My Battling Bronte Sisters (and Branwell!) are almost done, painted and based. Photographing them close up always throws up a few area to finish.
When they are not role playing their heroic parts in their juvenilia ImagiNations of Glass Town, Angria, Gaaldine and Gondal, they are all of course battling with the Dark Forces of Yarkshire folklore.
Such tales were told to them at an impressionable young age by their Haworth born servant Tabby Ackroyd.
This is part of my ongoing Bronte ImagiNations gaming project
These green skinned creatures are boggarts, wild creatures of the Dark Moors and marshes …
… boggarts who might have started life as Prince August 25mm homecast Cavemen.
How I converted these figures
What started out as two packs of Bad Squiddo ‘Little Wolves’ (youngsters or child sized figures in Annie Norman’s 28mm Amazon Range) have been subtly converted to capture some of the make-believe of children at play.
I thought that they could be painted both as dressed as children role playing games and as heroic figures tackling Dark folkloric forces of Yarkshire.
Distinguishing the sisters is usually done by hair colour, especially in films.
I referred to the famous Bronte portrait by Branwell (centre, who later painted himself out) as well as the recent BBC drama To Walk Invisible for my colour palette.
Reddish hair – Anne – painted in grey with red sash
Brown hair – Emily – painted with longer skirt and green tunic, red belt
Black hair – Charlotte – painted with blue dress and red sash
Clothes – I kept the colour scheme quite dark coloured, sober and practical for parsons’ daughters in wet damp Tropical Yorkshire, even through early Victorians were often more colourful than our image of sober Late Victorians.
The BBC TV drama To Walk Invisible opens with a section of the Bronte children adventuring inside their minds or in their play world, discovering the wooden box of soldiers coming to life, the wooden soldiers that first inspired their play: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/brontes-waterloo-soldiers/
Swords were filed down to look more wooden and childlike.
Home made sashes from the dressing up box were attached by PVA glue and tissue paper, to give that dashing military air.
Charlotte (left) and Ann (right) with their PVA and tissue paper sashes. Only late in painting these two figures did I notice that they have a subtle belt section hanging down.
The added sashes or in Branwell and Emily’s case an existing belt sash were painted carmine red to add a dash of martial colour.
This was inspired by the red military sashes and uniform designs in Isabel Greenberg’s Bronte ImagiNations graphic novel Glass Town.
Image: Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town. She uses the same hair colour system.
All paints were Matt Revell Aquacolor Acrylics, starting with a Matt black undercoat.
Faces – in keeping with the overall drab Matt colours of their clothes, boots or clogs etc, I avoided my usual bright gloss colours and toy soldier faces with pink cheek dots etc. Instead I chose a subtle mouth or lip colour ( a trace of carmine red) and a darker flesh using Revell Afrikabraun (or desert brown) instead of flesh.
To add that grungy, muddy feel of children out on the moors or getting mucky playing around the Parsonage, I used a brown shade or wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade on flesh, faces and folds.
The Branwell ‘problem’
The two packs I bought from Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo were all female.
As I failed to find any suitable 28mm boy figures, I set about converting one of the girl figures into a red haired brother Branwell boy figure.
Filing down an excess of plaited hair, I covered the rest of the luscious plaited locks with an old hooded travelling cape (it were wet, dark and cold up on those moors) made of tissue paper and PVA.
I considered adding breeches or trousers with tissue paper and PVA but thought that Branwell as a boy was the only one in Victorian times who could get away with bare legs and ankles. The parson’s three surviving daughters probably could not.
Branwell’s poems show a familiarity with the classical and heroic epic, so I painted him bare legged, just wearing his ankle boots. His trouser legs are probably rolled up and he is wearing an old smock to look like a classical hero with tunic and cape. All make-believe or possibly real, playing around with that dual use notion.
Branwell (left) and Charlotte (right). Branwell’s cloak hood needs defining by shadow.
Basing is onto 1 penny MDF bases from Warbases, with PVA used to fix a rough mix of grassy flock and fine Cornish beach sand to suggest the moors. Appropriate enough as the Bronte children’s mother was born and grew up in Penzance, not far from the source beach in Cornwall.
Hopefully gritty and northern enough? Until I can go up on the moor and gather some proper Yarkshire grit and dirt.
Battling the Bronte Sisters
These figures are great for duelling games using simple ‘parry and lunge’ (Gerard de Gre) dice or card rules from Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming.
Allocate as many life, health or wound points as you wish to each character – Bronte sister, Boggart, Gytrash or Shuck the Black Dog etc. – and play.
Winner gets health points back or victory life points awarded, you decide.
Kaptain Kobold simplified these Gerard de Gre rules for me into dice throws, speedy enough to resolve melee.
Such games proved short and brutal, mostly involving fast melee, using the Kaptain Kobold modification or d6 dice version of Gerard De Gre’s Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust rules for melee or duelling.
1&2 Hit on Attacker (attacker loses one point)
3 – Both Hit (lose one point each)
4 – Both Miss
5&6 Hit on Defender (defender loses one point)
Some of Tabby’s Gritty Northern Yarkshire folklore to be going in with
Boggarts, boggles and others
Lots more to be discovered …
How they arrived in the quirky packaging of Bad Squiddo
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 21 November 2021
Interesting History Extra article from a few years back by Emma Butcher https://www.historyextra.com/period/victorian/the-brontes-at-war-how-charlotte-and-branwell-brought-waterloo-into-their-drawing-room/