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Portal Book

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"This book is made to order, but it isn't to be read;
When they open up this book, they're sucked inside instead!"

We've all heard the metaphor that books are a gateway to other worlds. Sometimes, this stops being a metaphor and becomes the literal truth. A book is an ideal object to turn into a Cool Gate to a Magical Land. Portal Books usually come in one of three varieties:

  1. As a literary version of Trapped in TV Land: The characters rapidly move from book to book, with the shelf or the library functioning as the Portal Network, creating a chain of shout outs and parodies of well-known genres and/or famous works along the way. Most of the books visited will be The Theme Park Version of public domain classics.
  2. As a literary version of Portal Picture: One book functions as a portal into the world of the story told in its pages. You usually can't escape until you reach the end of the story. This one is far less likely to be a real book in "our world."
  3. As a literary version of Set Right What Once Went Wrong or Wayback Trip: Characters get Applied Phlebotinum that allows them to enter the setting of one or more previously completely mundane, non-magical books. The conflict often centers on how their interference threatens to screw up the plot, and they have to get the original story back on track to resolve the "right" way.

Any of these three may or may not overlap with Refugee from TV Land, when literary characters come through a Portal Book into "the real world." The best candidates for such reverse travel are villains.

Chances are 10 to 1 that there will be An Aesop about the value of reading. Nobody is more likely to fall into a Portal Book than someone who dislikes books. A Bookworm's best hope of getting to experience this trope is if the Aesop is "Be Careful What You Wish For," and he must learn to stop withdrawing into the fantasy world of his books and "live in the real world." (Of course, either lesson runs the risk of being a Space Whale Aesop, given that books in the real world don't work like this.)note 

For help finding a Portal Book near you, see your local Magic Librarian. Compare Portal Door, for doors that lead someplace non-adjacent, and Television Portal for the higher-tech version. If the book triggers the plot then it's a Plot-Triggering Book.

Not to be confused for the behind-the-scenes digital book of Portal 2.

See also Useful Book, for when books turn out to have other non-reading functions.


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Type 1:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: One of Doraemon's gadgets are a pair of shoes that enables the user to go into the world of fiction. The consequences of losing those shoes while inside the storybook world is explored in Doraemon: Nobita's Dorabian Nights, when Shizuka accidentally got lost in the world of Arabian Nights necessitating Doraemon and the boys to find a way to retrieve her.
  • In One Piece one of Big Mom's children has the ability to bring people in a world of book in addition to using the pages of the books to fly.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Motu Patlu episode "Magical Book", Motu finds a magic book in Dr. Jhatka's laboratory and gets himself as well as Patlu, Dr. Jhatka, Ghasitaram, and Inspector Chingum sucked into the book's world, where sentient cars and trucks populate Furfuri Nagar instead of humans.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 20, Wolffy discovers an old book written by his great great great great great grandfather and tries to use it to catch the goats when he realizes it sucks in anyone that opens it. Paddi finds the book, opens it, and is sucked in, leading to the others also getting sucked into the book's grassy field world when Weslie comes along and finds the book.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Twilight and Navarone get sucked into one in Diaries of a Madman, and have to play along with the stories found in several books as they advance through the world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Goosebumps film adaptation reveals that all of R.L. Stine's original manuscripts are Portal Books that, when opened, release the monsters into the real world. He's dedicated his life to keeping the books locked and hidden in a house full of booby traps to presumably slow them down should they escape (which they do when the film's protagonist comes knocking).
  • The main focus of The Pagemaster.

  • David Weisner's Caldecott award-winning picture book version of The Three Little Pigs plays with this as, partway through the story, the pigs realize they can leave their book and visit characters in other stories, resulting in some impressive Art Shifts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • "I can go anywhere! Take a look! It's in a book! A Reading Rainbow!"
  • One Ultraman Dyna episode has the monster Bundar, who is created by an occult writer and exists only in the screenplay he wrote. The penultimate battle actually has Dyna fighting Bundar while skipping between multiple pages, and the battle ends with Super GUTS spinning the foil of the book resulting in Bundar inadvertently destroying itself. Yes, it's from a Bizarro Episode.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Dragonborn, the Black Books act as portals to Apocrypha, the Daedric Realm of Hermaeus Mora. Each book takes you to a different part of Apocrypha where you can learn a new power.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

