Advent Day 13 – post number 300 or 301 – finishing a draft Bronte Gamer Blogpost at last.
The Art of The Brontes is a thick Thames and Hudson by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars, an expensive illustrated book which I thankfully managed to borrow through my local lending library.
It covers every known sketch, painting and doodle by each of the four Bronte children from their youngest childhood drawings to their adult drawings and paintings.
I won’t infringe copyright of paintings or drawings from private or museum collections by featuring them here.
Steel engraving lowered the cost of prints making them more affordable for the likes of the young Bronte sisters.
Tropical Yorkshire in the Pacific?
I thought this might give me a clue to the possible backgrounds, terrain and landscapes for their fictional works of Gondal, Angria and Glasstown, upon which I have based some of my Imagi-Nations game scenarios recently.
Many of their fictional countries in the North and South Pacific or tropical West Africa are a bizarre blend of Yorkshire moors, the fashionable gothic or romantic art of their day with an element of the exotic gleaned from prints and journal illustrations of foreign countries.
I couldn’t quite get this blend of British or Yorkshire Tropical right in my head until I visited some of the sheltered and temperate gardens of Southwest England. Here you can see Victorian houses set in parkland with exotic planting brought back from many foreign countries giving that jungle or Himalayan valley and mountain pass impression. No doubt there must have been such bizarre juxtapositions in Yorkshire big houses that the Bronte family might have known about or visited, being on the edge of gentry as a vicar’s family. These would be big early Victorian houses with their greenhouses, botanic gardens, plant introductions and sheltered walled gardens.
I know this makes this Yorkshire Bronte Tropical fusion sound almost as authentic as filming Carry on Up The Khyber Pass in Britain, with North Wales standing in for the foothills of The Himalayas.
Some of the sketches of landscape appear to be copies of prints, illustrations and drawing exercises as they learnt how to draw in the style of their day.
Bronte Gaming Scenarios
Some of the PECO Landscapes seem very suited to Bronte country and fictional terrain – the mountain scenes or the seaside with ruined castle, for example.
Branwell Bronte, owner of the original twelve soldiers that gave rise to many of the children’s fictional countries and campaigns, wrote and illustrated some interesting early “Battle” books as well with ancient or Napoleonic ‘toy’ soldier drawings.
++++++ TSAF Toy Soldier Air Force official Air Ministry photograph, Gondal. ++++++
++++++ Passed By Censor for Publication. ++++++
New Flying Banshee FLB Mark I has undertaken successful air trials in the skies over Gondal.
This new Dive Bomber Biplane variant of our previous Biplane is undergoing Air Trials at one of the TSAF field air stations.
TSAF Air Ministry Spokesman: “Our new Flying Banshee aircraft Mark I is designed to terrify ground forces or shipping from the air and smash the enemies of Gondal through aerial bombardment.”
TSAF Test Pilot and Squadron Leader “Lucky” Haworth: “Its rugged construction is designed to withstand the rigours of dive bombing targets on land or sea. It has recently completed some successful bombing trails from an undisclosed island air station. It can also operate from small island airstrips or forest clearings.”
This stocky Banshee Biplane variant is a development of our previous dive Bomber monoplane, pictured alongside it.
“The Flying Banshee FLB Mark I is a bit of a powerful beast to fly and has quickly became known to trainee or inexperienced pilots as the FLaB (or Flies like a Brick).”
Details of its armament, experimental wing whistles and performance are not yet being made public.
+++ TSAF Air Ministry communication ENDS +++ +++++++
Back to the Man of TIN blog
My regular blog readers might recognise the Moshi airplanes adapted for use with 54mm Toy soldier figures. If H.G. Wells had incorporated the Aerial Menace into his 1913 Little Wars rules, they might have looked a little like these biplanes or monoplanes.
Upper wings were added from three layers of stiff card, curved edged card scrounged from our household recycling, originally trainer sock packaging.
Stout struts were added using balsa wood, much in the model of the Curtiss Hellcat Dive Bomber variant. This machine will be in use in garden game scenarios so needs the ruggedness. Not elegant but sturdy!
Two drawing pins hold the dip or angle on the main top wing / struts. This part was a bit of a pig!
Masking tape gives a doped canvas feel to the wing and also adds the fake top flaps. Plenty of super glue used throughout.
Currently Test Flight or Interbellum Silver.
Status: Not yet on Active Service. So far we have not applied Gondalese or Gondalian Air Force markings or decals at this test flight stage.
Gondal is one of the North Pacific island Imagi-Nations invented by the young Emily and Ann Bronte that we have fast forwarded a Century into the future from its Bronte Juvenilia origins (set in Napoleonic, late Georgian and Regency / early Victorian British Empire period) through to the interbellum 1920s and 1930s.
