Looking for a story I read many years ago, long before the Harry Potter books. Probably a short story in an anthology, but maybe a short novel?? I'm guessing I read it in the 90s or earlier.

A young boy is growing up "normally" in his world that includes magic of all sorts, but especially being able to fly (I think on broomsticks). His whole society includes magic as the norm, similar to the HP universe. He has never known a non-magical world.

The magical world is encircled by a massive wall so high that no broom can fly high enough to get over.

The drama in the story begins when he finds a way to make his broom go over the wall. On the other side, he is stuck in our non-magical world where the wall is invisible, magic doesn't exist and his world is considered fantasy.

I don't remember the rest and would like to reread it some day.


2 Answers 2


Almost certainly The Wall Around the World. Actually Porgie reaches the top of the wall in a glider, assisted (up to a certain height) by his broomstick.

Crashlanding on top of the wall, he there meets the "Black Man", a sort of bogeyman with whom children are threatened, but who turns out to be his schoolteacher. It is explained to him that his people are segregated as part of a project to develop the forces of the mind, which have been neglected in the world of machines.

  • I've had to correct my answer slightly. Porgie doesn't get to the other side of the wall in his glider, but only onto the top of it. In the version I'm familiar with, we never see the Outside, just Porgie about to go there.
    – Mike Stone
    Jan 22, 2018 at 21:14
  • Thanks everyone - that's definately it. I had a look at Internet Archive and the old story in Fantasy & Science Fiction matches well. I'm not sure now if I am really remembering the "altemate ending" or if my memory was just playing tricks. I'll research a bit more now that I have a starting point. It could be interesting reading if the storyline was expanded later on. Jan 23, 2018 at 16:07

Unlikely as it may seem, there must be several versions/revisions of Theodore R. Cogswell's The Wall Around the World.

The one I read ends with Porgie succeeding in overclocking a broomstick so that he is able to reach the top of the Wall, after his teacher Mr. Wickens punished him for his dream of doing so by domesticating some eagles; then, the Black Man arrives and gets Porgie, revealing himself to be none other than Mr. Wickens with a flying harness from Outside. In his youth, Mr. Wickens too succeeded in going Outside - by going up a mountain and capturing himself some eagles. Now he'll get Porgie outside to have him educated before going back Inside.

A slightly different ending is here in this answer. Here, the explanation is the same, but Porgie appears to be brought back immediately. To be fair, this might also be nothing more than a slight recollection error.

A third version I have already heard mentioned [in Cambridge, UK, around 1990-1995], but haven't been able to find, is yours. There, Porgie arrives Outside, and discovers that the same "rules" apply Outside - they do not know there's an Inside, they think they are those Inside, going Outside is forbidden etc. .

To confirm, there's another detail you did not mention that I heard: Outside, magic sometimes works less reliably than Porgie is used to, so much that be believes he's losing his powers (this is similar to the Hell's Gate universe). Upon discovering that his magic never fails him when he's alone, Porgie works it out that it all depends on belief - he knows that magic works, and the more he shows it to be working to others, the less people disbelieve him, and the more it works. That's the missing ingredient that allows at last the Wall to be torn down.

If this matches too, then apparently either Cogswell or someone else wrote a sequel or a "reboot" of the novelette, expanding on the end. I am reasonably convinced that it must have appeared on Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies.

  • 1
    I checked three editions of that story: in Cogswell's 1962 collection The Wall Around the World and the 1983 ahthology Isaac Asimov's Magical Worlds of Fantasy: Wizards (both in hardcopy) and the original publication in Beyond Fantasy Fiction, September 1953. As far as I can tell, the endings in these three editions are identical. It would be interesting to find out where an alternate ending appeared.
    – user14111
    Jan 23, 2018 at 3:31
  • @user14111, that's if there is an alternative version. It could be a weird series of coincidences and false memories. Originally, a friend of mine and I could not agree on what we had read during the previous few days: I concluded for an alternate version because when I found the book, my friend was sure he had not read it, and yet he remembered both the story and the other final.
    – LSerni
    Jan 23, 2018 at 6:37

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