While the focus of my Quest for Lion Knights’ castle has been on the main military fortification of the 1984 LEGO Castle, the 6080 King’s Castle, the same series was also famous for a fairly strong civilian presence within the theme. For example, the theme introduced the farmer’s hat to LEGO, a fine piece of medieval civilian headgear for minifigures that is still one of the defining characteristics of that theme. The hat was first used in the 6010 Supply Wagon and 6040 Blacksmith Shop, back in 1984. I remember the Supply Wagon actually being my very first “grey” LEGO Castle set.
Above: Blacksmith with minifigure farmer’s hat, from 6040 Blacksmith Shop (1984).
Later during the 1980s there were also the 6041 Armor Shop, 6067 Guarded Inn, 1974 Smuggler’s Hayride – and 6103 Castle Mini Figures included a farmer, not just soldiers and forest men. Now, obviously, most of the sets were about knights, armies and castles, but civilian life was also represented. Then the 1990s happened, and as you may recall, I blame the 1990s for pretty much everything. Browse through the sets released in the 1990s and there isn’t a single civilian entry for castle LEGO – there are ninjas, skeletons, wizards and probably a token space alien though. I guess the dark ages were a blessing after all.
Now, unfortunately, the situation has not exactly been remedied since. LEGO’s post-1980s focus on the boys market means latest castle LEGO themes have concentrated on battles as well. (Let’s not even discuss the ridiculous Knight’s Kingdom.) During the past year and a half of this blog I have built, either by myself or with my son, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and 2013 LEGO Castle, none of which include civilian elements. Even the Tolkien licenses, with an older target market and a rich civilian world portrayed in both the books and the movies, concentrate on action sequences instead. I guess the token Hobbiton sets could be considered vaguely civilian, but even they are of the protagonist’s home, instead of town life.
There are few exceptions to this sorry rule, though, from around the turn of the decade, when LEGO re-found its footing. Of course the LEGO Castle (2007) and LEGO Kingdoms (2010) are full of the usual prison wagons, castle sieges and catapults (subjects that have been represented in pretty much every castle LEGO theme), but there were also some very welcome civilian efforts, of which the 2007 LEGO Castle farewell set 10193 Medieval Market Village (2009) is the greatest. There were others too: 7189 Mill Village Raid, 6918 Blacksmith Attack, although both of these were unnecessarily veiled as raid/attack sets and were also unfortunately short-lived, because of their release late in the range and the subsequent LotR onslaught that killed other castle LEGO for a year or so.
One of my fondest post-dark ages memories of civilians in castle LEGO must be the 7952 LEGO Kingdoms Advent Calendar for the 2010 holiday season (the 2007 LEGO Castle theme also had a similar calendar in 2008). The concept of a medieval town bustling with everyday chores and even Christmas preparations was an intriguing one, not only for me as an adult, but also for my young son who enjoyed this calendar a lot. This calendar really underlined, to me, the entertainment value of including both military and civilian elements in play. That’s what separates leg godt from toy soldiers – and really lets imaginations fly.
Doesn’t TLG think small boys (or big boys, or girls of any age for that matter) build civilian LEGO? Does it have to be all about battle? I’d say the ever-popular LEGO City is proof enough to the contrary. TLG, bring back civilians to LEGO Castle. Just some honest the goodness civilians with their tools and trades, without raids, ambushes or futuristic apes. Pretty please.