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THE GIANT BOLSTER
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Bolster and St Agnes
In the time of giants in the Penwith area of Cornwall, there lived a particularly troublesome giant called Bolster, who was of such enormous stature that he could stand with one foot on Carn Brae, and the other on the beacon near St Agnes, a distance of 6 miles. Bolster himself was a terror to the surrounding countryside, stealing sheep and cattle from the ordinary Cornish people.

At that time in the same area lived St Agnes, who was a champion of early Christianity and a pillar of strength for the local people. Bolster became infatuated with St Agnes, and eventually fell in love with her. Tired of the attention of the giant, and wishing rid of this evil brute, she asked him to prove his love for her by filling a hole in the cliff at Chapel Porth with his own blood. Bolster considered the task to be easy due to his huge size.

Bolster went up to the cliffs at Chapel Porth, plunged a knife into his arm, and waited for the hole to fill with his blood. The blood continued to flow like a crimson river, and the giant grew weaker and weaker, until he lost so much blood that he died. The hole actually led from the cliffs into the sea, a fact that St Agnes had kept secret. The blood of Bolster is said to have stained the cliffs at Chapel Porth and the red mark is still visible today.


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Sep/11/2007, 10:40 am Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 
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The Origin of the Wrekin
This is one of two folktales, which explain the origin of the Wrekin, a 1,334 foot high hill standing on the Shropshire plain. The hill has the remains of an Iron Age Hillfort on its summit, and folk evidence suggests it was an important focal point for our prehistoric ancestors. This tale appears in Shropshire Folk-Lore: A Sheaf of Gleanings by C. S. Burne and G. F Jackson, London 1883.

Once upon a time there was a wicked old giant in Wales, who, for some reason or other had a very great spite against the Mayor of Shrewsbury and all his people, and made up his mind to dam the Severn, and by that means cause such a flood that the town would be drowned.

So off he set, carrying a spade full of earth, and tramped along mile after mile trying to find the way to Shrewsbury. And how he missed it I can not tell, but he must have gone wrong somewhere, for at last he got close to Wellington, and by that time he was puffing and blowing under his heavy load, and wishing he was at the end of his journey.

By and by there came a cobbler along the road with a sack of old boots and shoes on his back, for he lived at Wellington, and went once a fortnight to Shrewsbury to collect his customers' old boots and shoes, and take them home with him to mend. And the giant called out to him. "I say" he said, "how far is it to Shrewsbury?" "Shrewsbury?" said the cobbler. "What do you want at Shrewsbury?" "Why" said the giant, "to fill up the Severn with this lump of earth I've got here. I've an old grudge against the mayor and the folks at Shrewsbury, and now I mean to drown them and get rid of them all at once." "My word" thought the cobbler. "This will never do! I can't afford to lose my customers!" and he spoke up again. "Eh!" he said. "You'll never get to Shrewsbury, not today nor tomorrow.
Why look at me! I'm just come from Shrewsbury, and I've had time to wear out all these old boots and shoes on the road since I started." And he showed him his sack. "Oh!" said the giant with a great groan. "Then it's no use! I'm fairly tired out already, and I can't carry this load of mine any farther. I shall just drop it here and go back home."

So he dropped the earth on the ground just where he stood, and scraped his boots on the spade, and off he went home again to Wales, and nobody heard anything of him in Shropshire after. But where he put down his load there stands the Wrekin to this day, and even the earth he scraped off his boots was such a pile that it made the little Ercall by the Wrekin's side.

This is the second tale about the origin of the Wrekin - a natural hill in Shropshire- to appear on this website. This tale tells how two giants created the Wrekin, and also explains the origin of some of its geological features. The story first appeared in Shropshire Folk-Lore: A Sheaf of Gleanings by C. S. Burne and G. F Jackson, London 1883.

Long, long ago, when there were giants in the land, two of them were turned out by the rest, and forced to go and live by themselves, so they set to work to build themselves a hill to live in. In a very short time they had dug out the earth from the bed of the Severn, which runs in the trench they made to the present time, and with it they piled up the Wrekin, intending to make it their home.

