Thursday, December 29, 2011


                           "And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
                           The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
                           Do grow beneath their shoulders."

                           – Othello

The Blemmyes were originally a sub-Saharan tribe from a region that is now part of modern Sudan. Somehow over the ages, they came to be known as a legendary race of headless people. In later accounts, such as in The Romance of Alexander, they are described as giants covered in golden hair.

Blemmyes are sometimes also confused with Anthropophagi, but this is due to improper parsing of a line from Shakespeare's Othello (see above). This is further confused because the description of Anthropophagi from The Histories of Herodotus is often ascribed to the Blemmyes, but in fact, Herodotus is referring to a Scythian tribe, and makes no mention of headlessness.

My pet theory is that stories of headless Blemmyes with faces on their torsos came from sightings of people wearing large ceremonial masks.

Below are some of the miniatures that I have of Blemmyes, though they are different in appearance from those shown in medieval illustrations.

The first miniature is of a Toadec Spawn (HOT62). I originally bought these for a frog warband, but upon receiving the miniatures, I realized that what was painted up as big protruding lips on the website was actually an eye. I figured that these miniatures must have originally been designed as Cyclops-Blemmyes. What really confirmed this for me was when I came across the East Riding Minatures Blemmyes (the next two miniatures), which are also described as Chest-Eyes. The ERM miniatures are clearly of the same origin as the Toadec Spawn. The first one is a Blemmye with spear FT-25, followed by a Blemmye leader armed with a khopesh from the ERM Fantasy Personalities set (FT-40). Anyway, they are too small to be used as Blemmyes in 1/72 scale, but can be repurposed as toadmen if you wanted to paint them up that way.

The final figure is a Grenadier Grunch (Fantasy Lords 031). The torso is spot on for a Blemmye, but its legs are digitigrade, which is not so typical. The Grunch is more suitable for use with 28mm figures, but I think I'm going to use it as a giant Blemmye.


Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to use some ESCI germans or zulus as Blemmyes, just decapitate and carve a face with a hot x-acto knife. But so many other projects...

EY said...

For a moment I had visions of jack booted Blemmyes, but then I realized you meant ancient Germans.

Those are some good candidates for conversion though.