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The Battle of Cannae in 216 BC was of one of the bloodiest and tactically most brilliant battles in ancient history, one of Rome’s most traumatic defeats by the hands and mind of Hannibal Barca.

Darkness over Cannae tells the story of this battle from seven perspectives – four Carthaginian, three Roman.

Spanning a single day on August 2nd, 216 BC, from just before daybreak to a few hours after sundown, the novel takes the reader through the anticipation of battle and the courage-bolstering on both sides, the careful planning, the agonising hours of ten thousands of men being deployed for battle, the different stages of the battle as the tides turn and triumph changes to disaster in the blink of an eye, to the bloody conclusion, in which the horrors of triumph and the shock of defeat begin to merge.

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144 pages, softcover. With 77 illustrations by the author (at least one on every double page). Recommended for mature readers – there is some strong language, and a lot of violence in the texts and in the images, quite obviously.


The idea of writing an “eyewitness” account about the Battle of Cannae crossed my mind when I read Gregory Daly’s “Cannae – the experience of battle in the Second Punic War”. I have been fascinated by the Carthaginian for most of my life – since I was thirteen, to be precise, and this was a major factor in my life choices of studying Latin, with a strong focus on ancient and military history.

Around the same time, I was re-reading Livy, and his description of Hannibal spending the nights sleeping at a watchfire brought the first character of the story full-blown to my mind – the loyal, slightly exasperated bodyguard Bomilkar, scouring the camp for the general and cursing his bad luck. doc_8-9 The idea to make it an illustrated novel was a complete no-brainer, given my previous illustration work. It also, however, proved to be the kill switch for this project where traditional publishing was concerned. I wrote to agents and publishers, and they simply didn’t know what to do with it. There were quite a few who said they liked the story, and the art, but please, not together. Just make it a children’s book. About the Battle of Cannae. Yeah, right. Around the same time, through this page and on Facebook, there was quite a large group of people who really wanted to see this happen – history fans, art appreciators, reenactors, quite a diverse bunch really. So I decided to tackle this all by myself. A small print run of copies for my friends and a couple of people who liked the project, with its idiosyncratic mix of novel and picture book. I put the project up for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, and within seventeen hours, I was funded. Six weeks later, when the campaign was over, I found myself with over three hundred supporters and enough money for a 500 copy print run, a special hardcover edition, a making of booklet, bookmarks and print cards, and 400 Euros for Pro Wildlife to support orphaned elephants in Zambia. The first edition of softcovers sold out within a few months, but as interest in the book has continued since its publication in 2014, I’m on its third (small) print run.

If you want to see what I’m up to after the Cannae project, please follow my main blog: http://www.goldseven.de

“Cannae” makes the news!

Jülicher Zeitung, 28 October 2014.

And watch out for it making the local news on TV soon… ;)



Jülich author re-imagines Hannibal

Until now, Jenny Dolfen was known as an artist of Tolkien characters. Now, the teacher from Koslar has published an exciting book about the battle of Cannae, successfully, although no publisher wanted to print her book.

A comic? Yes, please! A novel? Not bad, either. “But a comic and novel rolled into one – no way.” This is how Jenny Dolfen, from Koslar, describes the reactions of publishing houses she approached about retelling the story about the battle of Cannae in 216 BC, between Hannibal and the Romans, in a new way. “So I’ll do it myself,” Dolfen decided last year. Without a publisher, but very successfully: The 550 copies of the book called „Darkness over Cannae – Hannibal against the might of Rome“ are nearly sold out already. “I’ll probably have to reprint,” Dolfen says, although her book has only been available for two weeks.

The title gives it away: the English and Latin teacher from Haus Overbach has written her book in English. This, and the mix of novel and images aren’t the only factors making her Cannae tale unusual. The battle, in which Hannibal, though heavily outnumbered, inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Romans, is depicted from seven perspectives. Six protagonists are historical characters. These are Hannibal, two of his officers, and three Romans. Hannibal’s bodyguard is an invention of Dolfen’s. The author and illustrator’s book does not exactly make for easy reading. “Mainly, I wanted to portray the experience of seeing an army of 80,000 march up, and in the end, almost 70,000 people are dead.”

Studying the sources

For her book, the 39-year-old has studied the historical accounts of Polybius and Livy, plus the works of modern scholars. It was important to her to get the facts straight. Then she started writing – in English, “because I’ve lived in England for over a year, and have been reading exclusively in English for a very long time.” Most of the work was done over the holidays. During the last summer holidays, she spent all the time on the illustrations, drawing from 8 AM into the evening, every day.

Drawing has always been her passion, as well as mythical stories. Over the past few years, Dolfen has been known among Tolkien fans for illustrating the works of the author of “The Lord of the Rings.” “I wasn’t sure how that group would respond to my sudden switch to Carthaginians,” Dolfen says. She quickly found the answer. When she called for support of her Cannae project, within half an hour, many members of the Tolkien Society had donated. Crowdfunding, this is called. The first supporters drew others, and so over 300 copies were pre-ordered early on. For the more generous donators, there were special treats, like being drawn into the images.

Talking of Tolkien – until recently, Jenny Dolfen was mainly drawing Elves. Carthaginians were not her strong suit. “So I printed out pictures of Tunisian football players and used their faces as inspiration.”

The books are here!


The books are here, and they look absolutely wonderful. Ricarda Truchsess has done an exceptional job on the layout, and the printing came out perfectly. This, guys, is the book that I have been wanting to present to you – and finally I can!

