What do Picts look like?

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Postby Gist_Engine » Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:08 pm

Spongly wrote:
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.
Yeah, I probably should have went back farther to Britons or Romans dealing with "painted" people five centuries earlier, but hopefully the point was made.
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Postby Saxon » Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:01 pm

I don't know if it was the pictures in the RPG book, or the description, but I've always depicted Hyborian Picts as Aztec/Mayan.

It seems to add instant visual flavor saying to my players, "Have you ever seen Apocolypto? That's what they are like!"

Besides, isn't the Hyborian Pictish wilderness described as a "jungle?" Seems more like South America to me, whereas Scotich Picts would be more in a forest or a bog.

Cimmerians seem more likely candidates to fill the Scotish Pict image and culture.
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What do Picts look like?

Postby Fernando » Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:57 am

Valgrim Bragisson wrote:I think the Maya in the movie Apocalypto are a good Western Hemisphere version of Picts.
Really? So, lets take a look in some REH's writings:

Beyond the Black River
The Picts were a white race, though swarthy, but the border men never spoke of them as such.
Wolves Beyond the Border - Draft A
The Picts are a white race too, in that they are not black nor brown nor yellow, but they are black-eyed and black-haired and dark of skin, and neither they nor the Socandagas are spoken of as “white” by the people of Westermarck, who only designate thus a man of Hyborian blood.
Wolves Beyond the Border - Draft B
The Picts are a white race too, in that they are not black nor brown nor yellow, but they are black-eyed and black-haired and dark of skin, and neither they nor the Ligureans are spoken of as “white” by the people of Westermarck, who only designate thus a man of Hyborian blood.
In Men of the Shadows, Bran Mak Morn, though he is dark-skinned, black-haired and black-eyed like whatever Pict, is straight-featured - like the Thurian and Hyborian Age's Picts - and shown as a descendant of the Nameless Tribe's Picts ("Western Hemisphere version of Picts"). Thus, the Nameless Tribe's Picts - as well as their Hyborian Continent's akins - had the same straight features (straight hair, nose and lips, as well as wide eyes) of Vanir/Aesir/Cimmerians/Hyborians. The only differences between this four people and the REH's Picts (from both Western Sea's side) were: height, hairs' color, eyes's color and skin's one. Pretty simple, insn't it?
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Postby SnowDog » Tue Apr 15, 2008 6:53 am

What is necessary to remember is that REH borrowed from history and mythologies quite liberally. So, how Picts looked like in real world compared to Hyborian world are not necessarily similar.
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Re: What do Picts look like?

Postby Saxon » Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:58 pm

Beyond the Black River
The Picts were a white race, though swarthy, but the border men never spoke of them as such.
Wolves Beyond the Border - Draft A
The Picts are a white race too, in that they are not black nor brown nor yellow, but they are black-eyed and black-haired and dark of skin, and neither they nor the Socandagas are spoken of as “white” by the people of Westermarck, who only designate thus a man of Hyborian blood.
Living in South Florida, which is flooded to the brim by all manner of South Americans, I would say I have a daily sampling of what South Americans look like. "A white race, but swarthy, with black hair, dark eyes. A white race, but never spoken of a such." That sounds exactly like Colombians, Venezuelans, Peruvians, Costa Ricans, take your pick!

Besides, what about the issue of terrain. The jungles of South America are far more fitting than the moors of Scotland.
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Postby tarkhan bey » Tue Apr 15, 2008 6:21 pm

I agree with Saxon that the Cimmerians are probably the closest to the historical picts, although the higher instance of red hair among the Scottish and people of Ulster would suggest a Vanir or two in the woodpile. :lol:
I imagine the southermost clans to be of Aztec/Mayan in culture and envisage the lands of the Alligator tribe to be similar to the Florida everglades.
IMHO the tribes further north are similar to the Algonquin and the Iroquois and those farthest north like the Cree. I think that "Black Robe" is a great visual help for Hyborian age picts.
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Re: What do Picts look like?

Postby Fernando » Tue Apr 15, 2008 11:15 pm

Saxon wrote:Beyond the Black River
"A white race, but swarthy, with black hair, dark eyes. A white race, but never spoken of a such." That sounds exactly like Colombians, Venezuelans, Peruvians, Costa Ricans, take your pick!
If I hadn't readed the REH's writings, maybe I could think like you. But, after seeing Howard's description of the Picts, I imagine them - at least the ones of Thurian Age, Conan's one and Turlogh's one too - like a swarty and short people with Caucasian features. I imagine, as pure-breed Picts, Antonio Banderas dressed like an North-American Indian and with a bronzed skin (Banderas could, IMO, play REH's characters like Brule, Gorm from THA; Grom, from VotW, and Bran Mak Morn), a 5 feet-tall Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Salma Hayek with black contacts.
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Postby kintire » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:30 am

I think Fernando is correct, but the situation is complicated by the two things: firstly, whatever the Picts may look like according to the grand history, the actual stories are clearly inspired by frontier warfare against the Indians tales. Secondly, at least some of the Conan vs the Picts tales go further than that; they are rewrites of actual tales of American Indians starring one of Howard's other heroes. As such, a lot of the descriptive text is simply carried over.
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Postby Saxon » Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:32 pm

Good point about the Indians of the Americas!