Amongst the growing ground crew you can see some recent conversions or repaints to become ground crew including LAC Leading Aircraftswoman “Penny” Farthing, a former Britain’s Land Girl or farm worker.
Old childhood plastic Starlux Engineers in Khaki ground crew overalls work on the Banshee biplane. Oiling up the plane, wearing the stylish new TSAF Gondal Air Ministry issue Blue helmet, is a Crescent Mine detector figure repaired and rebooted from a broken lead figure donated by Alan at the Duchy of Tradgardland.
Airfield Defence: Britain’s gun, pound store soldier sandbags and mix of old and converted Britain’s and homecast Air Force and Navy figures, Gondal being a proud island nation. Barbed wire is from spiral bound notebook wire after recycling a used small notebook.
Slowly building up suitable airfield accessories in 54 mm.
The planes now need a suitable adjustable altitude flight stand for garden gaming use.
The Banshee aircraft name was stimulated by the unlikely names of the Fantasy Name Generator aircraft names
I am still slowly piecing together the complex history of four sibling’s imaginary lands and islands.
Christine Alexander the Bronte scholar has imaginatively sketched in where the kingdom of Angria should be, seen here in close up:
There is no map by the Bronte family for the Gondal sagas, set partly on Gondal, a fictional island in the North Pacific which seems to be based largely on Yorkshire. So I drew a rough outline one.more detail will be required for when I set some skirmish gaming scenarios there.
So that is where the map is roughly based on the four North, East, South and West Ridings of Yorkshire.
The Bronte sagas are rather lush and overblown, a bit Gothic and tediously muddled in parts. After all it is their Juvenilia. Some of their adult novels have survived better (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre etc) with their Byronic brooding charcters, mad wives from slave islands in the attic, gothic houses, etc. All quite difficult to take seriously though. At least Jane Austen took the mickey in Northanger Abbey out of the fashion for Gothic novels and the products of a fevered girlish or literary imagination.
I like the fact that it was a box of wooden soldiers that kick started the Bronte sagas.
Often seen as early science fiction or RPG material, a paracosm or alternate world, if the Bronte family had been born at the end of 19th Century and played with tin or lead soldiers then I’m sure it would have been more Floor Games and Little Wars … like another famous science fiction author, H.G. Wells.
There is a charm in the Mad Geography of inventing tropical pacific or African coastlines and islands but making them all moodily, ruggedly, mistily like the wild Yorkshire landscape that the girls knew.
In the next week or so I hope to post a potted history of each of the Bronte’s Imagi-nations.
I find the Bronte juvenile sagas and poems hard going because they were never published in their lifetimes, never edited and probably never meant to be read outside the family. Lots of events and character detail is implied, not stated or written down. The tiny books were split up and sold off by dealers. Usually scholars look at them for clues to the origin of their published novels and characters.
For the Gondal and Gaaldine sagas, the prose stories by Emily and Anne seem to have vanished and only really Emily’s poems to and from different characters remain. I think the longest surviving sister Charlotte may have destroyed the most Gothic / romantic sections with multiple partners, affairs and children out of wedlock parts of them.
Gondal is set on a North Pacific island of four kingdoms. The other island Created by Emily and Anne Bronte is Gaaldine. Gaaldine is a South Pacific island or islands of six kingdoms, settled and interfered with by the ruling families, royalists and revolutionaries of Gondal, and presumably the original natives. I have not yet drawn the Gaaldine map.
For the GlassTown and Angria saga more prose remains, based loosely on a map of West Africa but with European offshore islands and Regency / Naplenoic era heroes. I have been skim reading some of the prose surviving sections for geographical clues to places to enrich the map, jumble of characters etc.
Troubled brother Branwell Bronte had more violent revolutionary and military storylines, often ones that had to be altered or revised by his sister Charlotte when he killed off characters whilst the sisters were away at work or school. Emily and Anne got fed up and invented Gondal and Gaaldine as their own kingdoms.
I like the Prisoner of Zenda type Ruritanian or even Fredonian aspects of the sagas.
If it all gets too complex I will fast forward the nations through to the mid to late Nineteenth century when the established characters have largely died off or been deposed.
Lots of Royalists and revolutionaries abound, as befits the Bronte family growing up in the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and new European nations forming and being fractured by revolutionary times throughout their lifetime. These were the times the Bronte family were born into and wrote through and into the late 1840s.
My fierce but motley playbashed bunch of Britain’s natives have been slowly collected together over several months from job-lot, damaged, scrap or for repair lead hollowcast figures bought mostly through EBay. Such damaged figures have little value to collectors. So it doesn’t really matter if I repaint or repurpose them.
