The original LEGO
castle theme. Along with LEGO Space
and LEGO City
, this is by far the longest-running of all LEGO Themes
The earliest sets appeared in 1978-1979 and were among the first to feature more specialized building parts outside of the usual bricks and minifigures (new items included simple-shaped medieval helmets and melee weapons like halberds, lances and shields). Sets from the first half of the 1980s started to get more sophisticated and added a lot more unique parts including swords and - notably - purpose-built horse models (despite a small esthetic overhaul in the 1990s, the basic template for LEGO horses hasn't really changed all that much for 30 years
It received a Spinoff
in the early 2000s, titled Knights' Kingdom
, even though it had little to do with the original Knights' Kingdom subtheme.
Eras and sub-themes (often based on a respective faction) in chronological order:
- LEGOLAND Castle or just Castle (1978-1983) - the original showcased a generic medieval kingdom with sets revolving around generic medieval locations and events (e.g. castles, jousts, men-at-arms escorting wagons); as evidenced by the title, it is often distinguished from the sub-themes that came after it by the "LEGOLAND" prefix (named after a common feature of LEGO box art from the 1980s and early 1990s).
- Crusaders (1984-1992) - the first somewhat more specific theme that evolved from the original, the Crusaders were a heroic faction locked in battle against the Black Falcons; their heraldic figure was a lion
- Black Falcons (1984-1988) - introduced alongside the Crusaders, the Black Falcons served as the first antagonistic faction of LEGO Castle and constantly battled against the Crusaders and, later, the Black Knights. Their heraldic figure was a falcon.
- The Forestmen (1987-1990) - the first outlaw sub-theme, with Loveable Rogue bandits in the style of Robin Hood. Their heraldic figure was a deer.
- Black Knights (1988-1992) - notable for showing a kingdom ruled by "The Black Monarch" and The Teutonic Knights-like Order of Black Knights, featuring a lot of cultural elements from the Baltic, north German and Scandinavian Middle Ages (LEGO being a Danish company, this is probably intentional). Their heraldic figure was a blue dragon.
- Wolfpack Renegades (1992) - the second, more grittier and morally grey outlaw sub-theme. Their heraldic figure was a silver wolf head.
- Dragon Masters (1993-1995) - a group of dragon-themed Magic Knights (complete with dragon-themed horse armor), who had assistance from the Merlin-like wizard Majisto and several tamed dragons (this sub-theme is notable for introducing the wizard minifig accessories, unique horse armor and the iconic LEGO dragon figure with detachable red wings). The Knights' heraldic figure was (of course) a green dragon with red wings.
- Royal Knights (1995-1997) - the introduction of King Richard and his brave and gentlemanly Royal Knights, a very straight example of The Kingdom. Their heraldic figure was a roaring lion head with a crown.
- Dark Forest (1996) - short-lived subtheme expanding on the previous two bandit subthemes.
- Fright Knights (1997-1998) - a campier villainous faction than its predecessors, featuring Willa the Witch, Basil the Bat Lord, black dragons, spookier castles and the titular successors to the Dragon Masters, who had a prominent bat motif going on (from armor and helmets to various tiny details on their architecture), with a bat being their obvious heraldic figure.
- Ninja (1998-1999) - Spinoff with a Jidai Geki / Wutai setting.
- Knights' Kingdom (1999-2000) - best described as a revival of the Royal Knights theme with some updated esthetics, King Leo gained a formidable new enemy in the cunning warlord Cedric the Bull, who led a rebel army with higher than usual morale and an excellent arsenal of various siege engines. Bull's heraldic figure was a red-eyed black bull head; this sub-theme also received a (pretty much forgotten) video game adaptation.
- Knights' Kingdom 2 (2004-2006) - a major departure from the usual formula, taking place in a more fantastic and magic-based setting with a very character-driven storyline as the knights of Morcia defend their kingdom from the forces of Lord Vladek; this theme was also notable for several lines of BIONICLE-esque action figures.
- Castle (2007-2009) - intended as a return to the series typical style and as a Continuity Reboot of sorts, with King Revet defending his kingdom from the undead armies of the evil wizard Mallock the Malign. The line also features dwarf and troll factions, with the former allying with the Western Kingdom, while the latter aligns with Mallock.
- Kingdoms (2010-2012) - departing from the more fantastic themes of Knights' Kingdom 2 and Castle, Kingdoms returns to LEGO Castle's roots and depicts the war between the Lion Knights and the Dragon Knights in a more realistic fashion.
- Castle (2013) - returning to the more fantastic themes of the 2007 Castle line, the newer line features yet another group of Lion knights defending their kingdom from the attacks of yet another group of Dragon knights (this time led by another evil wizard with actual dragons).
Tropes used in this LEGO theme include:
- Adaptational Heroism/Adaptational Villainy: Basil the Bat Lord and the Fright Knights. In North America, Basil and the Fright Knights were Obviously Evil and worked for Willa the Witch. In Europe, Count Batlord and the Fright Knights were heroes who defended their kingdom from the evil Wicked Witch (whose name varied from region to region, including Hubble Bubble, Izralda, and Hylia).
- Animal Motifs: The various heraldic creatures of the different factions. Wolves, lions, bulls, dragons, bats, you name it. A subversion were the Black Knights, who used a blue-colored wyvern in their coat of arms, despite their name.