Those bare patches on the turf between the Bladderstone and the top of the hill, are the marks of their feet, where from that day to this the grass has never grown.
   
But they had not been there long before they quarrelled, and one of them struck at the other with his spade, but failed to hit him, and the spade descending to the ground cleft the solid rock and left the 'Needle's Eye'. Then they began to fight and the giant with the spade (for they seem to have had only one between them - perhaps that was what they quarrelled about!) was getting the best of it at first, but a Raven flew up and pecked at his eyes, and the pain made him shed such a mighty tear that it hollowed out the little basin in the rock which we call the Raven's Bowl, or sometimes the Cuckoo's Cup, which has never been dry since, but is always full of water even in the hottest summer.

And now you suppose that it was very easy for the other giant to master the one who had the spade, and when he had done so he determined to put him where he could never trouble anyone again. So he very quickly built up the Ercall Hill beside the Wrekin, and imprisoned his fallen foe within it. There the poor blind giant remains to this day, and in the dead of night you may sometimes hear him groaning
 

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Sep/21/2007, 8:45 am Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 
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The legend of Sawney Bean
The story of Sawney Bean is one of the most gruesome Scottish legends, the plot of which would not look out of place in any modern horror/slasher movie. Evidence suggests the tale dates to the early 18th century.

Alexander Sawney Bean was - legend tells - the head of an incestuous cannibalistic family, who oversaw a 25-year reign of murder and robbery from a hidden sea cave on the Ayrshire/Galloway coast in the 15th century. The cave most readily associated with Sawney and his nefarious clan is close to Ballantrae on Bennane head in Ayrshire, although other sea caves along the Ayrshire and Galloway coast have also been associated with the story.

There are numerous written sources detailing the account of Sawney and his family, and it has been suggested that the legend has its roots in real events, although this is unlikely as will be outlined later in this article. The tale appears in full and lurid detail in the succinctly titled Historical and Traditional Tales Connected with the South of Scotland by John Nicholson in 1843. The following is a watered down account of the tale based on Nicholson:

The Legend
Sawney Bean was born in the late 14th century, in a small East Lothian village not ten miles from Edinburgh. He began life as a hedger and ditcher, but, being prone to idleness and inclined towards dishonesty he ran away from home with a woman who was as viciously inclined as himself. Having no means to make a living they set up home in a sea cave in Galloway supporting themselves by robbing and murdering travellers and locals, and surviving on their victim's pickled and salted flesh. In time their family grew to an incestuous gang of 46 sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. Their reign of terror did not go unnoticed: for one hundreds of people went missing over the years, and the Beans became so successful in their butchery that they cast unwanted limbs into the sea. These were washed up on distant and local beaches, much to the horror of the coastal communities. In time the areas reputation reached the ears of the authorities and, in these suspicious times, many innocent people were executed for Sawney's crimes. The hardest hit were innkeepers as, more often than not, the missing person was last seen in an inn or lodgings: suspicion naturally falling on those who had seen them last. This happened on so many occasions that numerous innkeepers fled to take up other less risky occupations, and the area became a shunned and depopulated place.

Sawney's family had by now grown very large and started to attack larger groups, although never more than they thought they could overwhelm. They were confident they would not be discovered: the cave that they had chosen had kept them well hidden from prying eyes. The tide passed right into the mouth of the cave, which went almost a mile into the cliffs. It was estimated that in their 25-year reign of terror they had killed more than a thousand men women and children. They were finally discovered by fortunate chance: A man and his wife were returning from a local fayre on horseback - the man in front with his wife behind - when they were ambushed by the Bean family. The husband put a furious struggle with his sword and pistol and managed to plough through the villainous host. Unfortunately his wife lost her balance and fell from the horse, to be instantly butchered by the female cannibals, who ripped out her entrails and started to feast on her blood. Her horrified husband fought back even harder and was lucky that 30 or so other revellers from the fayre came along the path. The Bean family made a hasty retreat back to their hideout, as the man explained to the crowd what had happened. The husband went along with the group to Glasgow, magistrates were informed, who in turn told the King, James IV, who was so enthralled with the case that he took personal charge. Equipped with bloodhounds the King and a posse of 400 men made their way to the scene of the slaughter and the hunt began.

