To stay on track, and reveal more about my work in progress, July and August on my blog are dedicated to Fantasy. Themes will include: Castles and Kingdoms, Maps and Quests, Magic, Mythical creatures and Myths and Legends.
This post isn’t long, there are just lots of pictures!
My current work in progress, Tales from Dragonspire, is an epic fantasy adventure (a trilogy!) set in an original world similar to medieval England, Quintilia. Magic runs through the heart of the world and influences all five of its kingdoms.
Add a teenager and a dragon from a reclusive village, originally on a quest to restore their polluted bond to a pure one, but sidetracked by friendship and the threat of civil war, and you get an adventure that takes Arckia further than he ever expected to go. And let’s not get started on the creatures, myths and legends of Dragonspire! There will be plenty of time for that later!
Week One: Castles.
Castles have always attracted me. Be it a castle in a fantasy novel, like Hogwarts, Camelot castle from the TV series, Merlin, or real castles I can wander around, they fascinate me. I’m a writer, but my degree isn’t in English: It’s in History. I spent my final year obsessing over castles!
They were built without modern technology. Imagine the effort, the manpower, that would require. Most took 2-10 years to build!
There is something magical about castles. The past is so far removed from our modern world, and that draws me in, escapist that I am… It’s what I love most about fantasy and science fiction, and I rarely write anything set in our current world.
In my mind, they are associated with my number one favourite thing: Dragons.
Ok, I admit it, part of the reason I’m mentioning Welsh castles is because the symbol of Wales is a dragon. If you don’t know by now that I love dragons, well, where have you been? 🙂
When my sister was trying out universities, we visited Bangor in Wales. My parents suggested we use our free day to visit castles. You don’t drive all that way and not stay a few days:
My sister decided her time would be better spent shopping, but I accompanied my parents to do something more interesting! We went to see Beaumaris and Caernarfon castles.
I cannot express how beautiful Beaumaris is. A bridge. A half moat. Circular towers. Perfect symmetry. Right near the water. (Beaumaris sits on the Isle of Anglesey, off the coast of Wales) The outside is more impressive than the inside, but imagine living here in it’s heyday.
Every day, you could stand on the parapets overlooking the sea (assuming you were a noble. If you were a servant, you’d be confined to the kitchen or cleaning out the chamber pot!) You’d entertain guests in the great hall. You’d get to pray in the haunted chapel. (It’s commonly believed that the chapel at Beaumaris is haunted. My mum insisted on it. She considers herself an expert in such things, so I shall defer to her wisdom!
Castles can inspire many stories. Overlooking the sea? You could be waiting for someone. A suitor, a trader, or even an attacker! Have a castle with tall towers? A prince could be locked inside waiting to be rescued by a princess (because it’s so overdone the other way round!)
During a siege in 1215, led by William de Albini, Rochester castle was seized from King John. Yes, the same King John from the legends of Robin Hood!
The siege lasted ages. John was impatient. He undermined the corner of the square keep and sent for 40 fat pigs to place under it. When he set them on fire, the tower crumbled down. Thankfully, the pigs were already dead when they were set fire to! When the corner was rebuilt, the design was semi-circular because the new lord thought it would be harder to undermine!
Imagine being under siege in that castle. Battering rams would thud against the door. Catapults would pelt the walls. When food supplies ran out, you would be left with nothing but your own horses to eat. Medieval times were certainly grim. (And full of inspirational stories!)
Rome, Italy: The Colosseum:
Ok, so it’s not technically a castle, but it is a work of art.
Me and my mum, eight months after my dad died, took a trip across Europe. France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy: Rome. The Colosseum was one of my favourite sights.
The outside was impressive. Those walls, the large arches, the architecture. I could have stared at it all day. Heck, I would have been happy to stay in Italy. The inside? See for yourself:
In the Colosseum, gladiators were pitted against animals for public amusement. Gladiators were not warriors: They were usually slaves or condemned criminals, and there were even female gladiators! Imagine living in those times, getting caught pick-pocketing, and being punished by a trip to the Colosseum. (And not the tourist friendly kind of trip!) It would make a great story…
Why are castles so significant in fantasy?
Given how inspirational they are, it’s no wonder castles are used so often in fantasy. Game of Thrones has a multitude of them, but below are my two favourite story time castles!
Harry Potter’s Hogwarts is iconic. Our first glimpse in the book describes the castle which becomes the setting for the majority of the books:
‘Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many towers and turrets.’ – J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Bloomsbury 1997.
Why a castle? Because castles are magical! Hogwarts would have been no where near as interesting if it were a tower block or a modern school. A castle isn’t associated with modern society, so Hogwarts is immediately set apart from our world and into a realm of fantasy.
The castle for the film is: Alnwick castle. You can even get married there with a magical twist.
Actually, I’m not sure this castle should be in the fantasy section. We all know Hogwarts is real, right? I know why I didn’t get my letter: https://twitter.com/hogwartsmaglc/status/
I’m getting into the realms of TV now, (no surprise there!) but into a magical story nonetheless. I loved BBC’s Merlin, for the first few seasons anyway. After that I thought it went downhill, and I still curse the finale so much that I am considering writing a fix for it!
Anyway, enough ranting. The castle where Merlin was filmed is Chateau Pierrefonds in France. I would love to go, as it is beautiful. It’s another example of castles and fantasy being linked:
There is also a Merlin experience at Warwick castle in the UK. It was pretty short, but it had a waxwork of Colin Morgan in costume, and a few props which kept me amused!
Tales from Dragonspire castles: My trilogy in progress
In the middle kingdom, outcast princes have manors and castles. Some support the king, but others try and take the throne, and some flee to neighbouring kingdoms.
Why were the princes outcast? For centuries, kings had multiple wives and heirs. Princes fought for the throne in tournaments. The strongest, not the eldest, became the next king. When the king fell in love with his newest wife (short story here) He outcast his other wives and sons.
Although the king set them up with manors and castles, some sons were discontent as they would no longer have a chance to rule. The king sits in his castle, chosen wife and heirs by his side. He knows his position is tenuous, but refuses to go back on his decision. As more of his children come of age, the country becomes even more unstable.
The king’s castle is by the sea, north of the town but within the city walls. It has two large towers, and, like Beaumaris, it is symmetrical with a big courtyard. In the courtyard is a beautiful garden, which belonged to the favoured Queen even before the others were outcast.
The kings actions caused the civil war that my protagonist, Arckia, finds himself in the middle of when he is exiled from his village with Orik! Of course, castles and kingdoms aren’t the only things he will experience. Like the fantasy castles above, Dragonspire is full of magic!
Thanks for reading! What’s your favourite castle? Did you like the end of Merlin? Do you love dragons? I’d love to chat in the comments!