Retro Review: 6034 Black Monarch’s Ghost [and who were they, anyway?]

We recently took a look at aspects of the Classic Castle theme, in the LEGOLAND era. Now, in the Rambling Brick household, there is actually a distressing paucity of Castle sets from any era: By the time that the Castle Era was getting under way, with the arrival of the Crusaders and Black Falcons in 1984, I was well on my way to descending into my Dark Ages,

As such, virtually all Castle sets that I own are purchases I have made in recent years.

Today, we are going to take a look at a small set from 1990, 6034 Black Monarch’s Ghost. This set is one of two sets from 1990 that featured the new ghost minifigure. It’s a small set, with only 43 pieces, and features a number of aspects that make it a truly classic Castle set.

I may well get distracted, trying to reconcile the identity of the ghost, with the name of the set.

Set on a 6×6 green plate, the set incorporates 2 black diagonal panels, elements for an arched doorway, a horse and one of the new (at the time) birds in dark grey. Many elements (18 out of the 43) included are incorporated in the two minifigures, as well as the horse, its saddle and infill

Construction starts with the minifigures: A knight: black torso with a printed silver breast plate,black legs with red hips; a classic smiley face and a black motorcycle helmet. The visor and breast plate elements (both appearing in dark grey here) both appeared for the first time in 1990. The Knight’s shield features a dragon with blue body and yellow wings on a red field, surrounded by a blue border. this shield first featured in 6085 Black Monarch’s castle from 1988, and signifies that it is wielded by one of the Black Knights.

The Ghost figure consists of a black head on a white torso with white hands and, rather than regular legs, stands on a 1×2 white brick. The glow in the dark shroud element is a slightly milky colour, which has a decidedly green hue in the dark. There are wrinkles to be found front and back, and there is a smile shape cut out, to give the ghost a happy demeanour.

Here is the happy 90’s ghost (left) side by side with 2012’s updated mould from the Monster Hunter’s Haunted House. The plastic is certainly more translucent compared with the newer element, which has a grumpier demeanour, a brighter glow, and a peak at the back of the shroud.

The build itself is fairly simple:

Starting with a green 6×6 plate, we build up walls using the angled panels, which sit on 1×2 technic bricks, allowing connection to adjacent buildings.We build up pillars at the front, incorporating hinge elements for the arched doorway, and cap the pillars off with an arch. We add doors, and it is revealled that the clip on the side can be attached directly to a lance, with a flag flying.

This construction is fairly simple, and provides enough room for the ghost inside.

Of course, the ghost sits on tiles rather than studs, so can be difficult to place accurately, but simple to move in and out.

Finally, we fit out the horse: One of the curiosities I noticed is that the saddle in the instructions intermittently omitted the clips from the saddle, even though they were present on the saddle I had. In some varients of the saddle element, there is only one clip present, rather than two.

The final result : a black knight, with his horse, a shield and lance (acting as a flag pole); a small dungeon containing a ghost, with closing doors. To say nothing of the bird: probably not black enough to be intended as a raven,

But Who Haunts the Tower? Or Whose Ghost Is It Anyway?

This set was referred to as “The Black Monarch’s Ghost” in some markets. This title brings a number of questions to mind:

  • Is this ghost the unearthly remains of the Black Monarch? And as such, was the Monarch a King or Queen?
  • Or is the Black Knight in fact the Monarch in question, and the Ghost merely their pet?

Now, this set is not the first to be named after the Black Monarch. That privilege goes to set 6085 Black Monarch’s Fortress, released in 1998. In fact, the Technic pins at the base opf the tower in “The Black Monarch’s Ghost” are designed to connect with that particular set. Unfortunately, things might not be so clearly defined: In the UK, for example 6085 was referred to simply as “The Black Fortress”

The Knight present in that set bears a striking resemlance in many ways to the knight in our ghost set:

We have the same basic figure elements, and they both have the red plume. The older figure 9left) has a helmet with a fixed mask, and a cape, while the (slightly) newer version brings a visor on a motorcycle helmet, as well as a new suit of armor to wear.

Now… is the black knight included in the older set also the Black Monarch? And should we presume that he is the same knight seen in the ghost set? Or his predecessor? In later years, the title ‘monarch’ would be easily confirmed by the minifigure wearing a crown.