The bloodhounds get all the credit for the capture of Sawney Bean: the King's men did not notice the well-hidden cave but the dogs could not ignore the strong smell of flesh that surrounded it. The men entered the cave and found a horrible scene: dried parts of human bodies were hanging all from the roof, pickled limbs lay in barrels, and all around piles of money and trinkets from the pockets of the dead lay in piles. The Beans made no attempt to escape all were caught alive and brought to Edinburgh in chains, where they were incarcerated in the Tollbooth, and the next day taken to Leith.

The people were horrified when they heard about the crimes of Sawney Bean and his family and decided to give them a punishment even more barbaric. The execution was a slow one: the men bled to death after their hands and legs were cut off, and the women were burned alive after they were forced to watch the execution of the men. John Nicholson tells us about the execution as follows "...they all died without the least sign of repentance, but continued cursing and vending the most dreadful imprecations to the very last gasp of life."

 
  Truth in the Tale?
The truth of the Sawney Bean legend is hard to confirm, but there are many factors which suggest the story is an 18th Century invention. It seems that the legend first saw print in the early 18th Century in the lurid broadsheets and chapbooks of the time. (See The Legend of Sawney Bean, London 1975 by Ronald Holmes for an excellent investigation into the myth.)These were all printed in England, but broadly match Nicholson's later rendering of the tale. The content of chapbooks was mainly invented and exaggerated stories about grisly deeds, executions, murders and other lurid accounts, aimed at shocking readers. They were evidently very popular and were certainly the forerunners of the Victorian Penny Dreadfuls.

According to Fiona Black in The Polar Twins, the tale was probably an English invention to denigrate the Scots, especially in the period of unrest that saw the Jacobite rebellion. There are however records of periods of famine, and some occurrences of cannibalism, in Scotland in the late 15th century.

Another sticking point is that there are no contemporary records from the time that even mention Sawney Bean. Although there are 'relatively' few records from the time, it is strange that such a high profile story, with the added involvement of the King James IV, has no historical evidence at all. There are also no records of the executions of the various innkeepers, and the disappearances of travellers in the Ayrshire area.
Like many legends said to be based on fact - where contemporary evidence does not exist - it is possible that a grain of truth exists somewhere in the story. It is also impossible to conclusively prove that there is no truth at all in the story. Personally I do not think that Bean existed, but the Ayrshire coastline is steeped in dark folklore, and the Bean legend may have its root in some far away bloody deed or gristly piece of folklore that has been long forgotten.

A Local Anecdote
Local blacksmith, and psychic detective, Tom Robinson is convinced of the truth to the tale after witnessing ghosts in the cave of Sawney Bean. Mr Robinson believes that instead of being executed in Edinburgh, the Sawney family were cornered and sealed alive in their cave to die a slow, agonising death. The ghosts aren't those of Sawney and his family though, but their victims who were cursed before they were killed and eaten by the cannibalistic clan. Inside a cave, which he considered to be the Sawney home, Tom recounts how he heard a woman's scream and saw a female form dragged into the back of the cave by 12 white lights, while a male form lay immobile on the cave floor. The images faded into the cave wall. Upon further investigation, Mr Robinson returned to the site in 1991 and performed an exorcism.

Sights to See
Today the Sawney Bean legend has become part of the Tourism and Heritage trial. The cave identified with the tale, since the late 19th Century, is on the coast at Bennane head between Lendalfoot and Ballantrae. There is a reconstruction of the cave that was home to the cannibalistic Sawney Bean and his family at the Edinburgh Dungeon on Market Street, near the Waverly Bridge in Edinburgh.
 
 

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Sep/21/2007, 8:47 am Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 
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The Mermaid of Zennor
The village of Zennor lies upon the windward coast of Cornwall. The houses cling to the hillside as if hung there by the wind. Waves still lick the ledges in the coves, and a few fishermen still set out to sea in their boats.