I guess the Pictish Wilderness is a very long terrain...like California and down the Pacific coast.

Coupled with the fact it is dense jungle, which would make for breeding pockets instead of mixed breeding between tribes. I could see how the Picts are like various American Indians. Some more Caucasian looking like the Iroquois, Cherokee, and Lakota, and some more short and swarthy like the Apache, Aztec, Mayan.

Then you've got Zingara at the bottom, which is obviously Plantation Era Brasil. The parallels are there.

Also a contributing factor, REH grew up near Oklahoma, in Texas. Lots of American Indians there! Oklahoma was the Reservation where all American Indians were relocated after they were conquered...then it later became a state. In the 1900-30s of REH lots of Cowboys too! Plus then there are the Mexicans. He probably had a lot of local folktale and such to pull from creatively when dreaming up the various exotic peoples and locations for his stories.
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What do Picts look like?

Postby Fernando » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:16 pm

kintire wrote:I think Fernando is correct, but the situation is complicated by the two things: firstly, whatever the Picts may look like according to the grand history, the actual stories are clearly inspired by frontier warfare against the Indians tales. Secondly, at least some of the Conan vs the Picts tales go further than that; they are rewrites of actual tales of American Indians starring one of Howard's other heroes. As such, a lot of the descriptive text is simply carried over.
Thank you, kintire! I believe REH would never say at least three times in his texts the Picts were a "white race", if their features were not Caucasian. Of course they had several Noth-Amerindians practices and clothes, but who readed Men of the Shadows knows they were not ancestors of America's natives. This ancestry belonged to the pre-Toltec Lemurians (MotS) and to the "red-skinned savages" (Gods of Bal-Sagoth and MotS again), who doubtless absorbed Nameless Tribe's costums, before Picts go to Europe and Northern Africa, where they became the Mediterraneans ancestors of Bran Mak Morn.
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Re: What do Picts look like?

Postby Saxon » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:02 pm

Picts were a "white race", if their features were not Caucasian.
While others seem to try and broaden the various considerations involved in determining the cultural ethnicity of the Pics, you seem to persistantly boil it down to the word "race".

Funny thing about the word "race." The word race was first lended the double meaning of a contest (i.e. foot-race) and a ranking of cultures -- by the English when they described the Irish...as being lesser in the race of men.

When I was in Thailand for a semester they didn't even have a word that matched race in that context. The closest they had was a word that translated to "people of the land of..."

You cling to this one word, because REH used it. So lets talk about that:

Let discuss context. In the ancient world there were many religious and economic conflicts, but nowhere does flat-out racism appear in the modern form of skin-color and facial features.

For example, from Herodutus up to the time of Lord Byron, scholars described the land of Kush as vibrant and civil and advanced as Egypt. In fact they becam more Egyptian than Egypt in the end. They believed in a sense of Ma'at, which was not to conquer and destroy, but to live in firm understanding that anything but peaceful relation would be met with appropriate force to restore balance. They quelled Egypt then went home when they could have occupied it as conquerors. That is more Civil than we are today!

Go forward to the Imperialist Era of the late 1800s. Great Britain led the "Great Scramble" to carve up Africa, subjugating the inhabitants. Depicting the Africans as primates and savages. The greatest most pre-emiment British Egyptologist of the time, Sayce, who was well connected with the gov't and military, started to find in his studies that the Kushites and Africans as a whole were nothing but sub-human primates, a "sub-race" of savages. So they were better off being ruled by Imperialist Britain. Convenient!!!

However, near the end of his life Sayce discovers Napata (near Somalia), which has more pyramids than the Nile Valley (albeit smaller). He then concludes that the Kush must have been ruled by or had an elite caste of "white race" or Caucasian ancestry.

This concept of race and the superiority of the "white race caucasians" follows the European immigrants over to America, where they use the mind-set on the American Indians and in the south for slavery.

Only a generation or two later comes REH! He is growing up in the South. Of course he echoed what all the scholars of the past 50yrs had re-iterated from the pre-eminient scholar Sayce (who was backed by the English Crown). It was a trickle effect that leaked through the generations.