The hardcovers are set to arrive here tomorrow, too – which means loads of sketching, signing, and packing, packing, packing. Give me two to three weeks to get everything bundled up and shipped to you. You can already order your copy here. If you live in Germany, you can catch me at Spielemesse Essen, from 16 to 19 October, in Hall 2, booth A-146, where I’ll be signing and sketching.

I am deliriously happy that everything worked out so well in the end, often against all odds. A huge thank you to all of you who helped make this dream come true!

All illustration work finished!

I’m proud to announce that I have finished all the illustrations – about three weeks before my own deadline!

I can’t give you a publication date yet, but it can’t be that far off – and 15th October is the day it needs to be done, as that is when I’ll take it with me to SPIEL Essen (the great comic and games convention in Essen, Germany).

Possible delay

The recent rainstorms and flooding in Germany have flooded our basement. Books, prints, even one original (“All the others, gone”) destroyed. Luckily, all the Cannae stuff was upstairs, but I’ll be busy with clearing up for a while, and in the hours that remain, I’ll be working on Cannae so I don’t fall too far behind schedule. If I don’t reply to emails, notes, or anything else, forgive me for the time being.

Working, working, working

I’ve been on holidays for two and a half weeks, and I’ve managed to get in about eight to twelve hours of drawing nearly every day. Cannae is making fantastic progress, and if I can keep this up (which I fully intend to), I’ll meet my goal of being done with the drawing part by the end of August.

Some previews (some linearts yet to be painted, some already-finished pencil drawings, some mixes of pencil, coloured pencil and watercolour washes).


Thank you!

The campaign’s over! My dear friends, I’m completely floored by your support, your kind words, your likes and shares and comments and questions, and by the incredible sum of 11,885€ that you helped me raise!

Two months ago, I remember having absolutely no idea where this crowdfunding thing would lead. There were times when I dreamed about 10,000. There were more times where I feared that I’d get stuck at a few hundred. This is something that I would never have believed.

Thank you ALL!

We raised exactly 200€ for elephants in Africa. As I promised earlier, I added another 200, so 400 Euros have gone to an elephant orphanage in Zambia, to an organisation named “Pro Wildlife” (I researched environmental charities with the best records of the money actually being given to the places where it’s needed).    pro-wildlife

I didn’t expect the campaign to be so much work – so many thank you emails to write, and so many fun people to work with for the cameos – so I am slightly behind schedule, but I still hope to have the book out at the end of the year. (I was giving myself some margin; most of that is used up now, but the rest of the images should go faster than the first half – summer holidays are only two weeks away, too).

doc_sketches3 What I’m working on…

Some questions that have been asked over the past weeks:

When can I expect my copy?

I’m working on the images and hope to be done drawing by the end of August, for a publication in October. I will be at Essen Games Fair (Spielemesse Essen) from 16th to 20th October, and will  hopefully bring Cannae along! I will start shipping the copies out around the same time. Prints, bookmarks, and other goodies will be shipped with your copies – it’s the only way to handle things, with over 300 supporters to take care of!

Will the book be available to non-Indiegogo backers too? 

Yes, of course. The regular paperback version will be available over the website and probably through amazon.

Will signed copies and sketches be available? 

I can’t say at this stage – probably not right after publication!

What about the cards and bookmarks?

I am going to add a shopping tool to the site when the books are out; and the bookmarks and cards will be available through that, too, as well as selected prints.

These last seven weeks have probably been the ride of my life (without stirrups or even a four-horned saddle!). Thank you for coming along for it.

Over 5,000 € raised – the ride continues!

Darkness over Cannae has gathered an amazing 5,271 € in its first week on Indiegogo. For a graphic/literature project without a huge name behind it, that’s absolutely incredible, and never, in my wildest dreams, would I have expected anything like this. Dreamed about, maybe – but never realistically.

Thank you, everyone of you who has become part of this rollercoaster!

We’ve passed the first two stretch goals at breakneck speed: The first, at 3,000, meant that every backer of 50€ and above gets a hardcover edition instead of paperback. Everyone else can still upgrade their copy to hardcover, too.

Last night, we passed 5,000: This means that every backer who ordered a physical copy will get three sketch card prints. I’ve already picked out a printing service that does extremely nifty ones, on fancy paper and everything, and you decided that these would be the ones!


And meanwhile, the next stretch goal is 10,000, at which there’ll be a “Beyond Cannae” booklet with concept art, sketches, historical considerations… like a much more convenient version of the website. :) For this, too, feel free to give me your thoughts and ideas!

Pre-order your own copy of the novel here!

Crowdfunding question

Great news! I’ve worked on solving all layout and publishing issues, and the illustration work is going well. I’m going to start a crowdfunding campaign soon, to cover at least part of the production cost, and would love to have your input on what to include in the way of goodie packs!

Please take a minute to answer the poll. If you can think of other things I haven’t included, please leave a comment below.

More than one choice is possible!

About the chance to “become” a (background) character: I’d really love this – to draw supporters from photos and put them into some images. Who wouldn’t want to be a Numidian horseman, or a panicked legionary? The good thing is that a lot of ethnicities would be feasible – from northern Europe to Africa and the Middle East. The downside is: This pretty much excludes female readers. Rather badly. How would you feel about this? Please comment!

As always, if you haven’t already, please “like” Darkness over Cannae on Facebook, to get frequent updates!


Thanks for your help!