In times past, the sea was both the beginning and the end for the folk of Zennor. It gave them fish for food and fish for sale, and made a wavy road to row from town to town. Hours were reckoned not by clocks but by the ebb and flow of the tide, and months and years ticked off by the herring runs. The sea took from them, too, and often wild, sudden storms would rise. Then fish and fisherman alike would be lost to an angry sea.

At the end of a good day, when the sea was calm and each boat had returned with its share of fish safely stowed in the hold, the people of Zennor would go up the path to the old church and give thanks. They would pray for a fine catch on the morrow, too. The choir would sing, and after the closing hymn the families would go.

Now, in the choir that sang at Evensong there was a most handsome lad named Mathew Trewella. Not only was Mathew handsome to the eyes, his singing was sweet to the ears as well. His voice pealed out louder than the church bells, and each note rang clear and true. It was always Mathew who sang the closing hymn.

Early one evening, when all the fishing boats bobbed at anchor, and all the fisher families were in church and all the birds at nest, and even the waves rested themselves and came quietly to shore, something moved softly in the twilight. The waves parted without a sound, and, from deep beneath them, some creature rose and climbed out onto a rock, there in the cove of Zennor. It was both a sea creature and a she-creature. For, though it seemed to be a girl, where the girl's legs should have been was the long and silver-shiny tail of a fish. It was a mermaid, one of the daughters of Llyr, king of the ocean, and her name was Morveren.

Morveren sat upon the rock and looked at herself in the quiet water, and then combed all the little crabs and seashells from her long, long hair. As she combed, she listened to the murmur of the waves and wind. And borne on the wind was Mathew's singing.

"What breeze is there that blows such a song?" wondered Morveren. But then the wind died, and Mathew's song with it. The sun disappeared, and Morveren slipped back beneath the water to her home.

The next evening she came again. But not to the rock. This time she swam closer to shore, the better to hear. And once more Mathew's voice carried out to sea, and Morveren listened.

"What bird sings so sweet?" she asked, and she looked all about. But darkness had come, and her eyes saw only shadows.

The next day Morveren came even earlier, and boldly. She floated right up by the fishermen's boats. And when she heard Mathew's voice, she called, "What reed is there that pipes such music?"

There was no answer save the swishing of the water round the skiffs.

Morveren would and must know more about the singing. So she pulled herself up on the shore itself. From there she could see the church and hear the music pouring from its open doors. Nothing would do then but she must peek in and learn for herself who sang so sweetly.

Still, she did not go at once. For, looking behind her, she saw that the tide had begun to ebb and the water pull back from the shore. And she knew that she must go back, too, or be left stranded on the sand like a fish out of water.

So she dived down beneath the waves, down to the dark sea cave where she lived with her father the king. And there she told Llyr what she had heard.

Llyr was so old he appeared to be carved of driftwood, and his hair floated out tangled and green, like seaweed. At Morveren's words, he shook that massive head from side to side.

"To hear is enough, my child. To see is too much."

"I must go, Father," she pleaded, "for the music is magic."

"Nay," he answered. "The music is man-made, and it comes from a man's mouth. We people of the sea do not walk on the land of men."

A tear, larger than an ocean pearl, fell from Morveren's eye. "Then surely I may die from the wanting down here."

Llyr sighed, and his sigh was like the rumbling of giant waves upon the rocks; for a mermaid to cry was a thing unheard of and it troubled the old sea king greatly.

"Go, then," he said at last, "but go with care. Cover your tail with a dress, such as their women wear. Go quietly, and make sure that none shall see you. And return by high tide, or you may not return at all."

"I shall take care, Father!" cried Morveren, excited. "No one shall snare me like a herring!"

Llyr gave her a beautiful dress crusted with pearls and sea jade and coral and other ocean jewels. It covered her tail, and she covered her shining hair with a net, and so disguised she set out for the church and the land of men.

Slippery scales and fish's tail are not made for walking, and it was difficult for Morveren to get up the path to the church. Nor was she used to the dress of an earth woman dragging behind. But get there she did, pulling herself forward by grasping on the trees, until she was at the very door of the church. She was just in time for the closing hymn. Some folks were looking down at their hymnbooks and some up at the choir, so, since none had eyes in the backs of their heads, they did not see Morveren. But she saw them, and Mathew as well. He was as handsome as an angel, and when he sang it was like a harp from heaven -- although Morveren, of course, being a mermaid, knew nothing of either.

So each night thereafter, Morveren would dress and come up to the church, to look and to listen, staying but a few minutes and always leaving before the last note faded and in time to catch the swell of high tide. And night by night, month by month, Mathew grew taller and his voice grew deeper and stronger (though Morveren neither grew nor changed, for that is the way of mermaids). And so it went for most of a year, until the evening when Morveren lingered longer than usual. She had heard Mathew sing one verse, and then another, and begin a third. Each refrain was lovelier than the one before, and Morveren caught her breath in a sigh.

It was just a little sigh, softer than the whisper of a wave. But it was enough for Mathew to hear, and he looked to the back of the church and saw the mermaid. Morveren's eyes were shining, and the net had slipped from her head and her hair was wet and gleaming, too. Mathew stopped his singing. He was struck silent by the look of her -- and by his love for her. For these things will happen.

Morveren was frightened. Mathew had seen her, and her father had warned that none must look at her. Besides, the church was warm and dry, and merpeople must be cool and wet. Morveren felt herself shrivelling, and turned in haste from the door.

"Stop!" cried Mathew boldly. "Wait!" And he ran down the aisle of the church and out the door after her.

Then all the people turned, startled, and their hymn-books fell from their laps.

Morveren tripped, tangled in her dress, and would have fallen had not Mathew reached her side and caught her.

"Stay!" he begged. "Whoever ye be, do not leave!"

Tears, real tears, as salty as the sea itself, rolled down Morveren's cheeks.

"I cannot stay. I am a sea creature, and must go back where I belong."

Mathew stared at her and saw the tip of her fish tail poking out from beneath the dress. But that mattered not at all to him.

"Then I will go with ye. For with ye is where I belong."

He picked Morveren up, and she threw her arms about his neck. He hurried down the path with her, toward the ocean's edge.

And all the people from the church saw this.

"Mathew, stop!" they shouted. "Hold back!"

"No! No, Mathew!" cried that boy's mother.

But Mathew was bewitched with love for the mermaid, and ran the faster with her toward the sea.

Then the fishermen of Zennor gave chase, and all others, too, even Mathew's mother. But Mathew was quick and strong and outdistanced them. And Morveren was quick and clever. She tore the pearls and coral from her dress and flung them on the path. The fishermen were greedy, even as men are now, and stopped in their chase to pick up the gems. Only Mathew's mother still ran after them.

The tide was going out. Great rocks thrust up from the dark water. Already it was too shallow for Morveren to swim. But Mathew plunged ahead into the water, stumbling in to his knees. Quickly his mother caught hold of his fisherman's jersey. Still Mathew pushed on, until the sea rose to his waist, and then his shoulders. Then the waters closed over Morveren and Mathew, and his mother was left with only a bit of yarn in her hand, like a fishing line with nothing on it.

Never again were Mathew and Morveren seen by the people of Zennor. They had gone to live in the land of Llyr, in golden sand castles built far below the waters in a blue-green world.

But the people of Zennor heard Mathew. For he sang to Morveren both day and night, love songs and lullabies. Nor did he sing for her ears only. Mathew learned songs that told of the sea as well. His voice rose up soft and high if the day was to be fair, deep and low if Llyr was going to make the waters boil. From his songs, the fishermen of Zennor knew when it was safe to put to sea, and when it was wise to anchor snug at home.

There are some still who find meanings in the voices of the waves and understand the whispers of the winds. These are the ones who say Mathew sings yet, to them that will listen.