Type 2:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: In one episode of the Sakura Card arc, Eriol traps Sakura inside the Alice in Wonderland book.
  • Fushigi Yuugi - Miaka and Yui fall into the Book of the Four Gods, and their adventures can be read by anyone who picks up the book in the real world.
    This is the story of a girl who gathered the seven seishi of Suzaku, and acquired the power to make every wish come true. The story itself is an incantation. Whoever finishes the book shall receive this power. As soon as the page is turned, the story will become truth and begin...
  • This trope is what kicks off the events of The Rising of the Shield Hero by transporting Naofumi to Melromarc when he opens a book about the four cardinal heroes. The other heroes come to the country by slightly different means though.
  • In Soul Eater, Noah/ Fake Eibon enjoys doing this.
  • Tamagotchi: Happiest Story in the Universe! has Mametchi and his friends travelling into books for fun. Then, Kikitchi travels into a book called "The World's Happiest Story", where his actions come close to affecting the real world; Mametchi and the others go in to get him out and save Tamagotchi Planet as well as the world in "The World's Happiest Story".

    Asian Animation 
  • In Season 8 of Happy Heroes, the heroes travel into a book titled "A History of Magic" to retrieve Haha Xiao's staffs and wake up the Global Leader.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Douwe Dabbert, in the album The Ship of Ice, Douwe and Domoli enter a book so they can watch the story play out in front of them. However, they are merely there as spectators, and as such cannot interfere with the events in ways that would alter the course of the story.
  • Monica's Gang: In the story "Fables", Franklin's dog, Blue, disdains the book of La Fontaine's Fables his owner was reading, arguing that his own solo stories also have Talking Animals and it's just humans who can't understand them. However, when Blue tries to give the book a look, he falls into it and ends up in a land where all of the classic Aesop's fables take place and all the morals appear as literal pieces of paper delivering the lesson at the end of each story. He loses a bet after betting on the hare from "The Hare and the Tortoise", gets chased by the wolf from "The Wolf and the Lamb", gets tricked by the fox from "The Fox and the Goat" and in return tricks her into tasting castor beans in "The Fox and the Grapes", until he finally returns home.
  • In Oz (Caliber), Peter, Kevin and Mary (and their dog Max) are sucked into the Land of Oz by a tornado that emerges from a strange book they find in an old trunk Kevin bought for $50.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017) has a variation that ties into its Adaptation Expansion: The Enchantress left one of these behind for the Beast on top of his magic mirror and enchanted rose. What does it do? It allows the user to travel anywhere they wish in the world. Belle and the Beast use it to visit her childhood home in Paris, and the sad backstory of her Missing Mom is revealed in the process. See also Literature below.
  • The pirate movie Magic Island has a boy named Jack get sucked into his book. He ends up saving a mermaid and some treasure from Blackbeard the pirate.

  • There's a kids' series called Alice in Bibleland that centers on this premise.
  • The Angel novel Book of the Dead had a variant of type two, where Wesley was sucked into a book and trapped in its pages-he to help the other trapped people and defeat the people-eating worm demon hunting everyone before he could escape.
  • The Beauty and the Beast (2017) Expanded Universe novel Lost in a Book has Bookworm Belle, during her stay in the Beast's castle, discover a magical book (Nevermore) in the vast library. And she can enter and leave its Magical Land first. An unusual example in that Belle's "real world" is already quite magical.
  • The Inkworld Trilogy centers around people with the power to bring objects and people in and out of books by reading them aloud. Originally, Mo thought it was just bringing things out....and realized far too late that it was a case of Equivalent Exchange when he accidentally read his wife into a book and was unable to get her out.
  • The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell (and presumably the other books in the LOS series) by Chris Colfer focus on two kids who enter a magical land through a book.
  • The various books in Magic Tree House seem to work this way. It's unclear whether they actually send the protagonists inside the book's setting or transport them directly to the historical era depicted in the book. The former seems more likely, however, since Jack and Annie also use the books (especially later on in the series) to travel to fantasy worlds.
  • The Neverending Story: Halfway through, Bastian uses AURYN to travel to Fantastica himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done twice on Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
    • A microwave oven turns a comic book into a Portal Book in "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner." It ends with the hero going inside said comic book to stop the Emotion Eater villain that had escaped earlier in the episode.
    • A video game junkie learns how (dangerously) exciting reading can be in "The Tale of the Bookish Baby-sitter."
  • Done in the Charmed episode "Charmed Noir," where Paige and Kyle get trapped in a book written by two of the Magic School's students. Important to the drama of the plot, because the world of the book technically isn't inside the school, it bypasses the enchantment on school grounds that prevents anyone from dying. This makes a mystery when bodies start showing up.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Rita and Zed trap three of the Rangers in Kimberly's favorite childhood book. When that plan backfires, they turn the book's villain into the Monster of the Week.
  • El Exprimidor de Libros (The Book Squeezer) in Odisea Burbujas, a device that allows the main characters to travel inside books, often use to teach kids about literature, as the show is educational.
  • Done with Alex's diary in an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place.

