The Bronte Sisters Played Their Own Fantasy RPG

Stumbled across this cool bit of literary history just a few minutes ago…

In 1845, two years before Wuthering Heights was published, Emily Brontë shared a train trip to York with her sister Anne, who was two years out from publishing her first novel Agnes Grey. To pass the time the two sisters played a game they’d enjoyed since they were children, which Anne described in her diary like so: “During our excursion we were Ronald Macelgin, Henry Angorra, Juliet Angusteena, Roseabelle, Ella and Julian Egramont, Catherine Navarre and Cordelia Fitzaphnold escaping from the palace of instruction to join the Royalists who are hard driven at present by the victorious Republicans.”

They invented characters with luxuriantly fantastical names – Roseabelle Egramont is your next tiefling rogue in D&D, you’re welcome – and told stories of dramatic escapes and revolutions. It was all part of an ongoing saga started with their older siblings Charlotte and Branwell years before. They told stories about these characters but, more importantly, as Anne wrote, they “were” them, embodying the imaginary heroes. It may sound closer to a game of ‘let’s pretend’ or a creative writing exercise – and it was both of those things – but this imaginative fantasy of the Brontës’ creation also had a lot in common with a modern tabletop roleplaying game.

Read the rest of the article. It’s pretty amazing what they got up to.

Featured Image: A map of the Glass Town Confederacy drawn by Branwell Brontë. © British Library Board: Ashley MA 2468

One thought on “The Bronte Sisters Played Their Own Fantasy RPG

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  1. I’m glad you didn’t fall into the trap of calling it D&D :). As with many of the educated and money classes, indulging in telling stories was a favourite past time. The Bronte’s were obviously quite good at it (or well connected enough to publish as female authors in a male dominated world). But it does go to show that roleplay was around long before D&D.

    Liked by 1 person

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