Saturday, December 31, 2011


Welcome To The Ancestral Trail

There comes a time when we look back on our younger days and remember some of the great times we had and the fun things we enjoyed. I'm not talking about a college student remember how easy high school once was, but rather how a man in his twenties remembers how he was as a child. In my case, I remember how, back when I still lived in South Africa, I used to line up toy cars in rows, fueling my parents' speculation that I would grow up to be a parking attendant. I remember how I always spent my Saturdays at my friend Timothy's house dreaming of building a motorized cart. And I also remember how I loved reading serialized magazines designed specifically for my age group.

The serialized magazines I'm taling about are similar to the Zoo Books that you see every now and again on television; back in South Africa, I can remember subscribing to quite a few series. A couple magazines I can recall from memory are Bugs and Dinosaurs, magazines which dealt with their obvious subject matter. However, there was one serialized magazine that, for me, stood out from the rest. Unlike all of my other serialized magazines, this one was a fantasy story. And I'm pretty sure that it's this series that started my love-affair with fantasy and science-fiction literature.

It was called The Ancestral Trail: An Epic Story of Myths, Magic and Monsters.

The Ancestral Trail was published by Marshall Cavendish in a fortnightly format from 1992 to 1993. Originating from a story by Frank Graves, it was adapted into MC's issue format by Fergus Fleming, who did the first half of the series, and Ian Probert, who did the second half. There were 52 issues in total, and several extras that came with every issue - extras like pieces to unique games created specifically by the magazine and clues to various contests. The series has long been out of print, and yet it is still one of the more memorable stories I've read.

It's actually quite amazing that I still love The Ancestral Trail. Looking over the story again, the reading level for the series is certainly for young children. However, the story itself is actually quite mature for its reading level; unlike the sanitized American landscape of children's literature and television, The Ancestral Trail actually tells a dark, almost macabre fable in which people are frequently killed in incredibly gruesome manners. Also, the story manages to take a derivative concept - the fetch quest - and breath new life into it with some interesting characters and a unique setting. Sure, a lot of the story looks like it owes a great deal to Tokien...but so does virtually every single fantasy author published today. The fact is that The Ancestral Trail is fun and exciting and has a fantastic story to tell. And isn't that what really matters?

However, because this series was created before the internet became what it is today, there is very little information available about it on the web. There are a few webpages here and there that talk about the series, but I feel that the information available on these sites don't reveal enough. Therefore, I'm going to take it upon myself to share with you as much as I possibly can about this series. I will look at each volume of the series individually, break it down, and show you why I love this series so much. There really is no purpose behind me writing this other than my own personal enjoyment, but if I manage to get you interested enough to seek out out-of-print copies, then that would be fantastic; this series, in my opinion, really is worth tracking down.

With that out of the way, please enjoy yourselves as you begin your journey through The Ancestral Trail, starting with an introduction to the series.

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