Four SF/Fantasy works that feature the Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel by Peter Bruegel the Elder

Please tell me underneath which I have forgotten to add to this list.

Tower of Babylon (1990) short story by Ted Chiang

The only story on this list that shows the tower as being built. In Chiang’s head it is a construction megaproject, but inside an outdated cosmology. The tower reaches such heights that the sun itself circles lower than its top. What happens when the builders reach the vault of heaven? Chiang loves tackling Biblically inspired themes alongside hard science fiction tales, and giving mythology the same sustained treatment of speculation.

The Dragons of Babel (2008) by Michael Swanwick

The tower has more of a ziggurat shape here as it dominates the mighty city Babylon in Faerie Minor. Its highest levels are covered in skyscrapers from where the Elven aristocrats rule the land. Its internal railway net is so old and cavernous that entire peoples have made it their home, migrating from abandoned station to station. A hidden world separated from the civilised upper layers.

Hollow (2021) by B. Catling

Of all the stories in this list, this one is mostly directly influenced by the paintings by Peter Bruegel. Catling supposes that the tower was abandoned over time, left to slowly collapse into itself. Now it can hardly be recognised as a tower, overgrown as it is, and most people think it is a mountain, but deep inside there are still cavernous spaces, passageways and libraries, the books of which are slowly being devoured by demons who try to create personalities based on the words they eat. 

The Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft.

Highly likely the most intriguing variation on the tower. Bancroft’s four-book series, starting with Senlin Ascends (2013), explores the tower from the ground level to the crown. As Thomas Senlin makes his way through the tower, we see all the levels as separate kingdoms or “ringdoms”. How they are linked together is a discovery best left for the readers, but look at this drawing by Bancroft himself. Now that is something new as a fantasy map.

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9 Responses to Four SF/Fantasy works that feature the Tower of Babel

  1. Bookstooge says:

    I have not read any of these but I can’t think of any others that feature the Tower of Babel in any sense….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. savageddt says:

    I really like the Bancroft cover. Have not read any of these yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bormgans says:

    I read Bancroft and Chiang, but more importantly I saw both Bruegel paintings multiple times. Truly phenomenal paintings.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ola G says:

    I saw the painting in Vienna. Fabulous. As for the books, I only read Chiang from your list. I can give you a few non-fiction titles sporting Babel on the cover, though 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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