“And one of the greatest helps to a small, inexperienced traveller in this sometimes dusty way is the likeness of things to each other … A cloud that is like a face, a tree that is like an old man, a hill that is like an elephant’s back, if you have things like these to look at, and look out for, how short the long walk becomes.” E. Nesbit, Wings and the Child.
A Tree Like A Man, drawn by George Barraud for E. Nesbit’s Wings and the Child 1913
Talking to Alan (the Duchy of Tradgardland) Gruber about this curious illustration in Wings and the Child or Building of Magic Cities by E. Nesbit (1913), Alan and I wondered if this was an early illustration of what would become that Tolkein classic figure the Ent, tree characters beloved of fantasy gamers?
We wondered if Tolkein had read her work or been influenced by Nesbit’s fantasies or Barraud’s drawing?
Alan Gruber has long been a big fan of Tolkein, whereas I have to quietly admit to never having read any of Lord of the Rings, failed to read even past the first chapters of The Hobbit or properly to have watched the recent films. I much prefer(red) the Narnia books, but shhh! don’t tell anyone this shameful fact.
My lazy Wikipedia research however suggests that J.R.R. Tolkein (1892-1973) did enjoy magic and fantasy stories like those of the now largely forgotten Victorian writer George Macdonald and even those published when he was a young-ish man such as the contemporary new short stories in E. Nesbit’s magical fantasy The Magic World (1912) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_World
Within the short stories of The Magic World, there is one called “Accidental Magic” where schoolboy runaway Quentin falls asleep on the altarstone at Stonehenge and wakes in Atlanti. This has been seen by some critics such as Robert Giddings and Elisabeth Holland, J. R. R. Tolkien:The Shores of Middle Earth, 1981 – as exerting an influence on the young Tolkein.
Hmm. These fantastic Edwardian ‘dreamers’ – it sounds a little like a fantastical Puck of Pook’s Hill by Kipling 1906 (illustrated by Arthur Rackham).
Project Gutenberg has a handy free download online copy of The Magic City and the “Accidental Magic” story.
“Mabel Tolkien taught her two children at home. Ronald, as he was known in the family, was a keen pupil. She taught him a great deal of botany and awakened in him the enjoyment of the look and feel of plants. Young Tolkien liked to draw landscapes and trees, but his favourite lessons were those concerning languages, and his mother taught him the rudiments of Latin very early.
Tolkien could read by the age of four and could write fluently soon afterwards. His mother allowed him to read many books. He disliked Treasure Island and The PiedPiper and thought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll was “amusing but disturbing”.
He liked stories about “Red Indians” (Native Americans) and the fantasy works by George Macdonald. In addition, the “Fairy Books” of Andrew Lang [1890s-1913] were particularly important to him and their influence is apparent in some of his later writings.”
Source: Wikipedia entry on Tolkein.
The Lang Fairy Books were illustrated by H.J. Ford.
Influence is a hard thing to prove. There is a longer discussion about Nesbit’s stories and her Fabian circle and their possible influence on Tolkein as a young man and as a parent here – dragons are mentioned but not Ents:
Setting aside all the creepy trees in Arthur Rackham illustrations, I found on the book’s frontispiece that GB the illustrator or artist of this characterful tree in Nesbit’s Wings and The Child 1913 was George Barraud, active c. 1911-13.
A quick check on trusty Wikipedia suggested several people, so required some wider research – there are a number of Victorian and Edwardian painters with the Barraud surname such as Phillip George Barraud (1859-1929), FB Francis Barraud who painted the HMV Nipper dog or the Suffolk based Barraud family of artists, not to be confused with GB’s namesake the prewar 1920s-30s film actor George Barraud, 1889 – 1970]Simple objects like a clothes peg sawn in three for decorating the Magic City
Biography from Moore Gwyn Fine Art:
The Tramp Magazine front cover design by George Barraud June 1910/11
Douglas Goldring’s short-lived magazine, The Tramp, an open air magazine was published in monthly editions between 1910 and 1911. Dedicated to outdoor life, it celebrated its theme through modern fiction and non-fiction, publishing work by Wyndham Lewis, Arnold Bennett, Ford Madox Ford and Arthur Ransome (amongst many others).
George Barraud illustrated a number of books in the period immediately before the outbreak of the First World War, amongst them an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Harrap, 1913), An Alphabet in French and English (Max Goschen, 1912) and E.Nesbit’s The Wings and a Child; or the Building of Magic Cities (Hodder & Stoughton, 1913).
