Is Carnival Row’s The Burgue Based on an Actual City or a Country?

Image Credit: Julie Vrabelová/Amazon Prime Video

Series creators René Echevarria and Travis Beacham developed Amazon Prime’s fantasy action drama series ‘Carnival Row’ from a spec script Beacham wrote for an unproduced film set in a world where humanity exists alongside mythical creatures. Humans and mythical creatures lived in different hemispheres for thousands of years. But as the human empires grew, they inevitably turned the lands of faes, fauns, elves, and kobolds into a warzone. The narrative of ‘Carnival Row’ is predominantly set in The Burgue, the capital of the Republic of The Burgue. If you are wondering whether the aforementioned places are inspired by an actual city or country, we got you covered.

The Burgue: Fictional Melting Pot with Real Inspirations

In the internal lore of the steampunk series ‘Carnivale Row,’ the Republic of The Burgue is located on the northern shores of the continent of Mesogea. Long regarded as an important center of human civilization, The Burgue is the melting pot of various cultures. The country saw discrimination based on the color of their skin among humans in the past. But when the story begins, the people of The Burgue have left those days behind. However, the same thing can’t be said about their views on the fae kind (derogative term: Critch) in general. The mythical creatures live on two continents: Tirnanoc and Ignota. The latter remains primarily unexplored and is the home of species such as faun, trow, naga, raksha, and mouros, while Tirnanoc, located on the other side of the Great Main ocean from The Burger, is the home of the faes and fae-like creatures.

Image Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Prime Video

The wars between human empires forced many faes and other mythical creatures to leave their homeland and arrive in Mesogea as refugees. A significant portion of them came to the city of The Burgue. and now live in the eponymous neighborhood of Carnival Row, situated on the south bank of the Beorn River. At the start of the second season, the fae kind has been restricted to Carnival Row following the murders of former Chancellor Absalom Breakspear and his wife, Piety.

At first glance, the city of Burgue seems to be based on late-Victorian London, an industrializing city located on the side of a river, where the upper class of society finds their hold on power challenged by a disillusioned working class. On closer inspection, things turn out to be a bit more complex. The filming for the show was mostly done in Prague, Czech Republic, where the presence of Victorian architecture is minimal. So, Production Designer François Séguin wanted to give The Burgue a look of its own. “I decided to go a little bit in between. A kind of Roman London, if you can imagine that. The Roman buildings are falling apart.” he told Architectural Digest in an interview. “At the beginning it was a little fight for everyone to forget that we’re not in London, we’re not doing ‘Frankenstein’ — that’s something different.”

The physical set is half of what we see on screen; the rest was created through VFX. In an interview with Buzzy Mag, Beacham explained how much the works of Charles Dickens influenced his world-building. “When I was first writing ‘Carnival Row,’ It was a little more about race than immigration when I first wrote it,” he said.  “In developing it, it has become more explicitly about, ‘They’re from over there, and they’re coming over here.’ It’s still very racial. In looking at it, it’s like part of that was growing up in the South and how that’s always sort of an issue there.”

Beacham continued, “But also, I think I was thinking about the world of Charles Dickens, in the soup of influences. I really liked how he put a lens on a whole society, and dealing with issues, he never dealt with it as a polemic. He always dealt with it as a character study. It’s like, in looking at this character from here, and this character from here, and all these worlds, and how they interconnect. I thought that was such an interesting structure, and really wanted to explore it in a fantasy context. But as far as class divisions and racial divisions and all that, it’s really always been a part of it, and I wish I could be more pointed about where it came from, but I can’t remember.”

Image Credit: Julie Vrabelová/Amazon Prime Video

Established by a nomadic tribe called the Beorn about 1,200 years before the current events, the nation of the Burgue used to be a kingdom in the past before becoming a sprawling empire. About 150 years ago, the Imperial family was overthrown, and The Burgue became the parliamentary republic it is now. So, it even has certain historical similarities with England, though the real-world country continues to be a constitutional monarchy. Costume designer Joanna Eatwell ensured that the dresses people wore in The Burgue would reflect the country’s imperial past.

Read More: Shows Like Carnival Row