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Lludd (Llud) and Llefelys (Llevelys)
The earliest origins of this story are obscure, but it first appears in the twelfth century, when Geoffrey of Monmouth included it in his History of the Kings of Britain Monmouth's version was the basis for what is perhaps the best-known version, which appears in 'The Mabinogion', the collection of old Welsh stories compiled by Lady Charlotte Guest in the late 19th century.

After Beli (Belinus), the great king of Britain had died he was succeeded by Lludd, his son. Lludd was a wise and fair ruler; he strengthened the city of London (which was named for him) and created wealth for his people. Lludd was one of four brothers but he was fondest of his brother Llefelys, who had married the late King of France's daughter and now ruled France.

Some years after Lludd inherited the kingdom, three plagues devastated the land and its peoples. The first of these plagues was the invasion of the Coranieid, a tribe with magical powers. The Coranieid's greatest power was that of hearing; they would hear every word that was borne on the wind, so that there were no secrets, and every affair was their knowledge to use to their advantage. No one could create plans to defeat them for even whisperings would be heard. They also used magic in business; their money was the money of fairies, for it seemed real enough when first it was held, but soon after turned to earth, leaves and mushrooms.

The second plague took the form of a hideous shriek, heard throughout the land on each and every Beltaine's Eve, striking everyone with fear and foreboding. The source of the shriek was unknown. Some who heard the terrible sound were so affected that they could no longer hold good in the matters of men.

The third plague struck deeply at the person of the King himself. Food from the royal stores began to disappear without trace. The thief could not be caught and no matter how they watched, when the King's men checked the stores each morning more food had disappeared.

These plagues continued without respite and no man remained untouched by them. At length Lludd was advised to seek the counsel of his brother in France. His brother Llefelys was wise in the ways of the land - and also in magical arts. So Lludd set sail, in secret, with a body of men, to meet Llefelys in the channel. Llefelys knew that they could not talk in the usual way, as the Coranieid would hear every word on the wind, but he had devised a way in which they could speak in secret. He had his metalsmith fashion a tube of Bronze, similar in shape to a hunting horn - so that his advice to his brother would not fall on the wind and be carried back to Britain and the Coranieid.

When Lludd and Llefelys first began to converse through the tube, everything they said was heard by the other as a garbled insult. Realising that a demon sat in the tube, Llefelys quickly flushed it out with a draught of wine, and at last the brothers could talk in secret.

Llefelys told Lludd that the first plague, the Coranieid, could be defeated by a special poison, made from crushed insects, which would kill the Coranieid but cause no harm to the native population. The insects were not native to Britain, but Llefelys gave his brother a good supply and directed him to mash them and mix them with water to form a spray. This way, the Coranieid would be defeated and the people freed.

The second plague, explained Llefelys, was the noise of two fighting dragons; one native to the land, the other an invader. The battle between them was endless, and although the native dragon resisted the attack with great strength and fortitude, every May Eve he screamed in pain and fury, striking fear into the hearts of men.

Llefelys told Lludd precisely how to cure the plague. "You must return to Britain and gather all your scholars, and tell them to make a mathematical survey of the land, to measure it in length and breadth, and in this way to find the very centre of the country.
  
   

 

Go to that spot and dig a deep pit, and place in the pit a large cauldron of mead covered with a cloth of pure silk. Stand guard at the edge of the pit, and you will see dragons fighting in the sky, but at last they will drop exhausted - in the form of piglets. They will fall onto the silk cloth and sink into the mead, which in their thirst they will drink dry. When they fall into a stupor, wrap them in the silken cloth and put them in a solid stone chest, which you should have in readiness nearby. Then bury them, beneath stone, in the strongest fortress in the kingdom."

Llevelys next explained the third plague. This, the constant disappearance of food, was the work of a giant with magical powers. Every evening he cast a spell over the guards on duty and crept in to steal food. Lludd was told to guard the stores himself one evening, but keep beside him a tub of icy water, in which to douse his head if he became sleepy. Then he would be able to fight the giant and defeat him.

Lludd thanked his wise brother and returned at once to Britain to carry out the three tasks. First he pulped the insects into a mixture, called a conference of all his peoples and then sprayed them with the substance. The Coranieid amongst the crowd fell about in agony and quickly died, but, as his brother had promised, his own people suffered no distress.