So to me...if everything points towards North/South American Indians, yet the antiquated phrase of a more racist and post-imperialistic time "white raced" appears three times. Well, I'll take that phrase in the context of the time, and take all the other info that points another direction and go that way.
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Re: What do Picts look like?

Postby Fernando » Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:53 pm

Saxon wrote: So to me...if everything points towards North/South American Indians, yet the antiquated phrase of a more racist and post-imperialistic time "white raced" appears three times. Well, I'll take that phrase in the context of the time, and take all the other info that points another direction and go that way.
I don't intend to change any's mind with my comments on the REH's Picts. I was just saying, based upon Howard's fiction, why I imagine them as a Caucasian-featured people - at least in Thurian Age and Hyborian's one.
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Re: What do Picts look like?

Postby Strom » Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:15 pm

Saxon wrote:
Picts were a "white race", if their features were not Caucasian.
While others seem to try and broaden the various considerations involved in determining the cultural ethnicity of the Pics, you seem to persistantly boil it down to the word "race".

Funny thing about the word "race." The word race was first lended the double meaning of a contest (i.e. foot-race) and a ranking of cultures -- by the English when they described the Irish...as being lesser in the race of men.

When I was in Thailand for a semester they didn't even have a word that matched race in that context. The closest they had was a word that translated to "people of the land of..."

You cling to this one word, because REH used it. So lets talk about that:

Let discuss context. In the ancient world there were many religious and economic conflicts, but nowhere does flat-out racism appear in the modern form of skin-color and facial features.

For example, from Herodutus up to the time of Lord Byron, scholars described the land of Kush as vibrant and civil and advanced as Egypt. In fact they becam more Egyptian than Egypt in the end. They believed in a sense of Ma'at, which was not to conquer and destroy, but to live in firm understanding that anything but peaceful relation would be met with appropriate force to restore balance. They quelled Egypt then went home when they could have occupied it as conquerors. That is more Civil than we are today!

Go forward to the Imperialist Era of the late 1800s. Great Britain led the "Great Scramble" to carve up Africa, subjugating the inhabitants. Depicting the Africans as primates and savages. The greatest most pre-emiment British Egyptologist of the time, Sayce, who was well connected with the gov't and military, started to find in his studies that the Kushites and Africans as a whole were nothing but sub-human primates, a "sub-race" of savages. So they were better off being ruled by Imperialist Britain. Convenient!!!

However, near the end of his life Sayce discovers Napata (near Somalia), which has more pyramids than the Nile Valley (albeit smaller). He then concludes that the Kush must have been ruled by or had an elite caste of "white race" or Caucasian ancestry.

This concept of race and the superiority of the "white race caucasians" follows the European immigrants over to America, where they use the mind-set on the American Indians and in the south for slavery.

Only a generation or two later comes REH! He is growing up in the South. Of course he echoed what all the scholars of the past 50yrs had re-iterated from the pre-eminient scholar Sayce (who was backed by the English Crown). It was a trickle effect that leaked through the generations.

So to me...if everything points towards North/South American Indians, yet the antiquated phrase of a more racist and post-imperialistic time "white raced" appears three times. Well, I'll take that phrase in the context of the time, and take all the other info that points another direction and go that way.
That makes no sense in regard to Howard's Picts during the Hyborian Age where the Picts never evolved beyond savages for millennia while other races slowly advanced into more civilized and intelligent races. Howard himself could not explain his fascination for the Picts throughout his writing career, but to assume he made Picts a white race because of some "trickle down racism" is not supported throughout the "history" Howard created for the Hyborian Age Picts. Even with Gorm, the Picts never lost their savagery, never advanced beyond savages. Read the Hyborian Age essay.
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Postby Old Bear » Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:57 am

I tend to agree with you, Strom. I think Saxon is looking for things that simply aren't there.
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Postby kintire » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:46 am

While others seem to try and broaden the various considerations involved in determining the cultural ethnicity of the Pics, you seem to persistantly boil it down to the word "race".
Yes, and there is a very good reason for that. And it has nothing to do with any dubious theories about archaeology fuelling Imperial conquest. It is the very simple fact that the question in this thread was "what do Picts look like" and for better or worse the word "race" has become a shorthand for that.

There is no point in trying to derive a cultural ethnicity for the Picts. The Pict's role in the tales in which they appear is The Savage. The tales with Picts in them are about the efforts of civilisation to survive against the savagery that is man's natural state. In order to portray them, Howard drew on the "savage" cultures with which he was most familiar. He lived in a state with many stories of "Red Indian" savages and he was fascinated with the Picts, so his Picts are a mixture of those two. In tales where he was adapting tales written about Amerindians they are more Amerindian inspired, in the general history they are more "Pictish". In the end, however, they actually possess no real world cultural ethnicity, they are a melange of several influences.

