Henry Darger’s epic, In the Realms of the Unreal, is a mighty layer cake of a story, organically grown episode-upon-episode with two missions in mind: to help the seven Vivian girls brave the brutalities of fire, flood, storm and war in the freeing of innocent child slaves from the clutches of a demonic totalitarian empire; and recover a mysterious picture of child martyr Annie Aronburg.
Divided into some 15 volumes, there is virtually no plot and very little character development or narrative progression in the 15,000-page Realms. Instead, Darger relies on a cast of charismatic actors to provide the support structure for his opus — from the quasi-divine Vivian princesses to a long list of supporting players.
The action takes place on a nearby planet composed of the Christian kingdom of Abbieannia and other countries at war with godless Glandelinia, which is occupying the nation of Calverinia and enslaving its children.
After Darger started writing his saga around 1910, he began illustrating portraits of his characters. Some of these were pictures and photographs borrowed from newspapers and magazines that he embellished or traced, then recontextualised....