I bought some Humbrol Gloss Brown Number 10 and used this only very briefly on a couple of figures before I got fed up of the fumes … not very family friendly! Next time I will paint with these enamel paints outdoors or with doors and all the windows open.
The end gloss results look promising already, even before gloss varnish, and suitably toy soldier like.
Shield designs aside, a suitable weapon such as a spear needs to be added to the hand. I have tried filing and adding a wire spear but on first attempt it did not stick.
These chunky Zulu figures are second grade Britain’s figures that were sold in A Series sets or singly. The fragile knobkerry on each of these figures is usually found broken, the original is shown in Andrew Rose’s excellent The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers (Salamander 1985/97).
Andrew Rose’s book also shows various arm versions of the Britain’s classic running Zulus of Africa Set 147, 1906 to 1959 and another version of the set into the final Britain’s lead year of 1966.
Handy to see these more slender Zulu figures as shortly before Christmas I bought a Britain’s Zulus “jigsaw puzzle” in the form of a job-lot of bashed legs, bodies and bases. This should keep me busy fixing throughout the year. Recast Britain’s type arms with spears or even rifles can be sourced from firms like Dorset Model Soldiers.
Interestingly these loincloths on these jigsaw Zulus seem to have been painted by their owners in stripes and spots for a more tribal animal skin look.
Britain’s used to indicate ‘native’ or ‘non-uniform’ troops by using at random three basic colours of yellow, red and blue for clothing – “The loincloths were painted in three different colour schemes, as Britain’s always did for native troops or irregulars who might not be expected to wear uniform.” (Page 107, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893 -1932 by James Opie, published by Victor Gollancz, London, 1985)
Not sure whether to preserve (if I can) the strange ‘Black and White Minstrel’ style extraordinary face painting on some of these Britain’s Zulus.
Not sure yet what to do with the shield designs as I don’t really intend these to be Zulus, rather more Generican Natives or Ashantee tribes.
In the Bronte juvenilia of Glasstown and Angria, these tribes are the savage Ashantees.
The Bronte family juvenilia stories feature various tribal forces such as generic ‘Arabs’ or also Ashantee warriors, for their map of their Glasstown Confederacy and Angria ‘Imagi-Nations’ was based on West Africa, the natives based on early 19th Century journals and prints (pictured in the blogpost shown below)
The Ashantees are led against Angria by the fictional Quashia Quamina Kashna, son of the equally exotically named King Sai Too Too Quamina.
Quashia was adopted as a baby by the Bronte’s fictional Duke Of Wellington and a rivalry grows up between Quashia and his stepbrother Zamorna, Wellesley’s eldest son who becomes King Of Angria.
Quashia and several Western characters successively invade Angria including Branwell Bronte’s fictional alter ego ‘Northangerland’, Ardrah (who opposes the creation of Angria by Zamorna) and MacTerrorglen.
Confused? So am I, still slowly figuring out the complex and intricate Game of Thrones style cast of characters and events created over many years by the young Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell. If it proves too difficult to create scenarios, I may keep the places but fast forward the Bronte “Imagi-Nations” a few decades clear of the Bronte’s main fictional characters that populate their Gondal, Angria and Glasstown sagas.
Stranger than fiction?
This fictional story of Quashia is not that dissimilar to true stories of how native princes were assimilated, educated or westernised such as Alamayu, the son of Theodore, King of Abyssinia (buried in 1879 at Windsor Castle Chapel and commemorated on a plaque by Queen Victoria). Alamayu was captured in the Magdala Campaign of 1867-68.
The Magdala campaign in what is now modern day Ethiopia is described in fascinating detail in Ian Hernon’s Britain’s Forgotten Wars: Colonial Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century (Sutton, 2003), republished as a compilation of a trilogy of Hernon’s books. You may have also read this as the first part of the trilogy previously published by Ian Hernon as ‘Massacre and Retribution’ (Sutton, 1998).
So the Bronte juvenile stories, albeit fictional, are not much stranger than some real life Nineteenth Century events.
The Bronte family Gondal stories (devised by Emily and Anne) are based on North and South Pacific islands (mixed with a bit of Yorkshire for good measure!) so the islands of Gondal (North Pacific) and Gaaldine (South Pacific) no doubt have their own tribes.
Ashanti Chieftain c.1819 Wikipedia source
Ashanti warrior c. 1824 Wikipedia source
Illustrations from the Ashanti Empire Wikipedia entry show left an Ashanti warrior and right one with a simple musket and powder horn.
Plenty of scope for many interesting scenarios. That’s why I’m keeping the figures “Generic” rather than “Zulu”.
Still lots of lovely repair and repainting work to do … I will post photos of the finished results.