Starting this week, I’ll begin posting some of the research I did for my retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, starting with the setting.
I decided to stick with the original and use medieval Europe as a template for my fictional world. I guess I could have been different and used an eastern setting instead considering where I’m from. To be honest, that didn’t even occur to me when I decided to write the story. I was bought up on the fairy tales of Grimm, Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen, so it only felt natural to stick with those settings. Anyway, it was an excuse to indulge my love of history and castles as I lost myself in, possibly, more research than was needed.
In my original version, I envisioned the castle that had been used in the Disney version. Focussing more on the characters, I barely touched on any details of living in a castle. But, as my editor pointed out, the story needed more description. So, when I rewrote it, I not only added more castle descriptions, I also made sure to highlight the differences between the castles of Lionel, Lilyrose’s father, and Edmund, Arthur’s father.
I started looking at different castles then realised, because both castles were in different areas, it might add some authenticity if I worked out the geography and the weather first; else the castles picked may end up looking out-of-place when I describe the surrounding area.
Using Europe as my model, I chose the geography and climate of the Loire Valley in central France and Cháteau de Saumur for Lionel’s castle. With pepper-pot roofs capping the towers, I’m sure many see this as a pretty good example of a fairy tale castle. More than just a pretty palace, it also served as a fortress.
My research included the types of crop that might be grown in the region. As Lionel is a wealthy king, I needed a plausible way to substantiate this, so I have him owning vineyards.
Edmund’s castle is based on the New Castle of Manzanares el Real, at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range near Madrid. This quadrangular palace-fortress was erected in the 15th century. I wanted a castle that looked very different to Lionel’s, more functional than pretty.
The only towers it has are the four circular ones at each corner. Surrounded by a barbican, the castle looks like it’s ready to defend itself. Its defensive features include machicolations. That mouthful of a word refers to the floor opening between the supporting corbels (a type of bracket) of a battlement, through which things like stones, boiling water or boiling oil were dropped/poured onto attackers on the ground.
But what I particularly like about this castle is its inner courtyard, which is supported by columns, and I made sure Edmund’s castle had the same feature.
This was the first time my research delved more into things like weather, agriculture, medieval foods, castle staff, and medieval clothing. And the first time I made a real effort to compile the information I’d gathered into separate, easily accessible files. Though I will admit, there was a moment when I was enjoying the research more than writing the story. I wonder if it was because I was being pulled down the historical rabbit-hole…