'Like the surface of another planet': How Arizona inspired 'A Wrinkle in Time'

You may have read the book, some several times. You may already know the story. You may even know the story very, very well. But what you may not have known, is Arizona's role in creating it.

Long before it was a 2003 TV movie, and way before it was destined to be a 2018 blockbuster hit for Disney, "A Wrinkle in Time" was a sci-fi staple in the minds of young readers for decades.

Written by famed author Madeleine L'Engle, the 1962 classic follows Meg Murry's journey to find her missing scientist father and her interactions with interesting beings, among other things, like Mrs Which, Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who.

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You may have read the book, some several times. You may already know the story. You may even know the story very, very well. But what you may not have known, is Arizona's role in creating it.

A recently published biography, titled "Becoming Madeleine," written by her granddaughters, shines light on L'Engle's life and publishing of "A Wrinkle in Time" using photographs, poems, letters and even journal entires written by L'Engle.

In one particular passage, viewable here, L'Engle's granddaughters, Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy, write that a trip across the country in the spring of 1959 sparked the imagination of L'Engle, "connecting the dots between sonnets and tesseracts, security and risk, love and action." Especially, it appears, once she reached the Desert Southwest.

L'Engle's journal entry from the book's passage reads:

"As we neared the New Mexico Border we went into a Ute Indian reservation, and suddenly the country changed entirely. It changed so completely that we might have been in another planet. Everyplace else we've been so far has been a little familiar to me, at least like someplace else I've seen; but this was like [artist] Chesley Bonestell's pictures of alien worlds. Dry brown land with sparse, dull green vegetation. High mountainous cliffs with flat tops and eroded sides. And strange fairy tale rock formations appearing out of nowhere."

She was talking about the Painted Desert. L'Engle referred to it as the "first real beauty so far in Arizona."

"Red, lava-like cones and pyramids stretching out to the horizon on yellow desert," she wrote. "Purple and blue shadows. Again like the surface of another planet."

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It was in this beautiful, otherworldly landscape where the characters of Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which "popped into" L'Engle's head, her granddaughters wrote.