ILLUMINATIONS

Martin McKenna illustrated many adventures for WFRP1. His drawings in particular set the tone for much of the Enemy Within campaign. He has shared scans of many of these on his Flickr page, including several pictures that were never published. A few of these are particularly interesting, and I have commented on them below.

SYMBOLS

The first noteworthy image is captioned ‘Parchment and Symbols’ and seems to have been intended for the original Enemy Within module.

Parchment and Symbols

Surrounding the twin-tailed comet of Sigmar are (clockwise from the top right) the symbols of Chaos, the Horned Rat, Khorne, Tzeentch, Slaanesh and Nurgle (in its pre-Realm-of-Chaos form). There is also another symbol that to my knowledge appears nowhere else. The context seems to imply that it should be a god of Chaos, and the only contemporary god of Chaos not represented in the picture is Malal. We may therefore be looking at the proposed rune for Malal.

This might also explain the reason why this picture was not used in the published product. Malal was not included in the description of the Chaos gods on p22 of The Enemy Within. It may in fact be the precise point at which Malal was excluded from the pantheon of Chaos, as he was included among the Chaos gods in the WFRP1 rulebook, which was completed very shortly before The Enemy Within.

An alternative explanation of the mysterious symbol is that it is the rune of Kháine. Kháine was not at this point considered a god of Chaos, but was mentioned in The Enemy Within‘s discussion of religion as a proscribed cult alongside the gods of Chaos. The rune could also be interpreted as a stylised scorpion, which is one of Kháine’s motifs. However, the symbol was not included in the description of Kháine in The Enemy Within. That might mean the symbol was not associated with Kháine, but there are many other reasons for the symbol’s omission, such as considerations of space or artistic merit.

The evidence for favouring one of these interpretations over the other seems to me inconclusive. It might be argued that the Kháine interpretation is more economical, as we do not have to hypothesise excised or unwritten material. However, since we know there was some unpublished Malal material, this argument is of questionable force. That just leaves the resemblance to a scorpion weakly favouring Kháine, and the explanation of the symbol’s omission weakly favouring Malal. If I had to choose one interpretation, I would lean towards Kháine, but my confidence would be low.

NOBLES

There are also three interesting unused illustrations of the Todbringer family. Their presentation suggests they were intended for Warhammer City. They are captioned ‘Graf Boris’, ‘Stefan Todbringer’ and ‘Heinrich Todbringer’, but present very different appearances from Power Behind the Throne.

Graf Boris

Stefan Todbringer

Heinrich Todbringer

Unused drawings of Boris, Stefan and Heinrich Todbringer, by Martin McKenna

Stefan, Boris, Heinrich Todbringer

Stefan, Boris and Heinrich Todbringer, by Martin McKenna, in Power Behind the Throne

The later depiction of Boris Todbringer closely resembles a painting of Erasmus by Holbein. That of Stefan Todbringer has also become notably less sympathetic.

Erasmus, by Hans Holbein the Younger, and Boris Todbringer, by Russ Nicholson

SPIRITS

There is also an unpublished picture of the spirit Leshy, which was presumably intended for Something Rotten in Kislev.

Leshy.jpg

The origins of McKenna’s conception of Leshy are somewhat obscure. His drawings of other Kislevite spirits in Something Rotten in Kislev were for the most part closely based on illustrations in The New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. However, his published drawing of Leshy only vaguely resembles that in the Encyclopedia.

Leshy, by Tcheko Potocka, in the Encyclopedia

Leshy

Leshy, by Martin McKenna, in Something Rotten in Kislev

McKenna’s Leshy drawing appears instead to have been based on an illustration of a different spirit in the Encyclopedia.

Bannik, by Ivan Bilibin, in the Encyclopedia

It is my presumption that McKenna used the Potocka illustration for general inspiration, but felt its style unsuitable to copy. He therefore used a similar illustration by Bilibin as his model. The horns are a novel embellishment.

