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Reading another question today reminded me of a short story I read in the early 90s (probably written in 60s or 70s though). A society is blocked off by a really high wall; the story follows a girl who tries to get over the wall. I think she manages it with a hot air balloon. When she reaches the other side she meets an older man who had managed to scale the wall in his youth - his solution had been to use a flock of birds to carry him.

UPDATE

I seem to recall that it splits off an elite group of people - getting over the wall is like a rite of passage. Most people don't even bother to get over it (or even be concerned by its existence at all), but a few try. There might be some magic involved (on the other / better side), or they might just be more advanced technologically.

FINAL UPDATE

As pointed out in the answer, and confirmed by me re-reading the story, I was mistaken in a few details. The main protagonist is not a girl, it's a boy called Porgie. He doesn't use a balloon, it's a glider he made, assisted with a broom. Magic is involved, but it's on the inside, with technology on the outside.

  • Are they imprisoned or are they hiding? Do we know why they're behind the wall? – Daft Jul 14 '15 at 20:15
  • I think the wall keeps a higher level of society separate - I've added more to my question. – Eborbob Jul 14 '15 at 20:40
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Reading another question today reminded me of a short story I read in the early 90s (probably written in 60s or 70s though).

"The Wall Around the World", a novelette by Theodore R. Cogswell, first published in Beyond Fantasy Fiction, September 1953, available at the Internet Archive. It has a Wikipedia page.

A society is blocked off by a really high wall; the story follows a girl who tries to get over the wall.

Yes, except that it's a boy:

The Wall that went all the way around the World had always been there, so nobody paid much attention to it—except Porgie.

Porgie was going to find out what was on the other side of it—assuming there was another side—or break his neck trying. He was going on fourteen, an age that tends to view the word impossible as a meaningless term invented by adults for their own peculiar purposes. But he recognized that there were certain practical difficulties involved in scaling a glassy-smooth surface that rose over a thousand feet straight up. That's why he spent a lot of time watching the eagles.

I think she manages it with a hot air balloon.

Actually, he uses a glider aided by a magic broomstick for additional lift:

After checking the broomstick to be sure it was still fastened tightly to the frame, he went swooping down the hill again. This time when he hit the thermal over the clump of trees, he was pushed up a hundred feet before he lost it. He curved through the darkness until he found it again and then circled tightly within it.

Higher he went and higher, higher than any broomstick had ever gone!

When she reaches the other side she meets an older man who had managed to scale the wall in his youth - his solution had been to use a flock of birds to carry him.

Mr. Wickens grinned. Oh, I was born Inside. I went over the Wall for the first time when I was just a little older than you are now."

"In a glider?" asked Porgie.

"No," said the Black Man, his face perfectly sober. "I went out and caught myself a half-dozen eagles."

There might be some magic involved (on the other / better side), or they might just be more advanced technologically.

It's magic (such as flying broomsticks) Inside, machine technology outside:

"Outside, where you're going, is the world of the machines. It's a good world, too. But the men who live there saw a long time ago that they were paying a price for it; that control over Nature meant that the forces of the Mind were neglected, for the machine is a thing of logic and reason, but miracles aren't. Not yet. So they built the Wall and they placed people within it and gave them such books and such laws as would insure development of the Mind. At least they hoped it would work that way—and it did."

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    Yup, that's the one. Found it on my bookcase quite by accident at about the same time you posted the answer. It's in the compilation Yet More Penguin Science Fiction - my copy has a spine so faded all text has gone, I picked it up wondering what it was and lo-and-behold - there it was as the first story! – Eborbob Jul 14 '15 at 21:34
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    I just have to envision this story as a ghibli movie :-o – Falco Jul 15 '15 at 9:20
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user14111 definitely has the story that matches your description the closest, but you might have conflated elements of that story with another by Stephen Baxter called "Shell". In "Shell" a girl named Allel developed the principle of the hot-air balloon and used it to help her tribe to defeat another tribe. Later she used a balloon to cross the gulf between her world and another world that seemed to surround hers.

  • I'm not familiar with that one, but aother story with a girl protagonist, an isolated world, and a hot air balloon is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. – user14111 Jul 15 '15 at 6:02
  • Thanks for the suggestion, I don't recall Shell, don't think I've ever read it. I am familiar with Oz though, and I may have been thinking about the end of that when I was trying to describe the story. – Eborbob Jul 15 '15 at 7:39

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