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Look at this Fantasy Map of Toronto

In a fantasy version of Toronto, there are Orcs living in Yorkville and Gnomes living in the Junction.

Toronto might seem like a world of larger-than-life characters, places, and events, but have you ever wondered what the city would look like if it was actually inhabited by mythical creatures? Inspired by their love of old video games like Might and Magic, the local art collective Catshrine has created a detailed map of a Toronto where Queen Street West is filled with condo hydras, Roncesvalles has a community of vampires, and there are dastardly rogues in Rosedale.

Torontoist spoke with one of the creators, Irene Angelopoulos, about the map. (Click here to see a giant-sized version, or click through the image gallery for a look at some details.)

Torontoist: When did you start making the map?

Irene Angelopoulos: We started making it in early 2013, like around January we had this idea. I think we worked on it for a solid month and finished it around February. It can be like a 12-hour day, 18-hour day, just to get all the technical aspects of it.

And how big is the actual map?

It’s 15 by 18. For the detail there’s a lot of fine work we had to do.

Where did the idea come from?

My partner and I, we really like playing old video games, so we were just thinking it would be fun to come up with different creatures that fit with people’s ideas of the neighbourhoods in Toronto. We found ourselves having a lot of fun coming up with these different characters, so we thought, “Let’s illustrate a map.”

What was the process from there?

We listed all the neighbourhoods we could possibly think of, and there were a lot more than appear on the map. We kind of ran out of room. Then we made a list of the creatures we encountered in games like Might & Magic. And then it was like a kind of puzzle to figure out which creatures go with what neighbourhood the best, for whatever reason. Sometimes there was no reason. Then we sketched it, and honed it down to whatever was the most amusing.

Some of the ritzier neighbourhoods are associated with more sinister beings—the Yorkville Yuppie Orcs, the Bay Street Imps, the Rosedale Rogeues. Was this intentional?

There’s a bit of social satire going on as well. I guess you can read in a bit of critique. We thought it was funny to associate those wealthy areas with typically mean monsters, but it was more people’s conceptions with the people who live in those neighbourhoods.

Then there’s City Hall as the Dragon Mayor’s Lair, and the illustration clearly shows Rob Ford as a sleeping dragon on top a pile of gold. Where did that comparison come from?

Well, we had to put a dragon in it, because it’s such an important creature. And with everything going on at the time when we were coming up with this idea, it was kind of perfect. You know, the dragon is often just sleeping in the cave and only comes out when it’s convenient. And it looks cool.

It’s very downtown-centric, and up north is just the Eglinton Wastelands. What does that say about Toronto?

Its funny. In a way, that’s what our everyday thinking of the suburbs is like. It’s a wasteland, there’s no point in going out there, there’s nothing out there. But, at the same time, tying it in with Might and Magic, if you venture out there you’re going to find things and see things you probably wouldn’t think about. I don’t think of it as a wasteland. There are a lot of interesting communities beyond Eglinton and High Park.

Do you think looking at Toronto through a fantasy lens offers up a new perspective on the city?

We love Toronto, we bike around a lot, and we think a lot about the change that’s happening in the city, especially with the development and new people moving into the neighbourhoods. And the space always seems to be negotiated. So we thought it’d be neat to add that fantasy element to this moment in time. On one hand, it’s timeless because it’s this fantasy world, but it’s clearly inspired by what’s going on in the city right now, or what we feel is going on. Because you never really know a neighbourhood unless you live there.

What has the reaction been so far to the map?

People get very passionate about their neighbourhoods, and we thought this would be a fun thing to get people talking. One person said, I forget what neighbourhood they were from, but they said, “At least we’re not the orcs. At least we’re not the trolls.” But if you play Might and Magic, the trolls can be a lot of fun. It’s everyone’s personal perception about whether these creatures are bad. Someone said, “You made the Kensington Market Slimes, do you hate Kensington?” No, I love Slimes! They’re fun creatures.

Do you have a favourite fantasy neighbourhood?

I think the Junction Hipster Gnomes are probably the cutest for me. But otherwise, I’d have to say the Danforth Medusas, just because I hang out there a lot, I have coffee there a lot. It’s just something that amuses me a lot, the drawing.

What’s next for the map?

We actually showed it at the Hashtag Gallery in the early spring, and because of the huge positive response and people wanting their own neighbourhood represented, we’re thinking of doing a more detailed and zoomed-in sort of series, maybe including some more of the east side. We do have prints of it for sale, we’re excited to get it out there now.


  • OgtheDim

    (I’m going to get slagged for this but somebody has to defend the idea of actually giving a damn about the WHOLE of the city of Toronto)

    You know, this would be a fun idea if it was a map of a school in a yearbook. Its kinda on that level. And, in that vein, if they had used the title “Downtown Core”, it would be fine and funny and cute and all that.

    But, a map with the title “City of Toronto” that calls things north of Yorkdale a wasteland is just not fun or cool.

    Hundreds of thousands of people live there. People who have lives, artistic sensibilities, play Might and Magic and really are not all that different then people as depicted in the core in this peice of artwork.