They DO however have a racial identity, because we know what they looked like. They were pale skinned and hence could be described as "white" but they were noticeably different from the Hyborian type. They were shorter and darker, which proably refers as much to hair and eyes as skin.
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Postby Majestic7 » Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:16 pm

It might be worth nothing that in classic racial (racistic) theories, there were only three races - white (Caucasian), yellow and black, in that order in regards to capabilities of intellect and physical excellence. In the stuff written during the 19th century and the early 20th, Arabs and Indians for example were grouped as white people. It was a way to explain their obvious cultural achievements. During the beginning of 20th century, the concepts of Aryans as the best breed of white people and different subcategories underneath them began to appear. It is entirely possible - even likely - that when Howard talks about some people being "white", he uses term in this sense. It was the kind of atmosphere during the times he lived in and the racistic views of Lovecraft and others he corresponded with might have had an effect on it as well. Thus, Picts can look like "Red Indians" and still be said to be "white", as they were often grouped as "white people" in this separation to three races. Anything that wasn't black or yellow was white.

As a sidenote, origins of the term "Caucasian" are interesting - how it points towards biblical creationism and the associated racism. I don't remember name of the French guy who brought the term to mainstream attention around ~1915. I guess it is common knowledge that he - and the authors he based his arguments on - argued that Caucasian, mainly Georgian people were the "purest" white and as such white people should be called Caucasian. However the logic behind that was the Mt. Ararat was located in Caucasian mountains - when people left the Ark, they were "coming from Caucasus." However, after years passed, some people degenerated away from the original creation - black and yellow population - so the "Caucasian" people were the purest, best kind, straight from Gods plans.. It is thus interesting how the term "Caucasian" has stayed in English as a politically correct term for "white", when the original meaning is really far more racistic than just saying "white".
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Postby Saxon » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:28 pm

It might be worth nothing that in classic racial (racistic) theories, there were only three races - white (Caucasian), yellow and black, in that order in regards to capabilities of intellect and physical excellence. In the stuff written during the 19th century and the early 20th, Arabs and Indians for example were grouped as white people. It was a way to explain their obvious cultural achievements. During the beginning of 20th century, the concepts of Aryans as the best breed of white people and different subcategories underneath them began to appear. It is entirely possible - even likely - that when Howard talks about some people being "white", he uses term in this sense. It was the kind of atmosphere during the times he lived in and the racistic views of Lovecraft and others he corresponded with might have had an effect on it as well. Thus, Picts can look like "Red Indians" and still be said to be "white", as they were often grouped as "white people" in this separation to three races. Anything that wasn't black or yellow was white.
In Anthropological terms it is Caucozoid, Mongolozoid, and Negrozoid. All skeletons are categorized into these three types. It is actually easy to spot the different indicators of each group once you know them, and have a skeleton in front of you.

Also, in Pharmacological classes they teach that the prescribing dosages are slightly different according to these 3 groups and there metabolisms.
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Postby Saxon » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:55 pm

The Pict's role in the tales in which they appear is The Savage. The tales with Picts in them are about the efforts of civilisation to survive against the savagery that is man's natural state. In order to portray them, Howard drew on the "savage" cultures with which he was most familiar. He lived in a state with many stories of "Red Indian" savages and he was fascinated with the Picts, so his Picts are a mixture of those two.
This goes along with my whole sentiments on the issue. I'm not one of those guys who fanatically believe REH wants us to slavishly stick to his written word. I believe he knew some history and embellished the rest in an aim to depict exotic cultural backdrops to place Conan in that would entice and captivate his readers. So if I, as a story-teller, want to represent Picts in the exotic, vibrant, and fascinating light of Apocolyto the movie...Well, I think that is in the spirit of dear ole REH.

...and the whole "white race" tag some people seem absolutley hung up on...I say, "I'd rather be happy, than right." So call whoever you want white, I'm not gonna sweat it.
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Postby Style » Sat Apr 19, 2008 3:31 am

Majestic7 wrote:It might be worth nothing that in classic racial (racistic) theories, there were only three races - white (Caucasian), yellow and black, in that order in regards to capabilities of intellect and physical excellence. In the stuff written during the 19th century and the early 20th, Arabs and Indians for example were grouped as white people.
I didn't know that native americans and arabs use to be considered white. That explains much.
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Postby Old Bear » Sat Apr 19, 2008 6:40 am

According to what I know of history, the American Indians were often referred to as the 'Red Man' in contemporary writings, so while arabic appearance is open to debate, I don't think American Indian appearance is quite so straightforward.

I still believe that Howard was firmly placing his Picts as American woodland natives from the Seven Years War period.
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