Sprite emerging from fire. By Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay (free to use: https://pixabay.com/service/license/)

The Quest 2.2: Dungeonous Dangers

By Keith McDonald

How Knightmare's creator Tim Child interprets the folklore of dungeon creatures.


I must confess to thinking the world a more interesting place with Elves in it.

Tim Child

This is no particular tribute to Pickle (a wood Elf) nor Elita (a cavern Elf), but merely because all humans find elves simultaneously entrancing and infuriating.

I'm often asked what is the difference between Elves and Fairies, and in truth it's the question that is wrong. Our Celtic and Saxon forefathers knew the truth as it was passed to them in their cradles by song and verse.

A parallel universe

Elves are an intrinsic part of that blend of races and spirits which is called Faerie. Often it is referred to as 'another place', but perhaps it is more usefully thought of as a parallel universe, a world less than an eye's blink away, yet unreachable without the bridging power of imagination. It seems to have moved further away than ever today. Perhaps that's to do with technology.

I've often thought that the more technological wizardry you have, the less of a job there is for real magic. Until you reach the point when it wizardry at all. That's why we've tried so hard to maintain that however technologically advanced Knightmare becomes, we don't lose track of magic, or lose contact with Faerie.

By the way, there are some people who will tell you that Faerie is evil. It's the sort of warning too often prepared for very young persons. It's not a lie, but the truth is blurred a bit to make the warning more effective to young ears.

It's certainly true that not all faerie is good, in those and wrong [sic], cruel and kind, fair and foul.

We certainly wouldn't claim that all humankind were good guys, and I'm afraid that Elves have their own share of bad sorts. Sometimes these dark elves, or drows.

Another name is Shee, as in Banshee (or screaming sprite).

Indeed, Shee has been used to describe everything from an EIf to the scariest sort of shape-changer. There are many different names, depending on whether one's ancestor was a Welsh bowman, a Scots berserker or hailed from a frozen Norwegian fjord.

To populate an adventure world like Knightmare, it would be easy enough to invent everything anew, with fresh creatures that have no part in our own island legends. But that hardly seems fair.

If it's the technology that powers Knightmare, which has pushed the Faerie world ever further away from ours, then it only seems fair that Knightmare help to bring a little of it back.

That's why we have dipped back into Faerie legend for so many of Knightmare's feature characters and monsters, and from your letters it's clear that most of you like things that way.

Pooka - the mischievous sprite

One of the commonest threats in our dungeon is the pooka. You'll find many references to him (or is it her?) in old English and Celtic tales. Usually the pooka is described as a mischievous sprite. Shakespeare's Puck was probably evolved from it.

In Knightmare, pookas don't always attack, but it's best not to trust to luck where they're concerned.

Knightmare Series 6 Team 5. Ben pressures Skarkill for a key after setting a pooka loose on him.
A dungeoneer summons Puck to chase Skarkill

Geists or Stormgeists can also be disturbed in most parts of Levels 1-3. The name is a Teutonic (early German) form of ghost. Geists [rarely] prove fatal, but they can cause considerable damage to Life Force if contact is prolonged.

Oakley, who we introduced to you as 'a sort of tree-troll', is faerie, and not unlike the mid European dryads, or Rusalkas, who dwelt so long in trees that they became part of them. We have no actual trolls (they're from Iceland by the way), but a few ogres, which is quite enough for most people.

Messy eaters

Our Ogres (the family Grimwold), are not, by the way, cannibalistic. Mrs Grimwold would not allow it, and in any case the younger Grimwold is a vegetarian. They are still very messy eaters however, and you wouldn't care to dine with them.

Goblins of course, we have aplenty. Not just the stalwarts Grippa and Rhark, but a horde of smaller Goblins, eager to take their places. It's my theory - and a few others subscribe to it - that Goblins are not truly part of faerie, but are more closely related to humankind. They're not all as small as you'd think either. Not if you've met our Hobgoblin Tiny.

Knightmare Series 5 Team 9. The gatekeeper fires a bolt at a hobgoblin.
Tiny the hobgoblin

That leaves us with Frightknights and Dreadnoughts [or Dreadnorts]. Of course these are not faerie at all, but that frightful mixture of magic and modern technology which Lord Fear is so keen on. Throughout the winter months, there has been a series of muffled explosions, and then some dreadful hammering coming from the vaults in Mt Fear.

I haven't a clue what he's conjuring in there, but I have an awful feeling it won't be long before we find out...

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The 'Combat Room', found in Level 2 during the first and second seasons of Knightmare.

This room is styled as the scene of a battle, complete with battle axes and bloodied floor. It often hosted an encounter with a guard.

Lillith's Domain

Lillith's Domain in Level 1, as seen in Series 1 and 2 of Knightmare.

Lillith's Domain was a stone chasm. Teams needed her causeway to escape through a serpent's mouth.

Jericho

The Wall of Jericho, with the full room behind. Appears in Level 3 during the early series of Knightmare.

This complex room was sometimes obscured by a large wall in the foreground. Once beyond this, dungeoneers were able to summon Merlin.

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