I’m often surprised how many illustrated magazines and illustrated news papers that there were in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain and America. This market must have been a great source of work for writers like H.G. Wells, E. Nesbit and illustrators alike. This is a world of increasing literacy thanks to Sunday Schools and the 1870 Education Act, before the wireless, before television and with cinema only in its silent ‘shorts’ infancy.
Abe Books are good for researching work by illustrators. Here is another fine magical city by Barraud in his illustrations to Sir Gawain and The Green Knight retold by John Harrington Cox (Harrell, 1913) such as sold here in Abe Books – Berwyn Books.
Another Tolkein overlap – Gawain and the Green Knight was first translated into Modern English in the late 1890s, then decades later we have John Harrington Cox’s retelling in 1913, illustrated by George Barraud. In 1925, Tolkein and E. V. Gordon published a scholarly edition of the Middle English text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Source Abe Books seller: Ripping Yarns
There is little biographical information on the Internet for GB George Barraud. Any internet research keeps running up against George Barraud the theatre and film actor from the 1890s to 1930s or the other Barraud painters. There is no CWGC WW1 casualty record for George Barraud. Again, worth a future blog post.
Topical thoughts during Lockdown, a useful section on scrap modelling and the making of Magic Cities for all, rich and poor, from E. Nesbit / Edith Nesbit’s Wings and The Child, her version of H.G. Wells’ Little Wars and Floor Games of the same period:
My converted bundle of medieval knights turned Cornish rabble or Elizabethan ‘Muster’, watching the coast for Armada Spaniards, finally have some more well equipped back up in the form of the Trained Bands. ￼
Rough and Ready Cornish Boys … the West Country Muster, converted from cheap plastic knights
High on the Cornish cliff tops, these pikemen run through their pike drill.
I wanted to give them a shiny toy soldier style gloss varnish look, with simple paint style a little like Britain’s Deetail, had they ever made ECW figures like the lovely old Herald plastic figures. I have painted pink cheek dots and traditional toy soldier faces but kept the rest of the detail minimal.
I chose dark and light blue coats and sashes or plumes as blue was a very common colour for the Elizabethan Muster and Trained Bands. My Spanish Fury and Conquistadors are in black and red. Fifty years later, dark blue would also work for dual use of these figures for English Civil War skirmishes.
The plastic pikes supplied by Call to Arms were good and long but far too wonky. Although good spears and pikes for smaller scales can be made from plastic yard brush hairs, I compromised a little on height and went for 100mm steel pikes for my 54mm figures. I can’t remember who in the UK that I ordered these pikes from before Christmas. The MDF tuppenny bases came from WarBases.
So these pikes are not the full 16 to 18 feet in scale, three times the size of my figures, but they are large enough for my purposes.
According to the Cromwell Museum:
“At the beginning of the war many pikemen were equipped with armour, usually a back and breastplate and often thigh plates or ‘tassets’. As it was quite cumbersome, this was rapidly abandoned, and for much of the war most pikemen would have little more than a helmet to protect them.
They were armed with a short sword for hand-to-hand fighting, and a pike, a spear 16 to 18 feet (4.7 – 5.5 metres) in length, made of ash with an iron spear head.”
In a future figure post I shall feature the musketeers and command staff that go with these figures, just a few of these figure left on the painting table. Again they have dual use of Armada era late Elizabethan Muster / Trained Band and English Civil War skirmish.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Pound Store Plastic Warriors, 18th January 2021
These days it would be plastic figures but you can still picture the old Toy Soldier collection of Mr Turnbull and his town model of Notting Hill in G K Chesterton’s The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904).
Childishly delighted to discover that Airfix are rereleasing six of its classic 1:32 54mm plastic WW2 infantry and paratroop sets for Germany, Britain and America – the toys of my childhood available again – preorder Summer 2021
Classic figures – 64p each or 14 for £9.00 – preorder for Summer 2021.
Pound Store and cheap playset copies of Airfix figures
Now we can play again a fun and fascinating toy shop or pound store plastic warrior sort of game called “Spot The Airfix Original Figure!”
Interesting to have the original figures available again – many of the poses of German or American Infantry and British Paratroops are commonly found pirated, copied and cloned for Pound Store and seaside plastic toy soldier play sets.