    Then, when asked about this, we get this answer:

    “In a way, that’s what our everyday thinking of the suburbs is like.”

    So, what they are saying is people from outside the core are not people they care to do their artwork for; they mediate that by saying although they identify as a person who thinks everything north of Bloor is a wasteland, they think its probably not. But, their artwork isn’t for them so…its ok because it fits into Final fantasy thinking.

    Pardon me but calling 2/3 of the people who live in the City of Toronto as living in a wasteland is not cool. Its not good enough to say, in essence, “Well, if people looked, we could find something interesting.”

    Myopic comes to mind.

    To be charitable, I’m trying to match this up with the famous New Yorker view of the USA. But that was satirical. This isn’t. Its deliberately dismissive based on the idea itself being cute.

    Ultimately, this is the same as saying “Well we really do think of people from the downtown as all latte sipping bicycle riding socialists and social workers, so that’s how we are going to depict them in our artwork. But we are sure if we ever got out of our cars, and went around a bit, they would surprise us about how they are just like you and me.”

    Sound familiar?

    Change the title. Call it what it is.

    And start listening.

    • HotDang

      On the other hand, lots of people see the city that way.

      The train tracks running north of Dupont generally mark then northern boundary of the region of downtown with high walkability. So for many people anything north of there is quite difficult to get to.

      Similarly west of the train tracks at Dundas the roads are all a lot wider, traffic is faster, and it’s just generally not as nice of a place to walk around.

      So what the map is really showing is that places where the car is the dominant mode of transport are like Mordor.

      • OgtheDim

        Yeah, it does have the limited view of an English don about it doesn’t it.

    • vampchick21

      That’s a lot of words for what is in essence a silly little map made for fun.

    • Jake

      I like it, it’s just a fun drawing. Basically what you are saying is that you wouldn’t like it unless they detailed all of the GTA. Is this how you view all art? Art doesn’t have to be politically correct or accurate of real like, it’s just how the artist(s) sees things, if you don’t like it… who cares?

      • OgtheDim

        The map is fun, not saying it isn’t.

        What I’m saying is call it what it is…a view of the downtown core. Not the City of Toronto. Political correctness isn’t my point at all.

        I think it is just as easy to draw a similar and equally interesting map from the perspective of people living in North York, Scarborough, Eglinton and YOnge, the Danforth, Rexdale etc. etc. etc.

        None of those maps would call themselves “The City of Toronto”.

        • Testu

          I think it is just as easy to draw a similar and equally interesting map from the perspective of people living in North York, Scarborough, Eglinton and YOnge, the Danforth, Rexdale etc. etc. etc.

          Of course it could be done, but in the minds of these particular artists their map represents the City of Toronto, as they see it.

          You’re free to make your own fantasy/joke map titled City of Toronto that’s as inclusive as you like.

          I’m not sure why you’d get bent out of shape over what some random person thinks of (or doesn’t think of, in this case) the area you live in.

    • whatever

      Also notable that it took, what, two or three few years of ‘hipsters’ moving into the junction for the neighbourhood to become defined by them? Lol, so problematic.

    • Pandora

      Good lord! It’s a FANTASY map. Someone needs a good dose of fruit loops
      and chocolate milk, and perhaps a cuddle followed by a nap.

      • OgtheDim

        Chocolate Almond drink with dry Lucky Charms thank you very much.

  • doodle


  • David

    Lighten up. It’s funny and a lot of fun!!

  • Marisa

    Hey hey hey hey this has Liberty Village incorporated with Parkdale…. lol nope!

    • vampchick21

      Liberty Village was carved out of Parkdale. Deal.

  • dsmithhfx

    I’m sick of lotr anything, but this just isn’t something anyone needs to take seriously.

  • jen

    I have a friend who had a roommate once who turned his nose up at me because I live on St. Clair, which is, as he stated to me, outside of the “golden rectangle” of Bloor, Yonge, King and Roncesvalles.

    I really hate people like that.

  • Murktastic

    This reminds me of those joke maps of the world that show the USA in great detail and either nothing else or everything else is incorrect and labelled “other stuff”. Except in this case these people aren’t doing it as a joke and don’t understand why people get frustrated when a map labelled “City of Toronto” only includes the areas bounded by Victoria Park, High Park, and Eglington.

  • catshrine

    Thanks for the wonderful reception…who knew our fun little map would
    bring out such strong feelings? We’re announcing Ye Olde Greater
    Toronto, a new map we’re starting. We had planned a few close-up maps of
    the city to explore individual neighbourhoods, but the discussion
    around our first attempt has inspired us to skip ahead and think big.
    Our task: we’re gonna find the largest piece of paper we can afford and
    explore those Great Eglinton Wastelands and beyond. We’d like to
    include as many of the 140 neighbourhoods contained within the GTA as we
    can. And that’s where you come in:

    Suggest a fantasy creature
    to represent your special neighbourhood and shout it to @catshrine on
    twitter. People from Scarborough: step up! Nerds from Etobicoke, chime
    in! Live on Eglinton? Represent! If we like your suggestion, we’ll
    put it in the map.

    Thanks for participating in our ridiculous cartography,