- Art Evolution: More unique and specialized items, accessories and minifigs (horses, ghosts, skeletons, witches, wizards, dragons, medieval weaponry and armor) got gradually introduced as the years went on. A good example of this is the case of the horses, which overlaps with Early-Installment Weirdness : The horses from the late 1970s sets were still abstract constructs made from LEGO bricks until proper horse minifigs were introduced in the early 1980s.
- BFS: Lord characters always wielded bigger and shinier swords than the regular soldiers.
- Call Back: The Fright Knights line came after the Royal Knights and Dark Forest lines, but a Royal Knight and a Dark Forestman both appear in the Fright Knights sets as prisoners.
- Captain Ersatz: While Robin Hood himself appeared as the leader of the Forestmen, the leader of the Dark Forest merry men was named Rob 'N' Hood instead.
- Cool Horse: Since the 1990s, the various factions often had unique horse armor at their disposal.
- Cool Ship:
- The Black Knights were the only faction to prefer coastal or river environments and owned quite a lot of ships and boats. The biggest ship set of the castle theme, the war cog "Sea Serpent", fully fits this trope.
- The 2007-2009 Castle line features the Skeleton Ship and the Troll Warship.
- Crossover: The Fright Knights surprisingly featured numerous crossovers with the concurrent UFO theme. It was hinted at in a commercial advertising the two lines, and then expanded upon in a series of comics in the LEGO World Club magazine.
- The Engineer: Cedric the Bull's faction sure loves building various siege engines.
- Dark Is Not Evil:
- Possibly the Black Knights. Unlike their predecessors, the Black Falcons, they are never seen directly in combat with the heroic Crusaders, but instead show up at the local jousts.
- Count Batlord and the Fright Knights, but only in the European version of the story.
- Dub Name Change:
- The Wicked Witch of the Fright Knights goes by many names, including Willa (North America), Hylia (Denmark), Hubble Bubble (United Kingdom), and Izralda (Germany).
- The Bat Lord is named Basil in North America and Count Batlord in Europe.
- The Dragon: Basil the Bat Lord to Willa the Witch in the North American story.
- Dragon Rider:
- Majisto the Wizard, Basil the Bat Lord, and even Cedric the Bull.
- In the 2007 line, one of Mallock's skeletons rides a black dragon while one of Revet's knights rides a green dragon.
- Played with by Willa the Witch. She doesn't ride on the back of a dragon, but a dragon carries the Witch's Windship around.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Played almost completely straight. Several of the Ninja sets had early Japanese firearms and one of Cedric Bull's siege engines looked and worked awfully like a cannon.
- Feudal Overlord: The rebellious Cedric the Bull.
- Gang of Hats: All the factions, some by attitudes, some by their preferences for certain types of weaponry, some by the use of magic, etc.
- The Good King: King Richard, King Leo, and King Revet. In fact, before LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers revealed his name, King Revet was only known as the "Good King" on the LEGO Castle website.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: The Dragon Masters and Fright Knights lines.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Well, duh, the Ninja line. However, despite the title, a lot of the sets from this line also contains Samurai-themed sets and minifigs. The line could be more accurately called "LEGO does feudal Japan", but Ninja was apparently a shorter title... and, you know, more awesome sounding.
- Jidai Geki: While the European-themed sets are grounded in a realistic Medieval European Fantasy world, the Ninja sets play this trope for all its worth.
- Katanas Are Just Better: They feature prominently in the Ninja sets, but this gets subverted by the presence of various other medieval Japanese weaponry. Besides, the swords look "generic Japanese" enough to possibly represent various other actual sword types similar to katana, but not the same as them.
- Long Runner: One of the three longest-running LEGO themes. Also, a lot of the still-being-used medieval and creature models.
- Loveable Rogue: The Forestmen. The Wolfpack were a more sinister bunch of outlaws.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Though some of the factions have a certain degree of Fantasy Counterpart Culture to them, they are mostly "generic medieval". E.g. King Richard's Royal Knights and the Forestmen play this straight (generic western European kingdom and generic Robin Hood-style outlaws), but the Black Knights are a more concrete analogue of a real historical group (Baltic/German / Scandinavian-style nobles and knights with an affinity for sailing ships and coastal castles).
- Point Defenseless: Averted by King Leo's castle, which includes defensive catapults to counter an enemy's barrage.
- Public Domain Character: The leader of the Forestmen was Robin Hood himself.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Fright Knights, the Bull Knights, Mallock the Malign's army, and the 2013 Dragon Knights all use this color scheme.
- Shown Their Work: Granted, there are lots of fantastical and kid-friendly elements present in the theme, but a lot of the architectural, ship, siege engine and weapon designs are rather period-accurate or at least realistic.
- Siege Engines: Featured as early as the second and third generation (Crusaders and Black Falcons), but Cedric the Bull from the Knights' Kingdom era took this Up to Eleven (to the point of it being his gang's hat). The Dragon Masters also had a large trebuchet-like catapult with stylized dragon decorations.
- Spinoff: First the Ninja theme (regarded as the main theme's Asian cousin), then Knights' Kingdom 2.
- Ye Goode Olde Days: Granted, this is Medieval European Fantasy for kids, so despite some obligatory level of grittiness, don't expect any Darker and Edgier hyper-realistic portrayals of the Middle Ages.
- Wicked Witch: Willa the Witch from the Fright Knights line.
- Word Salad Title: One of the sets from the Crusaders sub-theme era was called "Dungeon Hunters". Furthermore, a small Royal Knights set showcasing King Richard and his personal weaponry was titled "Royal King".