by Sir Walter Scott
Where It All Goes Down
England in the 1190s
Yorkshire, Rotherwood Hall, Ashby-de-la-Zouche Castle, Torquilstone, Templestowe
Scott uses both real and made-up places to create the world of Ivanhoe. The general setting of South Yorkshire is real, and the cities of Sheffield, Doncaster, and York are still in England today. You can even still visit the ruins of Ashby-de-la-Zouch (the "e" at the end has been dropped), a Norman castle dating back to the 12th century. By tying the adventures of Ivanhoe to real places, Scott makes them more believable.
Torquilstone (Front-de-Boeuf's castle), Rotherwood (Cedric's hall), and Templestowe (the Knight Templar community) are all Scott's inventions. Ivanhoe is obviously not supposed to be a documentary or a strictly realistic portrayal of the English Middle Ages. There is a lot of fantasy mixed in, what with all the jousts, tournaments, and heroic outlaws. Scott is trying to tell an exciting story, and he makes up imposing Norman castles and Saxon halls to provide good backdrops to these adventures.
By mixing fact and fiction, Scott keeps Ivanhoe suspenseful. The real-life people and places in the novel anchor these events in English history, while the invented settings and characters let the readers know that Scott is departing from the historical record. As far as Ivanhoe's tale goes, all bets are off – anything could happen to him, because he is a purely fictional character. Although Ivanhoe's setting is loosely based on historical reality, the made-up elements keep it unpredictable.