Literature / Lost Horizon

The novel Lost Horizon was written in 1933 by British author James Hilton (of Goodbye, Mr. Chips fame).

Passengers aboard a small airplane discover that they have been kidnapped by someone posing as their assigned pilot. The plane crashes in the Himalayan mountain range along the border of China. The dying pilot's last words indicate there is a lamasery near by at Shangi-La and they will find help there. The passengers go to the lamasery and uncover a mystery.

It was filmed by Frank Capra in 1937, and again in 1973 as a spectacular star-studded musical flop.

Not to be confused with the power metal band with the same name.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Aesop: The novel warns of an impending World War.
  • Age Without Youth: Averted- you live long and age proportionaly in Shangri-La.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Shangri-la" means "Shang Mountain Pass" in Tibetan.
  • The Chosen One: Conway was specially selected to go to Shangri-La, and the other passengers were considered wonderful, accidental additions to the lamasery who all (excepting Mallinson) found reasons to be happy there.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Shangri-La
  • Hurting Hero: Conway the protagonist
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The book is written by someone who heard the story from Conrad.
  • MacGuffin Location
  • May-December Romance: Mallinson and Lo-Tsen... if Perrault is telling the truth of course.
  • Mighty Whitey: Featuring a modern Mighty Whitey in the 1930s, when the old-fashioned version was still in vogue. The mostly Chinese and Tibetan monks there prove themselves to be wise, intelligent, competent, and well-rounded characters. However, the white Conway turns out to be better at being a monk than the best of the Tibetans, and it turns out that the founder and leader of the monastery is a European who arrived in the 15th century.
  • No Immortal Inertia
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: the monastery
  • Rapid Aging: this may be Lo-Tsen's fate
  • The Red Stapler: Shangri-La and what it represents longing for a faraway place of beauty, spiritual replenishment, and supernatural longevity stuck around. When Tibet realized that heavy logging of their old-growth forests was causing disastrous floods, they turned to tourism, found that it paid really well, and renovated a village, renaming it Shangri-La.
  • Secret Identity: Barnard is really Chalmers Bryant and the High Lama might really be Father Perrault
  • The Shangri-La: The novel is the trope namer.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mallinson points out to Conway (and the reader) that the High Lama might be just lying.