The title story 'The Bloody Chamber' begins and ends in Paris at the turn of the 20th Century, a period known as the 'Fin de Siècle'. It was a time of great artistic flourishing and decadence, with an undercurrent of chaos and uncertainty for the future.
The 19th Century had seen a huge amount of cultural change, both socially and politically, the Industrial Revolution altering forever the feudal system that had lingered from times before, and a succession of governments had done little to foster any notion of stability. The French Revolution, with its considerable bloodshed, was still very much in the national memory, and the Imperial coup by Napoléon III in 1851 had restored a sense of opulence and covetousness. His renovations and rebuilding of the city gave her the wide boulevards and pavement cafés that we recognise so distinctly today.
'The Bloody Chamber' is also set during the time of the Third Republic, which had commenced in 1870 when Napoleon III was overthrown, and was to last until 1940. Retrospectively, this time was also known as 'La Belle Époque', a period which is considered to have lasted from the late 19th Century until the beginning of World War One.
This was indeed a time when the first blooms of Modernism were visible, with all the attendant hopes and fears of what the coming century would bring. This makes it a powerful and significant setting for this tale, given that it is concerned with a young bride's anxiety and desire of the unknown. The old tale of Bluebeard has its roots in France, and the setting of Paris also lends a heady sense of romance and luxury which is key to the narrator's initial attraction to the Marquis.
When the narrator of 'The Bloody Chamber' marries the Marquis, she moves to his castle on the coast of Brittany. This is a region in northwestern France, with its own unique identity. It has its own language, Breton, and is one of the six Celtic nations. Consequently, the area is steeped in mythology and custom, which lends itself well to the tone of this story. The climate can be fine, but it does receive quite a high level of rainfall; this can at times create a melancholy atmosphere.
'The Courtship of Mr. Lyon' is set in England, during the Interbellum period between the First and Second World Wars. This was a time of swift social change, the emancipation of women being a key factor in this Modern era. Economic prosperity was celebrated during the 'Roaring Twenties', but this gave way to anxiety (even disaster) following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression.
'Puss in Boots' and 'The Tiger's Bride' are both set in Italy, a country perhaps not so obviously associated with the fairy tale 'tradition' as those of northern Europe, despite the fact that an Italian produced one of the first recognisable collections of 'fairy tales' (see below).
The parallels between 'Puss in Boots' and the Commedia dell'Arte are clear, and used to great comic effect; they also suggest that the tale could take place during the 16th Century (in Bergamo). There are certainly Renaissance influences in the story; this period involved a great deal of 'looking back' to the Classical Age, and the references to Roman Gods echo this.
'The Tiger's Bride' is probably set in 19th Century Tuscany, within fairly easy reach of Milan. The girl and her father are Russian; in the 19th Century it became fashionable amongst the Russian nobility to spend the winter in the Italian Riviera.
The unified country that we know as 'Italy' did not come into existence until 1871. In the preceding centuries, the peninsula consisted of a number of separate states with differing and mutable foreign alliances, wars and royal families. Some of these states were Florence, Naples, Milan and Venice, along with the Papal States.
'The Pentamerone' (two volumes: 1634 & 1636) is a collection of fairy tales written by Giambattista Basile. They were old stories which had been carried down in the oral tradition; Basile wrote them in the local Neapolitan dialect, perhaps in order to emphasise and preserve this. Both the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault later used this collection as a basis for such stories as Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
'The Erl-King' is set in Germany, and conceivably so are 'The Werewolf' and 'The Company of Wolves'.
It is thanks to the Brothers Grimm that Germany is so closely identified with fairy tales. They first published 'Children's and Household Tales' in 1812, and went on to revise and reprint the book a further six times over the next 45 years, which ultimately resulted in a collection of 211 stories. The brothers toned down some of the violence and sexuality after complaints that the tales were, in fact, not suitable for children.
The Brothers Grimm considered themselves to be collectors of stories, and the fairy tales they wrote down often had their roots in other European countries. The landscape of Germany, however - its forests, mountains, and castles - seemed to marry itself so well to the subject matter that the country became directly associated with the tales. Germany also shared the same roots in folklore and superstition, in terms of the witch-hunts, belief in werewolves and vampire hysteria, which had swept through the whole of Europe over the course of several centuries.
'The Lady of the House of Love' is set in Transylvania, Romania, in 1914, just before the outbreak of World War One. A place synonymous with one thing - vampires - it is a landscape which lends itself well to such a dark tale. There is also the abiding shadow of the terrifying Vlad the Impaler, a person who would inspire a shudder even if the character of Dracula had never been created. The region is surrounded on the east and west by the Carpathian mountains.