China, France, Northern Africa: Choosing the Lunar Chronicles Settings

Posted on: 10th Dec 2012  /   Categorized: Cinder

During the Scarlet Friday chat a couple weeks ago, the following question was asked:

@EileenLi8: What made you choose the different settings that Cinder and Scarlet took place in?

As this question requires an answer beyond 140 characters, I decided to save it for a complete blog post.

The Eastern Commonwealth / China

Some scholars believe that a story called “Ye Xian,” which was first recorded in 9th-century China, is the original Cinderella tale and the direct ancestor to the stories we know from Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Additionally, some believe that the iconic lost slipper used to find the runaway girl came to us from China’s tradition of foot-binding and a culture in which women were praised for tiny feet.

So my decision to set Cinder in China seemed to have a great cyclical quality to it and also paid homage to the tale’s history.

You can read the story of Ye Xian here. This site claims that even this story was the descendent of a Greco-Egyptian tale written in the 1st century, which I wasn’t aware of until recently. So who knows?


The European Federation / France

Although I don’t know where the earliest Little Red Riding Hood tale originated from, werewolf stories and superstitions have been told… well, pretty much anywhere there were wolves. One of the most famous “true” stories took place in France, and surrounded a series of killings that happened in the 18th century. An estimated 210 people were killed and the local village people believed it was a series of wolf-like creatures doing the killings, and possibly even real werewolves.

You can read more about the “Beast of Gévaudan” here.

I saw a documentary on TV about this around the time that I was planning the Lunar Chronicles. I liked how France already had this history of werewolf superstition, which is why I chose to set my futuristic werewolves there.


The African Union / Sahara Desert

This could be a question of translation, but when I was researching the story of Rapunzel, there were some versions in which Rapunzel was cast out into a forest, some in which she was cast out into a desert, and others in which she was simply cast out into “a great wilderness.” So I figured that if my characters were going to end up in either a forest or a desert, a desert was going to be way more horrible. So naturally I went with that option.

And when I think desert, I think the Sahara. Hence how part of Book Three ended up in Northern Africa.



A large part of Book Four: Winter will take place in space and on Luna. This has no real connection to the story of Snow White, it just had to happen there for the plot.

Because I have the luxury of creating this world and culture from scratch and not having to worry about getting stuff wrong, it’s without doubt been the most fun setting for me to write. I can’t wait to take you guys there.

Any questions? ^_^


  1. Briana B. commented on:

    I must say, I was wondering how on earth (no pun intended) Cinder & co. were going to cross paths with Cress (who I’m assuming is the blonde Lunar seen at the end of Book 1). This post makes things a bit more clear, and intriguing!

  2. Johnny commented on:

    “So naturally I went with that option.”

    Oh, Cress! Poor baby….

  3. Eileen commented on:

    Thank you for answering my question! 😀 That definitely made things more clear! I’m Chinese, so I was wondering why you decided to set it in China, since that’s usually an abnormal setting but I totally loved it in Cinder! 😀 Can’t wait for Scarlet! I’m feeling the excited bubbles right now 😀

  4. JessDay commented on:

    I was Little Red Riding Hood in a production of Into the Woods last year and I loved researching the backgrounds of all the famous fairy tale characters! I like how Cinder pays homage to China. I always thought it was cool.

  5. Your Name commented on:

    I really loved the settings in your book. It was so interesting and different from anything else out there! I lived in China just last year and it was fun to compare your story with Beijing and imagine it in the future! 🙂

  6. Kathryn commented on:

    How long does it take you to research the places you write about?
    Do you enjoy doing it?
    I really loved the setting in Cinder. It was very interesting and different from everything else out there. I just came from living in China too, and it was very cool to imagine Beijing in the future, and I could definitely see it turning out like in your book. 🙂

  7. Mime commented on:

    I knew about Cinderella first being recorded in China, so I thought that was pretty neat. I also thought it made huge sense that the focus of a dystopian world should be in China… they only have one of the hugest populations… 🙂 So clever!

  8. Marissa commented on:

    Thanks everyone, I’m glad you’re enjoying the settings so far!

    In answer to Kathryn’s questions –

    I really enjoy researching. I’m fascinated by other countries and cultures and the richness of their traditions, so I always find the research part a lot of fun.

    How long it takes is impossible to say though. For Cress, I spent about two days reading about the Sahara Desert, North African countries and cultures, and desert survival stories, but as I write I’m constantly looking up new things. I’m still having to research things about Chinese and other Asian cultures for things involving the Commonwealth, too. So it’s ongoing.

  9. David commented on:

    Ever thought of a “mechanical” moving tower to prevent it ever being found in the same spot should someone come to find it?

    But in any case. I am very very excited for Winter. Snow White was one of the brother’s grimms most darkest tale. But, I wonder how Snow White will fair on the moon…and most of all…WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HAVE QUEEN LEVANA AS MOTHER!? Also, what do mirrors do to certain Lunars (Cinder had no problems looking in them…so why should Levana)? AND THE POISONED APPLE? I hope it remains an apple…But all will be revealed in all good time.

    Truly truly. Excited for Cress as well. Sahara Desert, big towers, big hair, tons of heat….

    Maybe one day we could see a prequel of sorts. Like…Lunar: WONDERLAND. (the beginning of the future…in Futuristic London).

    Off. With. Your. Head:

  10. Sydney Nguyen commented on:

    That explains so much! I was a bit confused since how in the world does Rapunzel end up in North Africa. The interesting settings keep me hooked in the stories of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. I also get hooked into looking up the past fairy tales from their original settings and see how much has changed. Your books are my favorite series of all time. I hope to read your latest books soon. 😀

  11. Grace Diseker commented on:

    Let me guess in Cress Thorne and the queen’s programmer get together! Cute ! All the couplings are adorable and make perfect sense!!

  12. Susanna commented on:

    What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
    valuable knowledge regarding unexpected feelings.

  13. hjkhk commented on:

    read scarlet winter and the fairest soo good

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