Bronte Imagi-nations Maps

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Branwell Bronte’s Map of Glass Town (British Library / Museum)

I am still slowly piecing together the complex history of four sibling’s imaginary lands and islands.

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Glass Town Federation with Angria added by Christine Alexander – really a map of West Africa. Map from

Christine Alexander the Bronte scholar has imaginatively sketched in where the kingdom of Angria should be, seen here in close up:IMG_3226

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Informative Key to Christine Alexander’s enhanced map of Angria and Glass Town from her Oxford University Press edition of the The Brontes: Tales of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal (OUP 2010)

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.

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My Map of Gondal. Rough sketch from my notebook of a map of the Four Kingdoms of Gondal, using a Yorkshire map and the colonial habit of adding ‘New’ to familiar place names back home.

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 have changed my view of Jane Austen and the Brontes since reading more about the historic events and Georgian / Regency social background in Jenny Uglow’s In These Times that I mentioned in a recent blogpost https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/in-these-times/

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.

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Arise Angria! The Rising Sun banner of Angria.

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.

Confused?

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.

Previous Bronte inspired Gaming blog posts  https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/ashantees-or-zulus-reborn/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/the-brontes-games-scenarios/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/brontes-waterloo-soldiers/

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, March 2017.

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Ashantees or Zulus Reborn

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A pile of Zulus and natives ready for the painting table …

Recently I have been experimenting with using Revell Gloss Acrylic paints as they are not as smelly as the Matt Humbrol or Airfix enamels that I used in the past.

Just one whiff of enamel paint brings back happy memories of childhood and teenage years busily painting in a tiny fume filled room.

A spot of gloss painting is a change from several post Christmas weeks of  “F and B”, Flocking and Basing (or rebasing)  vintage Airfix and Peter Laing figures.

I am finding  it difficult to get a dark brown gloss Revell acrylic for painting savage natives defending their tribal lands against imperialist  aggressors.

Whilst I have been doing this, several interesting batches of Zulus have popped up in wargames blogs.

Ross Macfarlane on his Battle Game of the Month blogpost has been busy these last few days battling with some impressive Zulus. http://gameofmonth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/the-published-portable-wargame-pt-3b.html

The Michigan Toy Soldier Company blog has also featured some impressive looking plastic 54mm Zulus from Expedition Force:

http://michtoy-from-the-front.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/tom-starks-plastic-passions.html

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.

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Original paint play bashed or palely repainted, ready for the brown gloss paint.

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.

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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).

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Zulus with arms – Detail from Page 89 of Andrew Rose’s The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers (Salamander, 1997)

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 from firms like Dorset Soldiers http://www.dorsetmodelsoldiers.com

or GBE Toy Soldiers spares will be handy here

 http://www.gbetoysoldiers.co.uk/sparescatalogue.html

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A Britain’s Zulu “jigsaw puzzle” ready for repair and repaint.

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.

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Spotty or striped loincloths added by owners? on these Britain’s Zulus.

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)

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Rough repair and rebasing using polymer clay (Fimo / Sculpey) of a Britain’s running Zulu and (left)  Crescent Zulu A162, a former Reka product.

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.

Ashantees?

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)

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/the-brontes-games-scenarios/

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.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Alemayehu   This  Wikipedia entry links to original Victorian photographs.

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.

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.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, February 2017