What do Picts look like?

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What do Picts look like?

Postby Style » Sun Apr 06, 2008 11:00 pm

What do Picts look like? The real Picts lived in Scotland, and were absorbed by the Gaels around the 10th century. Is it safe to say they were Caucasian? Have any writings survived recounting a description of their appearance? What about Hyborian Picts? I've seen some Conan art work depicting them as Caucasian, some as native American. Which is it?
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Postby Strom » Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:04 am

In Beyond the Black River, REH describes the Picts as such:
"The Picts were a white race, though swarthy, but the border men never spoke of them as such."
In The Black Stranger, Conan mentions he was the first white man to cross the Pict wilderness, so although the Picts are white they are not seen as such by the other races.
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Postby Majestic7 » Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:09 am

"Kull brought his mind back from the dim mazes of Valusian statecraft
where it had been wandering, and gazed upon the Pict with little
favor. The man gave back the gaze of the king without flinching. He
was a lean-hipped, massive-chested warrior of middle height, dark,
like all his race, and strongly built. From strong, immobile features
gazed dauntless and inscrutable eyes."

^
Kull, Shadow Kingdom, by REH.

Although it is possible that Picts as a ethnic group changed in appearance after the long centuries that passed between that story and the Hyborian Age, it has always seemed to me that Picts are sort of mix between the real Picts and North American Indians in their looks. REH usually uses "black" or "negro" about...well..black-skinned folk while "dark" seems to point towards people like Shemites, Vendhyans and the like. This part about immobile features and dauntless eyes somehow seems to fit together with a certain Western-style mythical description of Native Americans. (Edit - "Indians" changed to "Native Americans", not out of political correctness, but because it might be mixed up with Vendhya.)
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Postby DaveNC » Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:01 am

I've always thought of Picts as similar to American Indians in appearance.
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Postby Malcadon » Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:40 am

In real life, they look like this and this.

But the stories make them look like this and this.

I personally like to mix the two.
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Postby Style » Mon Apr 07, 2008 2:06 pm

Majestic7 wrote:Although it is possible that Picts as a ethnic group changed in appearance after the long centuries that passed between that story and the Hyborian Age, it has always seemed to me that Picts are sort of mix between the real Picts and North American Indians in their looks. REH usually uses "black" or "negro" about...well..black-skinned folk while "dark" seems to point towards people like Shemites, Vendhyans and the like. This part about immobile features and dauntless eyes somehow seems to fit together with a certain Western-style mythical description of Native Americans. (Edit - "Indians" changed to "Native Americans", not out of political correctness, but because it might be mixed up with Vendhya.)
I prefer to think of them as Caucasian, specifically like Scots, as they should be the ancestors of the real Picts. However, I'm also trying to reconcile REH's description of them as "dark", but I'm having real difficulty imagining a dark Scot. :) I guess I could just imagine them as sun burned Scots. After all, they were outdoorsy, and didn't wear much clothes.

Malcadon, I like your second "real life" image. Your first "stories" image (Savage Sword of Conan?) makes them look like a step above Neanderthals. I don't imagine them like that.
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Picts

Postby Spongly » Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:12 pm

Real Picts carved lots of stone pictures of themselves, so we know pretty much what they looked like. According to the Romans, the Caledonians, who were the ancestors of the tribes that came to be called "Picts" were large limbed and red haired. They would have been caucasian like all the people of the British Isles.

At the time Howard was writing, very little serious scholarly work had been done about the Picts, and so they were shrouded in mystery, and lots of people wrote a lot of rubbish about "dark, pre-Celtic aborigines" and so on and so forth. Howard connects them with the Native Americans. Here are some "real" Picts, as shown by the Picts themselves:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image
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Postby Old Bear » Mon Apr 07, 2008 5:22 pm

Howard is very clear that they are not white. The Cimmerians have a lot more in common with what we think of as 'traditional' Picts being as they are of a celtic feeel.

The whole style of Howard's writing directs the reader to think of what we used to call Red Indians. Even the tribal names have an American indian feel to them.
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Postby Majestic7 » Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:48 pm

Style wrote:
I prefer to think of them as Caucasian, specifically like Scots, as they should be the ancestors of the real Picts. However, I'm also trying to reconcile REH's description of them as "dark", but I'm having real difficulty imagining a dark Scot. :) I guess I could just imagine them as sun burned Scots. After all, they were outdoorsy, and didn't wear much clothes.
Hehe, well, the though of Scotsmen skulking around clothed and living like Mohawks and the like is even funnier....
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Postby FailedSpotCheck » Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:03 pm

DaveNC wrote:I've always thought of Picts as similar to American Indians in appearance.
+1. Like Last of the Mohicans, typical 19th century take on Native Americans. James Fennimore Cooper and all that.
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Re: Picts

Postby Style » Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:09 am

Spongly wrote:At the time Howard was writing, very little serious scholarly work had been done about the Picts, and so they were shrouded in mystery, and lots of people wrote a lot of rubbish about "dark, pre-Celtic aborigines" and so on and so forth. Howard connects them with the Native Americans.
There is no doubt that Howard modeled their culture after (violent) native Americans, but that doesn't mean they have to look like them. The Picts being mislabeled as dark, pre-Celtic aborigines makes sense. Thanks!
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Postby Strom » Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:13 am

In the Hyborian Age essay, Howard details the plight of the Picts from the time of Kull to the conquering of the Hyborians 500 years after Conan. In that essay, Howard describes the Picts as:
The Picts are of the same type as they always were - short, very dark, with black hair & eyes.
Physically they did not appear white, that is for sure, although the Howard quote (from my post above) can not be denied that the Picts are a white race on par with the Cimmerians- who descended from Atlanteans of the Thurian Age, where the barbarians were the Lemurians, Atlanteans & the Picts.
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Postby UberDog » Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:10 am

It's hard to say how Howard himself pictured them as he clearly was influenced both by Anglo-Picts and American Indians of his storied youth. Growing up in Cross Plains, he heard all sorts of tales about the wild west and tales of Native American Tribes surely among them.

