Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Gormenghast Research: Characters

I did some broad research on characters from the Novel Gormenghast for some inspiration, ideas, background information, influences and also artwork. I looked mainly at the characters from my extracts, heres what I have found which I feel is relevant.

Titus Groan, 1946
Gormenghast, 1950
Titus Alone, 1959


Gormenghast is the vast crumbling castle to which the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, is Lord and heir. Gothic labyrinth of roofs and turrets, cloisters and corridors, stairwells and dungeons, it is also the cobwebbed kingdom of Byzantine government and age-old ritual, a world primed to implode beneath the weight of centuries of intrigue, treachery, manipulation and murder - a world suggested in a tour-de-force that ranks as one of this century's most remarkable feats of imaginative writing.

Some images and artwork of the characters from the Gormenghast novel

Fuchsia- Ink Drawing 

"As his lord stared at the door another figure appeared, a girl of about fifteen with long, rather wild black hair. She was gauche in movement and in a sense, ugly of face, but with how small a twist might she not suddenly have become beautiful. Her sullen mouth was full and rich – her eyes smouldered.

A yellow scarf hung loosely around her neck. Her shapeless dress was a flaming red.
For all the straigtness of her back she walked with a slouch". (Peake, 1946: Chapter: Fuchsia)[1]

Fuchsia played by Neve McIntosh in the BBC series

Lady Clarice & Lady Cora Groan- Sisters of Sepulchrave

 Sculptures of Cora &
Clarice, By H L Tyler,
                                                           Sketch taken from the original manuscript

"She and her sister were dressed in purple with gold buckles at their throats by way of brooches, and another gold buckle each at the end of hatpins which they wore through their gray hair in order apparently to match their brooches. Their faces, identical to the point of indecency, were quite expressionless, as though they were the preliminary layouts for faces and were waiting for sentience to be injected." (Peake, 1946)[1]

First Servant of Groan 
"Mr Flay appeared to clutter up the doorway as he stood revealed, his arms folded, surveying the smaller man before him in an expressionless way. It did not look as though such a bony face as his could give normal utterance, but rather that instead of sounds, something more brittle, more ancient, something dryer would emerge, something perhaps more in the nature of a splinter or fragment of stone. Nevertheless, the harsh lips parted. ‘It's me,’ he said, and took a step forward into the room, his knee joints cracking as he did so. His passage across the room - in fact his passage through life - was accompanied by these cracking sounds, one per step, which might be likened to the breaking of twigs". (Peake, 1950,13)[1]

 Christopher Lee as Flay in the BBC series


Flay, PJ Lynch. 2008

Sculpture of Flay, By H L Tyler


...half asleep and half aware: with the awareness of anger, the detachment of trance. A furlong of white cats trails after her. A bullfinch has a nest in her red hair. She is the Countess Gertrude of huge clay (Peake, 1946)

"As the candles guttered or flared so the shadows moved from side to side, or up and down the wall, and with those movements behind the bed there swayed the shadows of four birds. Between them vacillated an enormous head. This umbrage was cast by her ladyship, the 76th Countess of Groan. She was propped against several pillows and a black shawl was draped around her shoulders. Her hair, a very dark red color of great luster, appeared to have been left suddenly while being woven into a knotted structure on the top of her head. Thick coils still fell about her shoulder or clustered on the pillows like burning snakes. Her eyes were of the pale green that is common among cats. They were large eyes, yet seemed, in proportion to the pale area of her face, to be small. The nose was big enough to appear so in spite of the expanse that surrounded it. The effect which she produced was one of bulk...." (Peake, 1946)[1]

Gertrude from the BBC interpretation of Gormenghast, played by Celia Imrie


The fat, sadistic head chef of Gormenghast. His profound hatred for Flay leads him to attempt his murder; however, he is killed by his intended victim.

"Abiatha Swelter, who wades in a slug-like illness of fat through the humid ground mists of the Great Kitchen. From bowls as big as baths, there rises and drifts like a miasmic tide the all but palpable odor of the day's bellytimber. The arrogance of this fat head exudes itself like an evil sweat."[2]

Swelter in the BBC Adaptation, Played by Richard Griffiths 


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