In the late ’80s/early ’90s, the story telling employed by the LEGO Group was different to what we see today. Rather than a 10 year run of an animated series such as Ninjago to provide us with the background to all the castles, mechs, vehicles and dragons, you would only capture a glimpse from the LEGO Catalogue, magazine advertisements and publications such as Bricks ‘n Pieces. And in the Spring 1998 issue, the Black Knight – appearing here with Black Falcons livery – has built the Black Fortress,and is ready to take on the forces of Robin Hood. I suspect this picture involves a prototype of 6085, as it is also populated with Black falcons and crusaders, to say nothing of older shiled designs, not seen in this set or since!

Tthanks to the Brickset Catalogue archive, we can see that different markets referred to 6085 in different ways:

Minifigure CAS175 Black Knight

Now, I feel it is probably fair to consider that the Knight in black – with red hips, cape and ablack helmet – is the one in charge of The Black Fortress, and so might be considered to be The Black Monarch. Where have we seen this figure before? In 6073 (Knights Castle) and 6074 Black Falcon’s Fortress we see that same figure: cape, black torso with armour print; black legs with red hips and black cage fronted helmet. Only the colour of their helmet plumes vary, and he carries a Black Falcons’ shield. In 1584, we see a similar figure, now carrying a Black Knights’ shield, while riding a horse covered with the Black Knights’ barding. Just as he appears in 6085.

The relationship between the Black Falcons and the Black Knights does not appeared to have been clearly defined over the years. However, after looking at all of these, as well as the image from Bricks ‘N Pieces, I am quite confident that the Black Knight (of Black Fortress fame0 has formed his court from a spliter group of Black Falcons. And I dont think they get along terribly wellwith their former colleagues: 6059 Knight’s Stronghold is designed to attach to the Black Fortress, and while defended by the Black Knights, evidenced by the shields mounted on the wall beside the gate; the aggresors are prouldy carrying the Falcons’ crest.

We do meet more individual Black Knights in 1992: 6009 The Black Knight and 6086 Black Knight’s Castle. These sets bring us both rounded shields and a bearded face.

And so I feel I am left with a quandary, and feeling somewhat befuddled as I attempt to reconcile the identity of the Black Monarch’s ghost…

I see three options:

  • the Knight appearing in 3084 is the the same Black Knight seen previously running with the Black Falcons. And, as such, in possession of the ghost.
  • Should we consider the knight in 3084 Knight to be a new Black Knight, who assassinated his predecessor, and is now being haunted by the original Black Knight’s Ghost?
  • Perhaps we see a succession of Black Knights as Lord of the Castle? Has the Original(or at least his assassin) long retired, and now living like a king in retirement, having passed his title and ‘haunting ghost’ on to his successors? And does the ghost realise it is no longer haunting the same Black Knight?

Personally, I like the Idea that the Black Monarch was the original Black Knight (formerly of the Black Falcons) and subsequently killed by his successor. Even if it is a little dark for a children’s toy.

In my previous post, I suggested that LEGO Catalogues did not provide for plots as complicated as Game of Thrones. I may have been mistaken on this subject. I am pretty sure someone in marketing just thought they were being clever with the title ‘Black Monarch’s Ghost’. Trying to chase down the identity of the Monarch, or indeed (if it is different) that of the ghost, has been a little harder than anticipated.

Back to the original subject of this review: This is a classic, albeit small set, with loads of play value. It is designed to be connected to the side of the black fortress, or any other large castle wall with a technic brick on the side. The ghost is a classic, the Knight is a fine figure, showing off the latest elements of his day. I remain intrigued by the bird: was it intended to represent a Black Falcon? Or a grey pigeon? The story telling involved here does, however, open a can of worms. I give the set 3.5/5 Arbitrary Praise units.

How have you reconciled the Black Knight/Black Monarch paradox? Please leave your comments below, and until next time…

Play Well!

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: 6034 Black Monarch’s Ghost [and who were they, anyway?]

  1. Thanks for this thorough investigation – never thought about such things as a child, and I was growing too old to (want to) buy castle sets in the mid 80s anyway…

    Note that “Het Zwarte Ridderslot «Drakenburg»” is all Dutch, there’s no German name in this image. Then again, taking a look into the German catalog from 1988, it’s called “Schwarze Drachenburg” there, “black dragon castle”.

    Like

  2. Excellent review of my first castle set and a great way to get the new pieces from that year. I always assumed that the ghost was guarding a passageway into the Black Monarch’s Castle (Black Dragon Castle in West Germany).
    In my humble opinion the Black Knight was the leader of the Black Falcons, while the ghost is the deceased Black Monarch.

    Liked by 1 person

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