Yet the Hyborian Age is largely free of influence from the New World and, as such, Native American Picts feel, to me, a bit out of place.

We don't really get much of an analog to the Maya or Aztecs either.

I think it likely that the nameless continent to the West was Howard's North/South American analog while Hyboria was strictly EurAsia based on cultures he placed there and the original maps overlaid on modern maps of Europe.

It should be noted, however, that I always found it to look more like Pangaea, with most of the Western edge being what we would know as Africa.
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Postby LucaCherstich » Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:36 am

Malcadon wrote:In real life, they look like this and this.
Yeah...I really believe in people going around naked all day long, every day of the year....in NORTHERN SCOTLAND!!!!!
If they really went around naked and painted they did just in special times (e.g. war) , not every time of the year
I'm not an expert in the field but, as far as I can see, it is not yet clear how much they were different from Celtic Britons who also went painted into war (see Caesar' De bello Gallico).
Another issue is the history of the name "Picti" which seem to be a quite Late thing.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picts
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Postby Malcadon » Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:05 pm

LucaCherstich wrote:Yeah...I really believe in people going around naked all day long, every day of the year....in NORTHERN SCOTLAND!!!!!
If they really went around naked and painted they did just in special times (e.g. war) , not every time of the year
Oops, the first picture was meant to link to a picture of a male Pict dressed like a Scotsman (to which I cant find again). The second still stands to highlight their warpaint.

And yes I did know that they did not run around naked all the time, and that they only go naked for battles, religious ceremonies, frequent tumbles in the hay. As cold and wet as Scotland gets, the people there are accustomed to it and they should be able to handle some cold weather nakedness.
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Postby Belkregos » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:15 am

UberDog wrote: We don't really get much of an analog to the Maya or Aztecs either.
well, we do get the tlazitlan (Aztecs) in red nails,
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Postby Valgrim Bragisson » Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:51 pm

I think the Maya in the movie Apocalypto are a good Western Hemisphere version of Picts. The people from the village are a good visual referance for "standard" Picts. The city dwellers are perfect Tlazitlan, IMO.
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Postby Gist_Engine » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:57 pm

I have to agree with Strom, who quoted REH exactly. The Picts are a white race, although swarthy (enter your ethnic stereotypes here, Native American, Aboriginal, or otherwise), though the bordermen never thought of them as such (enter your mature understanding that racism is not based on color of skin alone, but culture and perceived primitiveness as well).

How can Old Bear just erase Howard's explanation?

Anyone who wants to say they aren't white is just mutating Howard for the sake of their own definition of a primitive, feral wildman. You can do that all you want when playing an RPG that you control, but at least admit you are altering his idea. And DON'T start a damn argument about some person owning the legal rights and rewriting the Picts into something else. I don't care about that.

In Howard's day Picts were written as primordial tribesmen resisting the Angles' expansion, just like Native Americans were described in relation to the "civilized" English. And Howard, as we all know, didn't smile on "civilization" as such. I think the suggestion that they are some amalgam of Native Americans and what some imagined to be dark, aboriginal peoples of the British Isles seems best.

No New World influences in Hyboria? They roam in jungles/forests, live in tribes, use bows and arrows, wear pelts and spangly jewelry, travel in canoes, have preternatural connections to animals, and... need I write more?
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Postby Spongly » Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:37 am

Gist_Engine wrote:
In Howard's day Picts were written as primordial tribesmen resisting the Angles' expansion, just like Native Americans were described in relation to the "civilized" English. And Howard, as we all know, didn't smile on "civilization" as such. I think the suggestion that they are some amalgam of Native Americans and what some imagined to be dark, aboriginal peoples of the British Isles seems best.
Ironically, by the time the Angles came to Northern Britain, the Picts had a relatively united kingdom, had mostly been converted to Christianity, and were generally probably a lot more civilised than the barbarian, pagan Angles who'd crossed over from Germania.

You're pretty much spot on about Howard's presentation of them though.
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Postby LucaCherstich » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:32 am

I think the problem relies in the definition of what we are talking about.
There is no conflict among the majority of these posts as long as we are clear about what we are talking about.
In fact here we are talking of, at least, 3 different arguments:

1) fictional Picts of the fictional Hyborian Age (created by REH after a number of influences...);

2) real-world Picts as were conceived by Howard and the scholars of 19th and early 20th cent.;

3) real-world Picts as are conceived by nowadays scholars (whose visions are certainly truer that the Howard's ones, although not necessarily completely correspondent to ancient reality).

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