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Legendary Myths


Britain is pretty old and has been in continual occupation. When the Romans left and the Anglo Saxons took over they actually believed the stone structures of the Romans were in fact the work of a race of giants and refused to have anything to do with them. In that sort of circumstance it is easy to see how myths and legends can spring up from very little. All very chucklesome as are many of the early legends.

I am a great fan of the myths and legends, pretty wild stories they might well be but they are darn good yarns. Nowadays we tend to pour scorn upon the older myths and legends or have scientists and experts pour vast monies into the solving of them on the basis there is a kernel of truth in even the most lunatic of ideas.

Then at the same time we create our own. Crop circles have to be the classic example in the UK at the moment. The huge weight of evidence suggests they are done by very human beings with very natural planks of wood but that is not good enough for some. Time and time again aliens have to be involved. There are some that accept it is humans having a bit of sport but then take it a bit further and suggest they are under alien influence, very Close Encounters. I suspect a good many are under very different influences. The Anglo Saxons didn't believe in beings from another planet, they believed in giants.

end the page on that sort of lame nonesense

All this means it is hardly surprising, Churchmans, Legends of Britain [1936] is a set I rather enjoy having a look at every now and then.

I rather like stone circles, those prehistoric monuments which were not just the product of a nights high spirits amongst the teenage bronze age population. Pretty ease to see you could believe they were built by giants. Now they are ancient scientific instruments sitting on natural lines of energy which are also handy landing points for UFO's. It is nice to see how our theories reflect our lives rather than the lives of the people that did the building.

Pretty dry stuff but there are more adventurous ideas of how these circles came about and card 11 gives us the story of the circle at Stanton Drew.

Details from Card 11
The Dancers of Stanton Drew
(Somerset)
Many years ago, on a day when Midsummer Eve fell on a Saturday, a wedding party was celebrating the happy occasion by much merry-making. As the night drew on, and midnight struck, the fiddler declared he would play no longer, as the Lord's Day had begun. But the bride boasted she would dance if she had to go to Hell for a musician. At that moment a gaily-dressed fiddler came by, and readily fell in with the party's desire. Yet later, when they were exhausted and wished him to stop, he would not - and they could not! In the morning, the good Parson found no sign of the revellers, but in their place were groups of strange stones whic stand to this day.

Loads of tales like that abound as to how various stones appeared, more often than not they were humans at some time or another, turned to stone because of some mischief. Great fun and I cannot see how the random cavorting of a wedding party could possibly be an ancient scientific observatory. So clearly at least one of the theories needs re-thinking.

You would think they would have had more sense, pretty obvious to us the fiddler was the Devil himself dancing up a storm but for some reason these people just do not make the connection.

Mind you card 21 is a bit more worrying. How many times have you made an innocent comment which evokes the name of the unholy one (I'm no expert on things spiritual but I suspect the last sentence contains a contradiction.) Well just such a thing happened in Southwood Norfolk. This one is The Treasure of Callow Pit. Most places have bottomless pits, they seem almost as common as the ones with bottoms in. Well many years ago this bottomless pit was filled with water and we all know what is at the bottom of bottomless pits filled with water; treasure, and lots of it.

Eventually two chaps decided this was a get rich scheme even better than the claims of the last junk manuscript they had received that morning. Sneaking out they bridged the pit with a ladder and fished for the treasure. Before long they had hooked up the treasure chest and with growing excitement pulled the treasure to the surface. In case you were wondering the treasure chest had a ring through its lid which meant they could hook it up.

The two men had got the treasure and one of the fellows turned to the other, 'Not even Old Nick can get it from us now!'

Oh dear, oh dear.

The pit filled with a sulphurous mist and from the water sprang a blackened hand and arm and grasped the treasure chest. Despite their best efforts the men lost the unequal struggle and the chest went back into the pit never to be seen again.

That'll teach them and I hope it is a lesson to you as well. Perhaps you will not be so keen to suggest you were running like the Devil himself was chasing you. Just imagine if he did so at that very moment.

Rash decisions and not thinking before opening your mouth can have some pretty exciting consequences today. In olden times though the results were rather more varied than an off-the-cuff remark resulting in a pack of lawyers suddenly appearing. Card 47, The Legend Of Donaghadee has a variation on the 'I'll give you three wishes routine.' Actually Donagha Dee was gathering firewood when he heard the voice of St. Brandon saying he would fulfill any two wishes he had. Obviously it was a quiet day for the Saint but not quiet enough to hand out the more usual three wishes.

Rural buses services better than ever.

Now we all know what we would wish for, an infinite number of future wishes fulfilled and a tick in the box which says no publicity. However for some reason this is not what happens (perhaps it does though, given the no publicity wish) and before long the lucky wish-owner is saying all manner of ludicrous things in the name of wishes and often getting into all manner of trouble.

Donagha Dee was not entirely swift to get his wishes fulfilled but instead took the bundle of firewood under his arm and struck out for home. Inevitably though the firewood grew heavier and heavier and wouldn't you know it, 'I wish this bundle could carry me.' Well sure enough it did and he was transported home on a bundle of firewood.

This somewhat surprised his good wife and naturally enough started laying into the hapless fool on his bundle of firewood. This was a big mistake, although not as bad as it could have been I suppose. Donagha announced, 'I wish Ireland were between us.' He was whisked to the NE of Ireland where Donaghadee now stands and she to the SW to a place still known as Tig-na-Vauria (Mary's house).