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video for A Ha's "Take on Me", the (handsome) lead singer who is in a comic book, invites a (very cute) woman who is reading it to join him. She does, and becomes a black-and-white drawn character. When he stands behind a mirror, on one side he (and her) are three dimensional, in color, but on the other side, they're line-drawn black and white. When some mooks start chasing them, he runs and pulls her along, then pushes her back out to the real world. Then later, she returns the favor and invites him out of the comic and into her world. The official video is here.

  • In Tales of the Arabian Nights, the Arabian Nights serves as one of these; the player must enter seven of the Tales and retrieve a magic jewel from each one in order to confront the evil genie of the game.

    Tabletop Games 
  • An old Dungeons & Dragons monster is the Palimpsest, a sheet of rune-inscribed parchment that has become a carnivorous predator. If it senses prey that has mistaken it for something benign, the Palimpsest absorbs the reader into its page, after which an illumination of the frantic victim appears alongside the normal text or sigils on the parchment. After a few days the unlucky victim will be "digested" completely and vanish from the paper, at which point only a wish spell can revive them, though before that point a specific sequence of spells - remove curse, abjure, and resurrection - will animate the illustrated victim, remove them from the Palimpsest as a colorless, lifeless paper doll, and then restore them to normal. Alternatively, lightning magic like shocking grasp has a chance of making a Palimpsest regurgitate someone from its page, at the risk of also zapping the victim.

  • The Z book in the Cirque du Soleil show ZED initially drew its two clowns into another world when they jumped into the book. They come back out at the end, but the denizens of the other world seemed to have followed them and have no desire to go back, despite needful protests from the clowns.

    Video Games 
  • Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils has the Cursed Book, a series of not 5 but 10 particularly difficult levels that Belle has to go through after getting trapped inside a book, without Chime to help her. There doesn't seem to be a story going on, though; instead the book seems to function as an alternate dimension.
  • The plot of Disney's Magical Quest 3, as well as Mickey's Ultimate Challenge. In the former, Huey, Dewey and Louie are sucked into Storybook World by the evil "King Pete" after they open an old book in the attic and Donald (or Mickey) has to enter the book in order to get them out. In the latter, Mickey (or Minnie) falls asleep while reading a book of fairytales and ends up within the book's world, and must find the source of the kingdom's problems while finding a way home.
  • This is the plot of Doki Doki Panic, the game of which Super Mario Bros. 2 is a Dolled-Up Installment.
  • Dress Up! Time Princess transports the player character into a role within the storybook she reads, obliging her to live through the story and try to reach a happy ending through her choices. The "Queen Marie" book, which is the first story available, dips into Type 3 since it's the story of Marie Antoinette, whose historical fate is something the player character would very much like to avoid.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: This is literally the plotline of the game.
  • The plot of the edutainment game I. M. Meen involves an evil wizard sucking "bookworm" kids into his magic labyrinth with a magic book.
    This book is made to order, but it isn't to be read
    When they open up this book, they're sucked inside instead
  • In Final Fantasy Fables Chocobo Tales the demon book Bebuzzu transforms a storybook into one of these.
  • The main plot of Puyo Puyo Chronicle consists of Arle and Carbuncle (as well as several other characters) getting sucked into a book leading into another world where they're the prophesied "Great Hero" who will bring love to everyone. Then it's revealed that Satan arranged for the whole thing so that he could live out his fantasy of Arle rescuing him as well as being the Final Boss of her journey. Suffice to say, Arle was not impressed to say the least. Then the whole story gets thrown Off the Rails, first when Satan leaves the Colour Tower early to face Arle and Co., and second when Ally's pendant (that she got from Ecolo) ends up creating an Evil Twin bent on destroying everything...
  • The titular book of Rakenzarn Tales, which is used to transport Kyros and Kyuu into the world of Rakenzarn to start the game proper.
  • Super Lucky's Tale: The book of Ages which Lucky is trapped and also springs the plot of the game. And managed to connect the worlds and reuniting with fellow Guardians.
  • In World Mosaics 3: Fairy Tales the player has to find their way out of a book of fairy tales from various countries.


