Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Memory Bank: Elastolin Knights (1977 - 1980)

When I was eight years-old in late 1977, my father constructed as a gift for me a huge wooden, Medieval Castle.   It was an amazing, multi-story, multi-part affair, replete with Banquet Hall-type furniture and a throne room…all built entirely from scratch.

Alas, I no longer have that castle.  It was sold some decades ago -- in the early 1990s? -- when the family moved from Glen Ridge, New Jersey to North Carolina, I believe.  It was a colossal toy, so it was unlikely to have survived the trip intact.

But that awesome castle of my childhood was populated entirely by amazing figurines: Elastolin Knights and Elastolin Normans.

These toys were painstakingly painted and detailed by my father, who, as I’ve written before, is a remarkable modeler.  He essentially gave me two armies worth of them.

Historically, Elastolin is a trademark of a German company called Hausser.  It has been in business since 1904, and the name “Elastolin” has become a kind of generic term for composite or plastic “toy soldiers.”  

Over the years the company manufactured knights, cowboys, modern soldiers and other high-quality toys.

The 1980 catalog from Elastolin, for example, reveals a number of the painted figures that my Dad assembled and painted, and which I still own.  These figurines are painted on the underside of the stands with the numbers “77” and "78" (by my Dad), so I’m pretty sure my memory is right.  It was 1977 -- for Christmas -- when I first began getting these.

Among the figures you can see photographed below are Prince Valiant, Princess Aleta, and Sir Gawain.  There are also a number of invading Norman soldiers.  As you can also detect, these figures came with different weapons: swords, spears, hatchets…you name it.  I’m not a hundred percent certain, but I think some of these were custom-made by my Dad.  Mostly, I hope you can also detect the incredible level of detail my father was able to highlight on these tiny figures.

To my surprise and delight, I discovered that in 2008, my father has also collected some unassembled Elastolin Knights for Joel, my now five-year old son.  I am already planning to pass on my entire collection to Joel.  But to learn that  these 1977 models will supplemented by my father’s  new work – painted some thirty-five years after he assembled and painted them for me -- really makes me happy.

I had great adventures with these knights, a long time ago, and I hope Joel will have the same experience.


  1. Anonymous2:28 PM

    John, the Medieval Elastolin Knights and Elastolin Normans figures are impressive. Your son is fortunate that your father and you have compiled such a collection. I have always liked the Medieval history era, especially the architecture of the castles. Your thoughtful father’s Medieval Castle that he built for you in 1977 sounds awesome. By any chance do you have a photograph of it to post here?


    1. Hi SGB,

      I asked my Dad if we had a photograph, and he thinks we do, but he hasn't been able to locate one yet. The moment we do, I'll post it for sure!!!

      I do feel fortunate to have the collection, and to be able to pass it on to Joel. We also have (not pictured) a siege tower and a catapult for the knights, also from Elastolin.

      Today, Joel and I actually played with a few of these, so it was a special day...

      Thank you for a wonderful comment, my friend.



  2. Your father has inspired me. I've had the crazy notion of building my son a dragon he can climb on because he loves them so much. Now I'm going to do it.

    1. Alberto,

      That is such a beautiful thing to see, and it pleases me to no end that you were inspired by my wonderful Dad. I am so glad you are going to do it, and make your son's dreams come true. Send me a picture when you're done, seriously. Being a Dad is the greatest thing in the world, isn't it?

      Good luck building that dragon...