The unpublished image of Leshy seems to fit this pattern, and points to no other sources. It appears to be an original composition based on the published illustration. It does bear a slight resemblance to another Leshy picture, shown below, especially in the facial expression, but the similarity is in my view insufficient to posit a connection, especially as this image is not present in the Encyclopedia.

Leshy, by Ivan Bilibin

Therefore, McKenna’s Leshy appears to be a conflation of Potocka’s Leshy, Bilibin’s Bannik and some original embellishments.

There are more unpublished WFRP illustrations on Martin McKenna’s Flickr page. Also see his webpage for more about his work.

Title art by Martin McKenna. Internal art by Martin McKenna, Hans Holbein the Younger, Russ Nicholson, Tcheko Potocka and Ivan Bilibin. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

9 thoughts on “ILLUMINATIONS

  1. I immediately thought of Malal looking at that symbol. Two large horns and a pointed face: it could be a stylised version of the picture from the WFRP rulebook.

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  2. In the original Skaven article in the Third Citadel Journal, each of the four main clans has its own rune, and the warlord clans are nameless and without number. Jes created a lot of runes in his sketchbook, and if I had to guess I would say this was originally a generic, unattributed warlord clan rune which then got used on various figures more or less at random, simply because it looked cool. It’s definitely not a symbol of Malal, and I’m pretty sure it was never given any particular meaning in the published lore.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. It’s always great to hear your insights.

      It seems from your statement that a connection between the symbol and Malal is unlikely.

      Your argument that the symbol has no special significance is very plausible, but I think some consideration should be given to the contrary view. All of the other symbols in the drawing have significance in Warhammer. Moreover, all of the other symbols neatly match up with the discussion of the gods and their symbols in The Enemy Within. That discussion unveiled most of these symbols for the first time, and is one of the rare occasions when Warhammer takes a careful approach to symbology. If the unidentified sign was intended to represent Khaine, the illustration would perfectly correspond to the text that it was in my view intended to accompany.

      As for the source of the image, it does seem to fit Jes Goodwin’s style, so it may well have come from one of the sketch books you mention. However, it has been pointed out by others more observant than me that the unknown symbol appears (alongside others under discussion), in the ‘Heroes’ colour plate in WFRP1 (re-used as the cover of the first Character Pack). That might be the source of the symbol. The symbols in that plate can mostly be associated with Warhammer deities, so it perhaps suggests again it was intended as a divine symbol. The Goodwin connection might even fit with Khaine.

      (Incidentally I have found no evidence of the unidentified symbol being used in connection with the skaven in the major contemporary sources: the article introducing the skaven in the third Citadel Journal, pp10-17 (Spring 1985), Ravening Hordes, pp29-34 (1985), WFRP1, pp226-227 (1986) and the skaven article in White Dwarf 119, pp65-69 (November 1989).)

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  3. You are right in everything you say, but I cannot recall any meaning or affiliation ever being ascribed to that particular icon. Contrary to how things were just a few months later, this was a time when little or no thought was given to iconography at a company level. I recall Jes’s sketchbooks being full of doodles just like this. He drew dozens if not hundreds of icons for the Eldar in 40K and Adeptus Titanicus, for example, and only a handful were ever ascribed any particular affiliation in lore.

    It might be associated with Khaine, as you say. Squint and it could be a tail-less scorpion. It could also be a crude head of the Horned Rat. The whole thing becomes a Rorschach exercise in which anyone can see whatever they want to see. All I can do is repeat that, as far as I know, this icon was just a design, with no canon attached. Sorry to disappoint.

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    1. Thanks for the additional colour. It’s no disappointment. I’d rather get to the bottom of the mystery than impose some wishful thinking about exotica like Malal.

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  4. Oh, and I wouldn’t attach too much importance to the symbol’s occurrence in the Bob Naismith “Heroes” painting. There are a great many icons in the background, and a significant number of them appear nowhere else. I suspect Bob just too a peek at Jes’s sketchbook and used the ones he liked.

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