    Web Original 
  • According to the Elias Material New Age website, both historical time periods and fictional settings are arranged into books that one can experience as a point of view, or focus. The reader is presently focused in the Shift Book.
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-826 ("Draws You into the Book"). SCP-826 is two bookends. When a book is placed between them, the room it's in will change into the setting of the book. Anyone who enters the room will enter a random location in the book's setting. Any actions the explorer takes will be reflected in the book after they leave it.

    Western Animation 
  • The Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon in 1978 had episode 13, "Fairy Tale Of Doom", where the Toyman develops a device that can project anyone into the pages of a storybook. He forces Hawkman to chase him into Jack and the Beanstalk, Cheetah forces Wonder Woman to chase her into Alice in Wonderland and Brainiac forces Superman to chase him into Gulliver's Travels and the three villains trap the three Super Friends in the three treacherous fairy tales. The other Super Friends must rescue the trapped heroes before the clock runs out and the books vanish forever.
  • Certain episodes of Dora the Explorer where Dora and Boots are shown reading a story at the beginning has them jump into the book to start the adventure. One episode does a variation where they jump into a video game, and "Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom" combines this with Type 1 when Dora, Boots, and Allie have to travel from story to story to find the missing crystals.
  • The Garbage Pail Kids Cartoon episode "A Rhyme in Time" had the Garbage Pail Kids enter a world of nursery rhymes through a book after noticing that Jack and Jill are missing from the illustration of their nursery rhyme and decide to enter the book to investigate.
  • Most episodes of Gumby involve this.
  • Adventures of the Week on Muppet Babies frequently took the kids into books, including Around the World in Eighty Days, Peter Pan, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", and numerous Fairy Tales. Interestingly, the episode specifically about books and libraries didn't use this but rather put the kids in the setting of Labyrinth searching for Piggy's lost Alice in Wonderland book.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Power Ponies" has Spike and the Mane Six learn the hard way that this kind of book is apparently a freely available specialized comic book retail item when they are sucked into it and have to play out its roleplaying game scenario in order to leave.
  • One episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates thanks to fairy magic the cast travel inside the book Alice in Wonderland with the characters taking the roles of the book's characters.
  • The trope-naming Great Big Book of Everything on Stanley.
  • Super Why! revolves around this trope Once per Episode.

Type 3:

    Anime & Manga 

  • The Incredible Umbrella and its sequel The Amorous Umbrella by Marvin Kaye.
  • In Woody Allen's "The Kugelmass Episode" Persky the Great invented a cabinet that can transport the occupant into whatever book is placed inside when he taps on the door three times. The titular character uses it to cheat on his wife with Madame Bovary. It eventually breaks when he tries to get sent into Portnoy's Complaint and he ends up in an old Spanish textbook being chased by an irregular verb.
  • Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next is all about this. For example, Thursday traps Jack Schitt in a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" in the first book.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Fiction Fixers: Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Fiction Fixers: The Curse of Oz are about reversing changes in the books caused by an agent of the Illiterati.
  • To link books together in Myst, the world has to be described in its pages (in an archaic, chinese-like form of D'ni), but once completed, the books on the shelf act similar to a Portal Network.
    • The whole premise of the Myst game is this trope. Initially type 2 but with the return averted. The main story/adventure is slowly revealed by the puzzles you solve and this part is more like a type 1.
  • In the Nevertales series Travelers can use any book as a portal into another world.
  • Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey: When Wishbone inserts his copy of The Odyssey into the Epigraphic Interactive Pictographic Combobulator, it ends up shaping the virtual world he gets sucked into.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the '80s, the German RPG Das schwarze Auge (Realms of Arkania) had a franchise for kids, called Der Geheimbund des Schwarzen Auges. In this game, you were a Guardian at "The Library", and whenever there is something in a book that went wrong — e.g. Huckleberry Finn got lost in the cave, Long John Silver has staged another coup on Treasure island or whatever — the Guardians enter the book and its story to set it back on track.


Video Example(s):


Reader Rabbit Toddler

In the intro scene, Mat jumps into Reader's favorite book and ends up in a magical world where the game is set.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / PortalBook

Media sources: