Setting is obviously an important part of any story. After all, it is the place in where your story is taking place. Of course, fantasy has an interesting advantage when it comes to setting. After all, many fantasy settings are the made up creations of the author. They are complete fabrications. That offers a certain level of freedom. You get the chance to borrow from multiple cultures and geographies, then mix and max them as needed to create something new.
Unfortunately, I had a slight restriction. I am retelling a fairy tale. That requires an actual environment. A real place. So how does one choose a real, earthly place?
I decided to go with the origins. Sleeping Beauty is a German fairy tale…well it might be French. There is no real clear answer, so I went with the Germans. Awesome! I’ve narrowed myself down to a single country. Germany is still pretty large though, so where to go from here? Well by choosing a single territory. Ok, technically two. Thuringia and East Thuringia. The Thuringian region has everything that I need. It has a couple cities, a few mountains, and, most importantly, the Thuringian Forest.
But physical location is not the only thing needed for a setting. After all, all stories take place in both a location and a time. Great. Now I need a time. When to set my story?
Luckily for me, some of the requirements of the tale easily eliminate many time periods. Prince Phillip is a fairy tale. That means Middle Ages. But like German is a large country, the Middle Ages is a long time period. What I needed was a time where relatively small regions could have their rulers claim to be king. That meant centralized national power was out, so we are looking early Holy Roman Empire. I also needed a time period where the fantasy elements would still be somewhat known, but not common.
Pre-empire felt too early, but I also couldn’t go too late. Charlemagne brought Christianity to a large portion of Germany by the sword in the 800s, but that is too early. I do want some classic feeling fantasy battles. I couldn’t go that early and have a realistic army fight. I also couldn’t wait too long because once Christianity was firmly established, it went hard with ridding the world of its pagan beliefs, so post-Crusades was also out. That pretty much left me with the early 11th century.
So there you have it. Prince Phillip takes place in the early 11th century in the Thuringian region. Does that mean I’m going to be draconian in my application of the time frame? Nah, it is a fantasy after all and there are some genre conventions and personal preferences I will probably use. But it is important to have a level of authenticity there. With a time and place for the setting, I can provide that authenticity.
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