“Oh! the helmet! the helmet!”
The scene that sets the entire novel in motion is the imminent marriage of Conrad and Matilda.
When Conrad, Prince Manfred’s darling son, fails to show up for his own wedding, the prince sends servants out to find him. They call out, “Oh! the helmet! the helmet!” He goes to see what has happened:
“Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what, he advanced hastily; but, what a sight for a father’s eyes! He beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, a hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black feathers.”
(Illustration: Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story [London 1825], plate on p. 3.)