Write what you know, they say. I know the town where I grew up, so that was why Lydia’s story started in Hinckley. She had to travel somewhere else, though, and Alex had to come from somewhere else, so why did that somewhere else turn out to be Grimsby, about which I knew next to nothing at the time? I turned to the allegory to find it.
In conflating the two main allegorical themes of Ezekiel 38-39 and the Caucasus-gate fable of the Alexander Romances, I decided to draw a line on an atlas from Jerusalem to the middle of the Caucusus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This reflected Ezekiel’s prophecy that Gog of Magog would come from the north (from the perspective of the ancient Israelites) and the general location of Alexander’s gate in the Caucasus, meant to keep out the marauding tribes of Gog and Magog, also coming from the north (from the perspective of the the people of the southern lowlands, or the ‘Mountain-Footers’ as the novel has it).
It has been speculated that the Caucasus gate (which may never have existed) could have been located at Derbent on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, but it could have been at any number of passes along the Caucasus, so I headed for the middle. To the Tusheti National Park in Georgia, to be exact, just south-east of Tebulosmnt, the mountain pictured above. There are a couple of passes either side of the line around here, but this wasn’t an exercise in precision, because the Romances story is completely vague as to where in the Caucasus the gate was.
I then superimposed that line upon a map of England, with the Jerusalem end starting at Hinckley, and scaled it down so the line ended at the coast of north east England. At that point lay Grimsby. I had found Alex’s location. The ancient Macedonian didn’t live in the Caucuses, but that is the location where the particular fable about him that the allegory draws upon is centred.
The path between Hinckley and Grimsby is trod twice by Alex and once by Lydia. This reflects the ambiguity as to who actually is Gog. The line between Jerusalem and the Caucasus is trod by nobody as far as I know, historically, prophetically, or mythologically. It is simply the geographical relationship between two separate accounts of one, enigmatic entity: Gog/Magog — one a prophecy and the other a myth.
Well, it’s one way of coming up with a location for a story, and it adds a subtle resonance.