Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Brontes and the Gondal Chronicles

by Poppy Goad

Throughout literature the Bronte sisters have made their own mark onto classic literature, Charlotte Bronte writing ‘Jane Eyre’, Emily Bronte writing Wuthering Heights and Anne Bronte writing ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’. One of the most intriguing literary families, the sisters' previous works during their adolescents are constantly being looked for, and during the mid-1900s the Paracosm of  Gondal was uncovered. Filled with intrigue melodrama, love affairs and tragic deaths the world is an open door into the childhood dreams of the Bronte sisters.

The world evolved from the realm of Angria, ventured into be Emily, Anne, Charlotte and Branwell. Both Angria and Gondad holding their origins from the Glasstown Confederacy, created when the children were given twelve wooden soldiers by their father. Each named and cared for by the children; the wooden men’s stories written into their imaginary world, their names coming from figureheads and leaders at the time. In ‘The History of the Year’ Charlotte wrote:

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

In the Glasstown Confederacy each sibling was to have their own island which they would care for and manage. Each island was named after heroic leaders and had a capital called Glasstown, hence the name Glasstown Confederacy. Charlotte had Wellington, Branwell had Sneaky, Emily had Parry, and Anne had Ross.

However throughout the course of the game, a rebellion was staged by Anne and Emily. The youngest of the siblings they often were delegated the inferior positions within the game. After the abandonment of their islands, knew kingdoms were created and hence forth Gondal was born, fresh from the minds of the two girls. The earliest documented reference to Gondal is one of Emily's diary entries in 1834, 9 years after the Glasstown Confederacy, when the two younger sisters were aged 16 and 14 respectively; it read: "The Gondals are discovering the interior of Gaaldine.”
All of the prose chronicles are now lost. The only surviving remnants of the Gondal works are made up of poems, diary entries and some occasional memory aids such as lists of names and characteristics.

44 of the Gondal poems have been recovered which has allowed historians and literature fanatics to piece together the remnants of the world that is thought to have been played throughout Anne and Emily’s lives.

Gondal consisted of a north island and a south island; Gondal and Gaaldine. The fact that Gaaldine was subject to Gondal could have been an imitation of the expansion of the English empire during the early nineteenth-century. Gondal, the north island, was a realm of moorlands and snow and reflected the climate of Yorkshire, whereas in Gaaldine, the south island, its subjects lived in sun and warmth. The inspiration possibly coming from the hot climates of the countries that were currently under the rule of the British Empire, for example, New South Wales (Australia).

There were many characters that lived and thrived in Gondal, with their previous playments forgotten in the Glasstown Confederacy new characters were made by both Emily and Anne. As in many fantasy realms the monarchy was the main focus point of the storyline of Gondal, the early part of Gondal's history following the life of the warlike Julius Brenzaida; a figure reminiscent of the Duke of Zamorna from the siblings' earlier Tales of Angria and Prince of Gondal's primary kingdom of Angora. The two loves of his life are Rosina, who becomes his wife and queen, and Geraldine Sidonia, who gives birth to his daughter, Augusta Geraldin Almeda (A.G.A). Julius is evidently a two-faced king; after sharing a coronation with Gerald, King of Exina, he imprisons and executes him. Julius is eventually assassinated during a civil war and is succeeded by his daughter, A.G.A., who is similar to her father in temperament. She has several lovers, including Alexander of Elbe, Fernando De Samara, and Alfred Sidonia of Aspin Castle, all of whom die. She also is eventually murdered during a civil war. The dramatic tales of these characters were all documented within the Gondal Chronicles, however this has never been recovered so we have had to turn to the girls poetry to establish the land of Gondal.

The two sisters were often referred to as ‘like twins’ even though they held a two year age gap between each other. The world of Gondal was a creation that both held near to their hearts, even through Emily’s depleting health did the sisters continue to play the game that had carried them through their childhood.

It is doubted that any other works from the Gondal chronicles will ever be found, however the ones remaining today not only represent an assortment of beautiful literature, but allow us the reminisce of the innocent dreams in childhood and to also enjoy more of the writing from enigmatic and never-forgotten Bronte sisters.

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