Bronte Imagi-nations Maps

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.


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

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, March 2017.

Bronte’s Waterloo Soldiers


A young Bronte sister looks on as their Waterloo Soldiers are animated by  their imaginative minds – screen shot from BBC,  To Walk Invisible (December 2016)

One of my Christmas highlights on TV this year was the BBC drama To Walk Invisible about the Bronte Sisters and the tragic story of their brother Branwell.

The opening minute or two featured a gothic or dreamlike sequence where the four children running through a great imaginary place or palace open a box of Waterloo Soldiers and then choose some, based on  a real account of what happened when their father returned from a trip to Leeds with a box of wooden soldiers on the 5th June 1826.

This dreamlike sequence sees the children, their minds or heads imaginatively aflame, and their imaginations breathe life into or animate these wooden Napoleonic or Waterloo soldiers. Clever special FX  brings these Waterloo toy soldiers to life (using actors rather than CGI) amongst these child giants.

Each Young Bronte chooses and names a different figure from amongst the Napoleonic sailors and soldiers including a Napoleon figure, Sneaky, Waiting Boy, Gravey and Wellesley (The Duke of Wellington). A reminder that the Napoleonic wars had finished only a few years before the children’s birth.

The figures go on to becaome characters in their imaginative worlds of GlassTown, Angria and Gondal.

You can see the programme on BBC I Player  for the first few weeks of January 2017 – see the programme website.


The Waterloo Soldiers come to life …

Their shared imaginary worlds Angria and  Gondal had their origins in the Glasstown Confederacy, an earlier imaginary setting created by the Bronte children.

Glasstown was founded when 12 wooden soldiers were offered to Branwell Brontë by his father, Patrick Brontë, on 5 June 1826.The soldiers became characters in their imaginary world.

Branwell came to our door with a box of soldiers Emily & I jumped out of bed and I snat[c]hed up one & exclaimed this is the Duke of Wellington it shall be mine!!  When I said this Emily likewise took one & said it should be hers when Anne came down she took one also. Mine was the prettiest of the whole & perfect in every part Emily’s was a Grave looking fellow we called him Gravey. Anne’s was a queer little thing very much like herself. [H]e was called Waiting Boy[.] Branwell chose Bonaparte.

— Charlotte Brontë, The History of the Year   (Wikipedia source: Gondal)

This record of events by Charlotte is well and pointedly used in  dialogue  in the opening section of the BBC’s To Walk Invisible by the child actors /  the children portraying the young Bronte family. It reveals some of the rivalry and battles to come amongst the four surviving Bronte children.

The BBC screenplay / drama then skips almost 20 years later to around 1845 when the children are grown up, experiencing many difficulties in life and back together at home in their father’s parsonage in Haworth in Yorkshire (now a Bronte museum).

During December 1827 Charlotte suggested that everyone own and manage their own island, which they named after heroic leaders: Charlotte had Wellington, Branwell had Sneaky, Emily had Parry, and Anne had Ross. Each island’s capital was called Glasstown, hence the name of the Glasstown Confederacy.




Naming their soldiers, their minds aflame. (All images Copyright: BBC To Walk Invisible)

The Paracosms or Imaginary shared worlds created by the Bronte children offer interesting gaming scenarios, which I have written about in the blogpost mentioned below. It is however taking me a long time to piece my way through the rich but scatty and scanty piecemeal survivals from this “imagi-nations” in their maps, stories and characters of their  worlds.

I hope to set some of my Napoleonic / 19th century onwards games in this setting.


So what is a Paracosm?

“A paracosm is a detailed imaginary world. Paracosms are thought generally to originate in childhood and to have one or numerous creators. The creator of a paracosm has a complex and deeply felt relationship with this subjective universe, which may incorporate real-world or imaginary characters and conventions.”

The Bronte children’s world is a curious mixture of their native Yorkshire, exotic tropical West Africa (“Ashantee”) read about in books, recent historical figures like Wellington, Napoleon or xplorers like Ross and Parry

Commonly having its own geography, history, and language, it is an experience that is often developed during childhood and continues over a long period of time, months or even years, as a sophisticated reality that can last into adulthood.” (Wikipedia Entry: Paracosm)

Some interesting writers are listed in this paracosm article / Wikipedia entry – some I have never heard of or read but some more familiar ones such as Tolkein or  C.S. Lewis.


