I never thought of building forts until the Indian Soldiers came – E. Nesbit, Wings and the Child 1913

An interesting and colourful chapter with Indian Army toy soldiers in E. Nesbit’s Wings and The Child 1913

Crossposted from my Man of TIN blog, 30 January 2021:


Colonial Troops and Indian Cavalry Page from James Opie, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893 – 1932

Who could resist the colour and style of these vintage or modern recast figures ?

Ents, Enchanted Trees and Magic Cities drawn by George Barraud, illustrator of E. Nesbit’s Wings and the Child 1913

“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.


George Barraud’s (GB) illustration of a toy block Stonehenge in E. Nesbit’s Wings and the Child (1913) – Stonehenge features in Nesbit’s short story “Accidental Magic”.

“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 Pied Piper and thought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by 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:



Who was GB, illustrator of this tree?

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

George Barraud’s drawing of The Guarded Arch for E. Nesbit in her Magic City.
The Square Tower, GB – George Barraud

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).


A fine Scouting for Boys type outdoorsy illustration by GB, c/o Moore Gwyn Fine Arts

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.

Source: Berwyn Books on Abe Books

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

The Bystander, 4 December 1912

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.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 25 January 2021

Blog Post Script

Tolkein Estate Website – https://www.tolkienestate.com/en/paths/links/modern-texts.html

Bravo Teachers! The Poor Child’s Magic City by E Nesbit in her Wings and The Child 1913

Cocoanut Cottage, Box and Tin Towers from Wings and the Child 1913

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:

Crossposted from my Man of TIN blog https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/the-poor-childs-city-e-nesbit-on-teachers-schools-and-making-magic-cities-in-wings-and-the-child-1913/

E. Nesbit’s Magic City at the Child Welfare Exhibition, Olympia, late 1912/1913

And Girls Did Play Too? E.Nesbit does Floor Games in Wings and the Child 1913

One of Edith Nesbit’s toy palaces in Wings and the Child 1913, highly reminiscent of Wells’ Floor Games of 1911 and Little Wars 1913 – read a free online copy here:


Cross posted from my Man of TIN blog, 23 January 2021

The likely identity of Two More Invisible Men behind H G Wells writing Little Wars?

The likely identity of H.G. Wells’ friends, part of the development of Little Wars – Mr W and a dear friend who died? – crossposted from my Man of TIN blog


Blog cross posted by Mark Man of TIN 23 January 2021

The Invisible Men and Women behind H. G. Wells, Floor Games and Little Wars

Ongoing research into many of the interesting personalities and invisible people behind H. G. Wells’ creation of Floor Games and the wargames classic Little Wars


Peter Dennis’ splendid illustration to his Little Wars volume in his PaperBoys series.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 22 January 2021

A Nudge of Pike

A small push of pike … a nudge or shove of pike maybe?

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

I have had these old Call to Arms English Civil War 54mm plastic pikemen figures knocking about unpainted at home for about 10 -15 years. They are still available online for example https://www.drumandflag.co.uk/collections/english-civil-war/products/a-call-to-arms-2-english-civil-war-pikemen-1-32-scale-royalist-parliament

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

G K Chesterton, Mr Turnbull and toy soldiers in The Napoleon of Notting Hill 1904

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).

Crossposted from my Man of TIN blog


H G Wells The New Machiavelli, Old Toy Soldiers, Floor Games and Close Wars

An interesting toy soldier related chapter from H G Wells’ 1911 novel The New Machiavelli that links closely to Floor Games (1911/12) and Little Wars (1913)

Crossposted from my Man of TIN blog by Mark Man of TIN


Airfix 54mm 1:32 WW2 figures rereleased for Summer 2021

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.

Curious that only the Airfix Paratroops of each nation had radio men figures.

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.


and as they shrink, deform and de-evolve into newish figures, useful as stylised generic cheap figures for paint conversion.


Copying original Airfix (left) then copying, shrinkage and lessening of detail into new figures

Some see poor smaller copies of Airfix, I see glossy shiny toy soldiers …


This Airfix pirated figure de-evolution happens both for 1:72 and small copes of 54mm figures

Good Airfix pirate figures are handy for conversions – Para officer into scout mistress?


Blog posted by Man of TIN blog, 8 January 2020.

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