This is pretty much common fair and a good example of the old adage, be careful what you wish for, it might come true. Its one of my favourites that one.

Sailing ships were rather prone to accidents and the like and generally life was nasty brutish and rather tedious on the things. However if you happened to have been a crew member of The Flying Dutchman being bored was the last thing on your mind. It would seem the skipper, von Falkenberg had managed to perform such blasphemies that he was singled out for one to one special attention by the Devil himself. This took the form of the Captain and crew being fated to ever sail the waters of the North Sea whilst the Captain played dice with the Devil. The stakes being the blasphemous gent's soul.

Ghost ships abound and many of them were handy cover-ups for smuggling activities as were the various headless coachman which could be seen in the dead of night. Best the villagers were safely hiding under their beds than peeking out to see if there was a chance of seeing on of Hell's own hurtling through the streets looking for the odd wayward soul.

I am not sure where card 27 fits in with the scheme of things but it is a warning to us all about something. It all occured in Bramhall Hall in Cheshire. It was a dark and stormy night and the Knight of Bramhall Hall could barely believe his ears when he heard to bell at the portal gate clanging furiously. Disturbed he went to see what it was all about.

Upon opening the gate a horseman clad in crimson from head to toe and riding a coal black horse with eyes of fire burst into the courtyard. Most of us would have seen quite enough at this point but not the good Knight. He gave the sinister rider food and shelter for the night.

The following morning the storm had subsided and all seemed well but for the fact the horse and rider were not longer present. Not that the Knight cared much; he was stone dead laying upon his bed.

Let that be some sort of lesson to you.

See those eyes of fire...

Mind you card 44 shows us that some good deeds are worth the effort. Sir Godfrey Macculloch came across his 'Good neighbour' one morning. This neighbour took the form of a little green man (it seems he wore green rather than was green) The little fellow had come to complain as Sir Godfrey had just installed a new drainage system and this had played merry havoc with the small ones living room. It would seem the short one was something of an eco warrior and had choosen to live underground.

Godfrey sais things would be changed and he was as good as his word.

Things turned sour for Sir Godfrey some years later when he had been found guilty of killing a man.

He was being escorted to his death on Castle Hill, Edinburgh when the little green man appeared on horseback riding with the speed of a swooping falcon. Before any knew what had happened Sir Godfrey's guards had been scattered and he had been whisked away to safety by his good neighbour.

Many a year ago there was the television series, 'Tales of the Unexpected' rather like the 'Twilight Zone' before it there was the basic problem you spent most of the time working out the ending and it had to be pretty amazing to get even close to what your own festering imagination had come up with in the meantime.

Card 42: The Wyvern of Coed-y-Moch (Wales). It all starts off well enough. The Wyvern had laid waste to the land. The monster hunted humans and beasts with equal determination and having caught them many unpleasant things lay ahead of them. This monster also seems particularly skilled at killing anyone that tried to end its rule of tyranny. But then appeared a young hero, Meredydd. All seemed to be heading for a some big encounter. Meredydd was not one to allow cunning to get in the way of brute strength. He was clad in steel and wielded an axe so mighty it was said to have fallen from heaven itself.

He set forth to rid the land of the evil beast and found it by a hedge of white hawtorn. The sweet smell of the hedge had sent the Wyvern to sleep and gathering all his strength, Meredydd cut the beasts head clean off with a single blow.

What a let down, almost worthy of a Stephen King plot.

Hang on a minute a pack of lawyers have suddenly appeared.

Then again there seem to be some stories so lame I haven't a clue what they are doing in the set, or indeed why anyone ever bothered telling the tale.

Card 23, The Wozard of Lincoln. It barely deserves repeating but basically a farmer suffered a robbery and decided to call upon the services of the local wizard. This fellows trick was to disguise himself as a blackbird.

Due to this cunning disguise he saw a servant and said, 'That is one of the thieves. And there is another.' Indicating a shadow on the wall which was another servant.

The two men were arrested proved guilty of the crime and the monies returned.

That's it. I hope Jeffery Archer is not reading this page.

Well I am not going to end the page on that sort of lame nonesense check out card 37; The Lambton Worm.

The heir of Lambton was fishing one Sunday and caught a huge worm. To loathsome to behold he threw the beast into the local well (don't ask why) and thought no more of it. Indeed he had more important things on his mind as he went to war for some seven years.

Upon his return he discovered the worm had grown to massive proportion and was terrorizing the neighbourhood. Obviously he felt somewhat guilty about this and fortunately a Sybil told him how to slay the worm which had previosly proved indestructable because of its amazing powers of regrowth. It was to be affected by wearing a suit of armour covered in razors and stand in the middle of the river. The worm would wrap itself around the man but would be cut to bloody ribbons by the armour and be carried swiftly away by the river current.

There was a small price to pay for this advice. The chap had to kill the first living thing he saw after killing the worm.

Well that was easily sorted. Once the worm was killed he would signal his father on a bugle and the old man would let loose a greyhound to met the hero.

All went as expected and the brave fellow blew on the bugle. The father was about as forgetful as fathers tend to be after a while and instead of releasing the hound set off to greet his son himself.

Disaster, our hero sees his father as the first living soul after killing the worm.

Rather than killing the forgetful old fool he refused to do so and the Sybil put a curse on the family to last for 9 generations.

Now that is the sort of tale that's worth the telling.