Bronte family map of Glasstown and Angria (Wikipedia source)


Sounds like lots of gamers, their blogs detailing  imaginary nations  and games systems …


The Wikipedia entry on Paracosms  also mentions Mark Hogenkamp’s 1/6th figure recreation of a fictional WW2 Belgium town in the Normandy period, after traumatic brain injury, documented in a book, art project and documentary film –


A similarly toy soldier or play restricted childhood created the inspiration Pete Shulman’s amazing clay creation and plastic kit decades long battlefields in America:

Hopefully you will find the Bronte 2 hour one off drama To Walk Invisible as interesting as its opening toy soldier minutes.


Interesting comment by Jon Meech about the Bronte worlds as early RPG Role Playing Games.

Warning – if you are a historical wargaming purist, here follows a fantasy game reference alert!

To me “Angria or Gondal Rebooted” is a chance to jazz up some scrap / spare 15mm Napoleonics of various countries and manufacturers from recent job lots.

The Bronte family  ‘tiny book’ works of their world fiction are similar to games write ups or wargames journals.

I found several interestingly titled articles on this interesting aspect of their work such as

Emily Bronte, World’s First Dungeon Mistress
Branwell Bronte’s contribution as dungeon master  and flavour text
and a Game of Thrones comparison

and extends into Jane Austen role play – with or without zombies

Lots more interesting articles along this Bronte Sisters Role Playing Game / Dungeon Mistress / Fantasy vein

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN, 4/5th January 2017








The Brontes Games scenarios

The Bronte family juvenilia as inspiration for exotic gaming scenarios.

Interesting 54mm Byronic or Bronteish figure picked up with other cavalrymen in The Works store for £1-£2.


The Brontes created for their characters ( the Twelve young men)  heroic scenarios that could be adapted for the gaming table.


Interesting scenarios for a range of small skirmishes can be found amongst the Bronte juvenilia stories such as this in Charlotte Bronte’s juvenile Two Romantic Tales.

Setting and terrain ideas to be sketched onto a gaming map:

A tropical island, unexplored, maybe a continent?

A. small natural harbour around ship under repair.

Travel through about two miles of the following terrain –

B. Cultivated grain fields, plantations of palm and almond trees

C. Olive trees groves

D. rice paddies / enclosures

Any of these (BCD) can be deemed impassable as required or require movement at half pace.

They can be random terrain scattered about or cluttered around a path.

Your characters: 12 named characters ( plus assorted ship’s crew if needed)

Your opponents: Twenty men ‘well armed’ – natives?

What happens next?

Here is the Bronte version of this Battle Narrative. Yours may end differently and be ‘game over’ for the adventurers.


The joy of gaming is that this story could have gone very differently. What if the natives won or captured some of the Twelve adventurers?

The characters in the Bronte juvenile stories are inspired by their imagination but also real people of the age.

imageOnce the characters were established, the following scenarios are set out for the Twelve Young Men:

The Bronte family’s knowledge of the tropical realms of the expanding British empire was through books, atlases and periodicals like Blackwood’s Magazine.

The Ashantees were no doubt generic natives or tribesmen, but Britain did fight the first Anglo Ashanti  war in west Africa (now Ghana) around 1824, news of which would have been in the Brinte’s reading matter.


Whilst the real early Ashanti wars were fought over the slave trade and Britain’s abolition movement, one of the interests of gaming is to turn tables and see the Twelve Adventurers as imperialist invaders.

Thundering Cannon, naval Landing Parties, trumpets, war drums, wild wailing natives trying to repel the colonial invaders who man the walls in their city, burning fields, mountainous strongholds – this is the stuff of colonial gaming!

Exotic landscapes and terrain.

A releif party or news from England.

AW ‘Arthur Wellesley’ (based on the duke of Welkington, victor of Waterloo) as the Brontes had been born into the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

Figures needed for gaming this Bronte period could be culled from a mix of Napoleonic and early Victorian figures versus any available natives.

Lots of interesting ideas here to develop into games scenarios.

Illustrations from the Ashanti Empire Wikipedia entry show an Ashanti warrior with a simple musket and powder horn.

You can read more about the Brontes and their real and imaginary worlds at:ë_family

Blogposted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN.