votes

Why Did Doyle Choose 221B Baker Street?

All the unreputable Internet sources indicate that the numbering on Baker Street in Doyle's lifetime was only up to 100. Apparently Doyle initially called the street "Upper Baker Street". One theory ...
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22 votes
Accepted

Where was the Odyssean Ithaca?

TL;DR: Homer’s Ithaca is somewhere in the Ionian islands but his descriptions are hard to reconcile, so pending a really convincing archaeological find it is impossible to be sure how the descriptions ...
  • 42.4k
15 votes

Is Babar an African or Asian elephant?

I submit that Babar is an Asian elephant on the basis of the artwork. Asian elephants differ from African elephants in a few ways, most prominently in the sizes of their ears: Asian elephants have ...
14 votes
Accepted

Where is Kafka's "The Trial" set?

This answer is primarily based on Ignace Feuerlicht, "Omissions and Contradictions in Kafka's Trial", The German Quarterly 1967, 40(3), pp. 339-350 - available here if you have Jstor access. ...
  • 65.1k
11 votes

Do the *books* show that Hogwarts is in Scotland?

"Scotland" is only mentioned once in the series, and that is as a Quidditch team in Chapter Five of Goblet of Fire: And Wales lost to Uganda, and Scotland was slaughtered by Luxembourg." In ...
  • 2,747
11 votes

Where in the New York City metro area does Ludwik live?

This answer is coming from my experience of living and working in the northern NJ/NY area for almost 20 years... To me the only area where you would have both "broken down piers" and be &...
  • 3,705
10 votes
Accepted

Where is the start of Treasure Island set?

TL;DR: The opening chapters of Treasure Island make it clear that the "Admiral Benbow" must be within a few miles of Lynmouth in Devon. Stevenson wrote a detailed account of the writing of ...
  • 42.4k
9 votes
Accepted

Did Shakespeare err in using Ephesus as a port setting?

Ephesus was a port on the estuary of the River Kaystros, but silt from the river filled in the harbour during the Roman era. Stock et al. (2013) describe the geological history thus: Situated ...
  • 42.4k
9 votes
Accepted

How many of the original Sherlock Holmes stories are fixed in time?

This is the final list I've made, after sifting through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes,...
  • 5,744
9 votes
Accepted

Where is Momo set?

There are multiple hints that the unnamed city the plot takes place in is a reminiscence of Genzano di Roma. Ende has lived there during the writing of Momo, and the Italian background (the names, but ...
  • 847
9 votes
Accepted

Are any of the countries in Hard to Be a God based specifically on particular real-life countries?

Original Authorial Intent: "Three Musketeers"-ish pre-Age-of-Discovery kinda-Spain-cum-Russia-or-France (sans muskets). Based on Boris Strugatsky's "Commentaries to the past" (...
  • 4,226
9 votes

Why Did Doyle Choose 221B Baker Street?

Conan Doyle is giving the reader a clue as to Holmes' character. Educated readers at the time of publication would have picked up on these clues. At that time, Baker Street was an upmarket ...
  • 2,066
8 votes
Accepted

Is Strattenburg, Pennsylvania based on a real town?

I couldn't find any evidence supporting the fact that Grisham based Strattenburg off of a real town instead of just a generic archetype of a small town. There's no canon evidence to support either ...
  • 4,287
7 votes
Accepted

Why did Thomas Hardy fictionalise the place names in his Wessex?

As user Fabjaja notes in the comments, Wessex was originally a kingdom in Anglo-Saxon Britain. While some of its peers survive in modern nomenclature (such as the county of Essex), Wessex had not. The ...
  • 15.3k
7 votes
Accepted

Where in the New York City metro area does Ludwik live?

Ludwik lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. See the first few pages, "Wanda's Greenpoint Convenience".
6 votes
Accepted

Why is John Betjeman's poem set on the A30 in particular?

Betjeman fell in love with Cornwall as a child and visited at least yearly until his death. As you say, the road links London and Cornwall: he spent a lot of his life on it. The geography of Devon and ...
  • 15.9k
6 votes

Is The Lord of the Flies set on a real island?

The island is never named. We get pretty close: “This is our island. It’s a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we’ll have fun.” However, the island is never named and we also don'...
  • 4,219
6 votes
Accepted

When do the events in The Valley of Fear take place?

In Chapter I, we have a rough indication of the year, when Inspector MacDonald arrives (p. 4): Those were the early days at the end of the ’80’s, when Alec MacDonald was far from having attained ...
  • 5,744
6 votes
Accepted

Why is "The Vanishing Half" set in Louisiana?

It's set in Louisiana because the town is based on a real town as she mentions in an NPR interview: I got the idea for the book from a conversation I had with my mother, who told me very offhandedly ...
  • 2,752
6 votes
Accepted

Where is "Keumgang-Gul / Diamond Cave"?

The place you seek is actually better transliterated as "Geumgang-Gul". Geumganggul Cave is a cave located in Seoraksan National Park, in Sokcho, South Korea... It was once a place of ...
6 votes
Accepted

Where is St. Lawrence island in Africa, mentioned in Os Lusíadas

São Lourenço, i.e., Saint Laurence or Lawrence, was the name given to Madagascar by the Portuguese. According to Wikipedia: European contact began on August 10, 1500, when the Portuguese sea captain ...
  • 15.4k
6 votes
Accepted

In Longfellow's "Evangeline", during what part of the year is Evangeline exiled?

The reference to October is not relating to the timing of events, but as an allusion to how the people have been scattered since then, by the Great Expulsion like autumn leaves. The reference to ...
  • 15.9k
5 votes
Accepted

Vonnegut's "Address at Rededication of Wheaton College Library, 1973"

It appears to be the one in Massachusetts. The essay is frequently cited as being published in Wheaton College alumnae magazine, which is the magazine of the Wheaton College in Massachusetts. I note, ...
  • 4,918
5 votes
Accepted

Is Steinbeck's "The Moon is Down" set in Norway?

This website discusses the setting of the novel. Apparently Steinbeck never actually explicitly identified the country, although he said it was cold and stern like Norway, cunning and implacable ...
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Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible