LEGO Castle has been around for 40 years, making it a very special year for the brick world of castles, jousting and heroic adventure
In 1978, the LEGO Group launched 375 Castle. When the late Daniel August Krentz designed this model, there was no way that he – or the company – could have realised that this would spark one of the most enduring LEGO themes.
The yellow castle is one of the most iconic early LEGO sets, for fans of a certain age representing a childhood connection. It was the only set in the Castle theme – if it could even be called a theme at that point – released in 1978. The minifigures used helmets, swords and axes that would continue to be found in LEGO sets for decades. Unlike many of the sets that would follow, the horses were brick built and the colour scheme was rather bright.
Within a few years, the LEGO Castle theme began to develop. The minifigures – that were new in 1978, the same year that the theme launched – allowed further bespoke pieces to be introduced, including the iconic horse that would be used hundreds of times over the years. Different factions of knights were introduced, with new designs and symbols for the flags and shields. Different types of buildings and vehicles expanded the world, with inns, blacksmith shops and carriages.
Different fans, depending on when they grew up, have different experiences of the Castle theme. The Lion Knights, Black Knights and Dragon Knights all represented the main faction of knights over the years, giving fans the opportunity to role play battling houses. Beyond that, the Forestmen and Wolfpack really expanded the limits of what LEGO Castle could be, bringing an extra element to the storytelling.
An extra dose of magic and mysticism also became a part of LEGO Castle, with the earliest example being the introduction of ghosts. The fondly remembered ghost is based on a standard minifigure, with the LEGO equivalent of a white sheet thrown over it. Merlin, the dragon, the witch and the bat all pushed how far the theme would go into fantasy, borrowing ideas from some of the literature in that genre.
Although it was an annual staple for the majority of the time since that 1978 introduction, the modern era has seen appearances of the LEGO Castle theme be more sporadic, with odd deviations such as Knights’ Kingdom II fuse a futuristic look with traditional elements. Thankfully, during a resurgence for the theme that began in 2007, it was much closer to the roots that fans loved. 2013 was the last year that the theme was available, with little hope for its return until the NEXO KNIGHTS theme has come to an end.
Running for so many years has made Castle a theme that has touched many LEGO fans during childhood, today playing on the nostalgia strings. It brings to life physically an imaginative world of castles, battles, jousting and dragons, that usually only exists in books and films, encouraging fans to expand on it and build ever more immersive LEGO landscapes.
Brick Fanatics will be lowering the drawbridge for a LEGO Castle celebration during 2018, so be sure to check back for special features focused on the theme’s anniversary.
Graham was the BrickFanatics.com Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education.
Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.