The Dwarf’s Head


This is a work in progress. Containing text, illustration, “Gothic” music and dance in notation, and combining magic realism with satire, this literary novel is an account of the fourth-century Gothic king Ermanaric told from the viewpoint of Scribonius, the king’s slave tutor and then factotum, an albino from Reatia. His position at the Gothic court is suddenly threatened by the arrival of a small Etruscan dwarf’s head, a living bodiless head reputed to contain all the knowledge and wisdom of the ancient druids. Ermanaric’s rule itself is seriously threatened when the rivalry between factotum and head in the name of enlightenment spirals out of control.

Textual Excerpt

Here is a snippet from chapter 1, wherein the teacher (new-come Scribonius) is “taught”:


(The name Ansiko means literally ‘little god’ in Gothic.)

Musical Excerpts

A number of Gothic songs and instrumental melodies recorded in Ancient Greek letter-notation were included by Scribonius, but most are incomplete in one way or another. Some of these melodies were later reworked as string-ensemble miniatures by an obscure (i.e., fictive) Scottish composer named Seumas MacFhionghain (1839?-1918), who had access to Bleibtreu’s early-nineteenth-century manuscript edition of Scribonius’ now lost original. In reworking these originals, MacFhionghain altered their character, but with much in the novel (and in life), representation is ultimately misrepresentation.

“Baris Standiþ”

The song “Baris Standiþ” (‘The Barley Stands’) was “originally” composed by the court musician Hugilaiks to help Ermanaric (or Airmanareiks, to give the Gothic form) overcome worry and sleeplessness—a kind of lullaby for the overstressed, if you will—when things begin to fall apart. Here is a two-part a cappella arrangement performed by Donna Greenberg (and the first of a number of pieces that will make up the projected CD album The Songs of Gothia). You can listen to the recording here (3:28);  just click the white arrow-head (or download it here):


Here is a MIDI mock-up of MacFhionghain’s orchestral version (1:09):