Fictional Representations of Romani People - Literature

Literature

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (1596) – Which includes the lines "Sees Helen's beauty in the brow of Egypt", Egypt is used to refer to the Romani people of England. In the context that imagining the face of a lover can make the dark-skinned Gypsy look like Helen of Troy a great beauty.
  • As You Like It a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare (1600) – Shakespeare uses the word "dukdame" is a corruption or mishearing of the old Romanichal word dukka me or (I foretell or I tell fortunes).
  • Othello by William Shakespeare (1603) – Desdemona's handkerchief a gift to Othello's mother is a gift from a Gypsy "Egyptian charmer" who can almost read the thoughts of people.
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1611) – The only human inhabitant of the mythical island the character Caliban is thought to be named after the word Kaliban meaning black or with blackness in the English Romani language. As the first Romani immigrants arrived in England a century before Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, it is thought he may have been influenced by their exotic looks. In this time Romanies in England were targeted for discrimination.
  • 1613: Miguel de Cervantes' novel La Gitanilla
  • 1631: Ben Jonson's play Bartholomew Fair. A comedy set in London's Bartholomew Fair where a band of Romani entertain a crowd.
  • 18th century: William Wordsworth's Vagrant Muse. A young homeless woman is welcomed by a band of Gypsies who take her in and offer her charity and companionship.
  • 1722: Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders. Moll's earliest memory is of wandering "among a group of people they call Gypsies or Egyptians" in England.
  • 19th century: Guy de Maupassant's short stories. Romani appear in several short stories by the French writer .
  • 19th century: John Clare's Vagabond in a Native Place. A selection of poems romanticizing the lives, culture, and wanderings of the English Gypsy people.
  • 1815: Jane Austen's Emma. Gypsies make a brief appearance in Emma as children who bait Harriet in a lonely lane. Austin's description of the Gypsies is romanticized.
  • 1815: Walter Scott's novel Guy Mannering.
  • 1823: Walter Scott's novel Quentin Durward. Called Bohemians.
  • 1831: Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • 1841: Charles Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop. Describes the first literary mention of an English Romanichal vardo or wagon.
  • 1845: Prosper Mérimée's short story "Carmen", upon which the opera was based.
  • 1847: Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is described as looking like and presumed to be one by several characters, although this is never confirmed or denied.
  • 1847: Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. English Romanies visit Thornfield Manor as fortune tellers.
  • 1853: Matthew Arnold's "The Scholar Gypsy". A poem based on a legend recounted by Joseph Glanvill in The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), on the thoughts and reflections of Gypsies' relationship, belief in, and relationship with God.
  • 1856: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's verse novel Aurora Leigh. Marian Erle is Rom.
  • 1857: George Borrow's novels Lavengro and The Romany Rye
  • 1860: George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss. The protagonist Maggie runs away to Gypsies, but decides she has gone out of her depth. They do not harm her, but the episode darkly prefigures the steps that she will take in adulthood.
  • 1875: Georges Bizet's opera Carmen.
  • 1892: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Speckled Band.
  • 1897: Bram Stoker's Dracula. Features a group of Romanies working for the Count.
  • 1902: E. Nesbit's Five Children and It. The children run into a band of English Gypsies on the road.
  • 1908: Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Toad owner of Toad Hall, an impulsive and conceited character, buys a horse-drawn English Gypsy vardo.
  • 1911: Saki's short story "Esme" (included in The Chronicles of Clovis). Features a degrading depiction of a Gypsy child that is used to foreground the heartless nature of the English aristocrats.
  • 1926: D H Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy. A young Romani hero is a useful antidote to a rigid social class system.
  • 1930: Hermann Hesse's novel Narcissus and Goldmund. Features a Romani girl called Lisa.
  • 1943-1978: Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine books. A Gypsy family (Reuben, Miranda and Fenella) are friends and allies from the Lone Pine Club's members specially from the tomboy girl and the club's vice captain Petronella Sterling.
  • 1940: Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. Featured a Romani named Rafael.
  • 1947: The Nancy Drew Mystery Story The Clue in the Old Album. Some of the main characters are Gypsies.
  • 1956: Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians. After escaping from Cruella De Vil's country house, the dogs are nearly trapped by an old Gypsy woman who wants to sell them. Her horse helps the dogs escape again.
  • 1957: Ian Fleming's James Bond novel From Russia, with Love. Set in a Gypsy encampment in Turkey, features a traditional fight to the death between two Gypsy girls vying for the affection of the same man.
  • 1958: Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch. Features a description of the lifestyle of the Romnichals of the UK during the civil war.
  • 1963: Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin comic book The Castafiore Emerald. Features several Romani characters and a few Romani words. This graphic novel is very sympathetic to the Romani characters.
  • 1967: Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • 1971, 1972: Martin Cruz Smith's Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy.
  • 1972: Rumer Godden's children's book The Diddakoi (also published as Gypsy Girl). Winner of the Whitbread Award. Adapted for television by the BBC as Kizzy.
  • 1975: Roald Dahl's children's book Danny, the Champion of the World. A young boy lives with his father in a traditional English vardo, although it is unclear if the protagonist Danny and his father are themselves Romanichal and admire the culture or prefer the lifestyle.
  • 1978–present: The Star Wars Expanded Universe books. A race of aliens known as the Ryn possess many stereotypical Gypsy traits, including clan family structures, wanderer natures, reputations as thieves and more.
  • 1981, 1988: Robertson Davies's novels The Lyre of Orpheus and The Rebel Angels. Feature major characters who maintain Romani traditions, including the care and repair of musical instruments, in modern Canada.
  • 1983: Tim Powers' novel The Anubis Gates. Features a band of Romanies led by Egyptian magicians and utilizes quite a few expressions from the Romani language.
  • 1984: Stephen King's novel Thinner. Includes the classic plot device of the Romani curse. It was also made into a movie.
  • 1985: Charles de Lint's novel Mulengro. Contemporary fantasy portrayal of the Romani and their cultural myths.
  • 1986: Robert Silverberg's Star of Gypsies. A Sci-Fi epic about the King of the Romanies searching out the long lost Romany home star system.
  • 1987: Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. The latter half of features the Romani in a hugely positive light, most prominent in Being A Green Mother.
  • 1987: John Crowley's Ægypt cycle. Much of the narrative of unfolds from an encounter with a Gypsy fortune-teller, and revolves around the question of why people believe Romanies can tell the future.
  • 1987: Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn series. A fantasy fiction novel about the land of men and beings destroyed by what they call the "Great White". This story includes many Gypsies, and how the townspeople are very jealous of their very good living.
  • 1988–present: Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. Features a fictional race of people based loosely on the Romani, even to the extent of using Romani language; most prominent in the Vows and Honor books.
  • 1992: Joe Gores's "32 Cadillacs"
  • 1995: The Parsley Parcel by Elizabeth Arnold is a children's novel set among Gypsies in the English New Forest and was the basis for a seven-part TV series in 2001.
  • 1995-2000: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Features a nomadic race called the Gyptians. Gyptians are roughly the equivalent of Gypsies in our universe, with the exception that they use narrowboats in place of caravans. Throughout the books they are portrayed as good and kindly people.
  • 1996-2001: Tad Williams' Otherland series of science fiction books. A Romani character and references to Romani appear as nomads who disregard the borders of an advanced virtual reality cyberspace.
  • 1999: Bernard Ashley's novel "Johnnie's Blitz" features a Gypsy caravan.
  • 1999: Ana Castillo's novel Peel My Love Like an Onion.
  • 1999: Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal. A member of a seemingly Romani band of travellers is hired by Inspector Pazzi to pickpocket Hannibal Lecter, in order to lift a fingerprint.
  • 1999: Joanne Harris's novel Chocolat (and the 2000 film based on the novel), features a group of French river gypsies.
  • 2001: Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series of fantasy novels. Includes the Tsingani, based on the Roma.
  • 2001: James Herbert's novel Once. A wiccan called Nell Quick is described as alluring and dressed in the manner of a Gypsy woman. She is noted for her extremely beautiful looks and raven-colored dark hair. The novel never fully explains her origins or if she is connected to the Gypsies.
  • 2005: Isabel Allende's novel Zorro. Features a clan of Romanies who ally themselves with the titular hero in post-Napoleonic Spain.
  • 2005: Edith Layton's novel Gypsy Lover. Daffyd, the illegitimate son of a noblewoman and a Gypsy, returns to England from a penal colony in Botany Bay to pardon and clear the name of his adopted father the Earl of Egremont.
  • 2006–present: Rob Thurman's novel series, The Cal Leandros Series. The lead character, and his brother, are both half-Romani on their mother's side.
  • 2007: Lisa Kleypas's novel Mine Till Midnight, and its companion Seduce Me At Sunrise. Feature two half-Romani male protagonists.
  • 2007: Nikki Poppen's The Romany Heiress. The heir to the Earl of Spelthorne is captivated by the arrival of a beautiful Gypsy shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his deceased parents’ long lost daughter.
  • 2007: Colum McCann's novel Zoli. Explores the life of a fictional Slovak Romani artist.
  • 2007: Paulo Coelho's novel The Witch of Portobello. The character Athena's biological mother is a Gypsy.
  • 2007: In Sally Gardner's novel The Red Necklace, the main character Yann and his companion Têtu are Gypsy along with the antagonist Kalliovski.
  • 2007: Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series ("Silent in the Grave," "Silent in the Sanctuary," "Silent on the Moor," "Dark Road to Darjeeling," "Dark Inquiry") feature Nicholas Brisbane as the protagonist. Brisbane is the son of a reprobate Scottish nobleman and a Gypsy woman with the power of sight. Throughout the series, a number of Gypsy characters feature prominently.
  • 2007, 2008: Kate Wild's teenage/young adult novels FightGame and FireFight. Thrillers with a science fiction overtone featuring a young Gypsy protagonist called Freedom Smith.
  • 2008: James Rollins' novel The Last Oracle. Cmdr. Gray Pierce must stop a rogue group in Russia from using autistic savant Gypsy descendants from being used as weapons.
  • 2010: Sonia Meyer's upcoming novel Dosha.

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