|Photo from Pinterest.|
Scandinavia, share the deep rooted psychological fact of Winter as a major player in life.
Although those countries have a great deal of differences in real life, they are much the same backdrop in their fairytales, and so they were easy to combine since their settings could be superimposed on top of each other without even a hitch.
As a kid I loved those stories of the Swiss Alps, the Sammi herders, about Norwegian children skiing to school through snowy pine covered mountain slopes. (Did you read the article on the Sammi in Nat'l Geographic? I devoured that article very slowly, already picturing what the sentences described. It was sort of a "deliciously scary" type of thing because I really hate being cold, and yet the entire article was basically about people who are totally fine with the cold and do all sorts of stuff in it. Still, it's always fun to add to one's research, and I definitely pulled the colorful knitwear from the Sammi photos. All of them seemed to be a combination of blue, white and red in zig-zag or star patterns.)
Not only have I had access to a rather large body of true tales and books set in Scandinavian countries, but I've spent several childhood winters in the high Northern Rockies, as well as one in northern Minnesota. Although I'm not a fan of winter, (and so I didn't use the cold so sharp it hurts the inside of your nose, 'cause that's just painful to even remember) I did use the squeak of snow underfoot and other small things that I've experienced.
The mountainous aspect was fairly normal for me, since I lived in a mountain environment for several of my formative years, (complete with a ranging herd of dairy goats that had to be escorted by my older siblings due to predators: yes, it was straight out of Heidi!) Transporting the assortment of facts and impressions from books into my own experience, the whole of Noran, Svesser and the Reindeer Lands to the north of them were almost "native heath" to me. I really didn't have to go far.
One of the tidbits I picked up in a book about sailing was that during the "age of sail" when tall masted ships ruled the seas of the world, those masts almost invariably came from Norway. The pines there grew tall and straight, important for masts, and were tough and springy in their fibers, which was also pretty important. In fact, it was said that much of the exploration of the islands around Australia was in pursuit of a new land that might be rugged enough and north enough to grow that kind of pine, either native or introduced. But that never really panned out, and the gold standard in ship's masts remained pines from the mountain slopes of Norway.
As a way of slipping that air of history in, I have made the timber industry and shipbuilding major aspects of Noran economy and trade. (Though this is not a story about trade, so I didn't get to use it much.)
Since this a fairytale and no fairytale is complete without a castle, and it's mimicking Europe, and they have lovely castles there, I got to play with the fun part of that. I try to leave the names and important histories of side players out of the narrative, because it just tends to clunk up the flow. But I do like to know about them, and when appropriate drop it into the conversation, since the people who live there would be far more likely to say "Rasnaburg" then "the town near Rose House."
So Noran's capitol city is Loslow... (since I adore the way Oslow sounds, but of course can't use real names here. So I indulged in the guilty pleasure of tweaking it just a smidgen, and "Loslow" sounds pretty neat to me, too.)
Up the coast and inland some ways is the town of Rasnaburg, with the Rose House not too far away. It is owned by a matronly lady who has at least one son and who owns the only inn in Rasnaburg, and possibly much of the rest of the town as well. It is at this inn, "the Rooster and the Rose" that the search party stops to rest after a "just missed it" episode with the Princess Girta.
The lady who lives at Rose House has a fascination with roses, for her rose gardens surrouding her house are her pride and joy, and she is not at all pleased when the serving girl says Tompte is chewing on the rose bushes.
Her fondness for the flower shows in the title of the inn... and possibly it is a family trait, for we can assume that the inn has worn that title for several generations.
This is exactly the sort of place where a small important person gets to thinking they have a greater scope than they do, and in Winter Queen we find the lady of Rose House playing a role as contagonist to Girta, and hoping for some slight reward for her troubles.
As it is, she is harshly disappointed, but then you'd have to read the book to get the full story on all of that.
(Scroll through the Pinterest boards for more inspiration for Noran, and the Thaw books!
Winter's Child board.
Winter Queen board.
Prince of Demargen board.)
What do you think of when you think of a Northern country?