Secondly Lludd made a survey of the kingdom and found the centre to be in Oxford. So here it was that he set about making the trap. Just as Llefelys had predicted, a red dragon and then a white dragon appeared in the sky. They fought and eventually dropped exhausted - in the form of piglets - onto the silken cloth. They sank into the mead, drank thirstily, and when finally they lay still, Lludd had them bound and placed in a stone chest. He had the chest securely buried, beneath a mountain in Snowdonia, and there they remained until Vortigern tried to build a fortress on the land.

Next, Lludd dealt with the giant. He ordered a huge feast to be prepared and then waited as his men enjoyed the revelry and at last began to slip into slumber. Lludd would have slept too, but each time he felt his eyes close and his body grow heavy, he plunged his head into the vat of icy water at his side. Shocked awake, with all his men sleeping around him, he saw a heavily armoured giant of a man push his way through the oak doors of the hall. In his muscled arms he bore a huge basket, which he quickly began to fill with all the food still lying on the tables. As Lludd watched, the basket seemed to expand with the food until every morsel was cleared from the hall.

Then the giant turned to leave, but Lludd ran after him, causing the giant to drop his basket and give battle. The two fought ferociously, sparks flying from their sword strikes on the hard armour, but it was Lludd who landed the heavier blows and at last the giant begged for mercy. Lludd made him swear that he would make good for all he had stolen and henceforth to be loyal to his King and his King's subjects. The giant swore fealty and so the last of the plagues was cured.

Peace was thus restored to the land, and Lludd continued to be a wise ruler. He is remembered today in the name of Ludgate, in London. At this place Lludd's Gate stood, a great arched gateway which survived until the Great Fire, in 1666.
 
 

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you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same

Sep/25/2007, 4:27 pm Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 
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Re: british legends


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Shottesbrooke Church
Built by a Drunk
The tiny parish of Shottesbrooke seems very quiet and peaceful today. It is hard to imagine that back in the fourteenth century it was the scene of wild parties and night-long revelry. The Lord of the Manor at the time, Sir William De Trussell, was partial to the odd tipple and, when his wife was away, the mouse would play.

It was said that Sir William was one of the greatest knights in the land. He was a marvellous horseman and fighter, and could beat all comers with both lance and sword; and, of course, being the true man that he was, he could eat or drink any other under the table.

Sir William's wife did not approve of his degenerate ways, as she saw them, and would constantly nag and scold him. Every day, when he returned home to Shottesbrooke Hall in a drunken stupor, he would find himself greeted by lectures on the evils of drink. No matter how hard he tried to hide his intoxicated state, his red eyes and slurred speech would always give him away. His ears would burn as his good lady took him to task over his daily binge. His false promises never lasted though, and the next night he would be out on the town once more.

One night it happened that Lady de Trussell was away from Shottesbrooke and Sir William had the Hall to himself. By happy coincidence several of his friends just happened to be passing and dropped in on the off-chance. Finding the lady of the house not at home, they set about organising an instant shindig, in which Sir William was only too happy to take part. The servants were called, the table was piled high with food, and beer was brought up from the cellars by the barrel load. The serving girls were encouraged to stay for a little fun, but all were far too sensible and ran for their quarters. The friends ate and drank, they narrated stories and drank, they sang songs and drank, they told obscene jokes and drank some more. They had as good a time as they knew how, and didn't stop till they all fell to the floor - dead drunk!

Sir William (the last to fall of course) was taken up by two of the servants to his room. He was deposited on his bed there, where he lay like a corpse: his face was all yellow and his lips pure white! There he slept all night, while down below his guests awoke one by one and crawled away home.

In the morning Lady de Trussell arrived home. She was puzzled when not greeted by her husband, and quickly enquired of the servants as to his whereabouts. On being told he was still in bed, her Ladyship immediately guessed why, and her tongue became aflame with curses. However, when she entered the room where her husband was sleeping, the pitiful sight which greeted her quite touched her ladyship's heart, and she let him be.

When Lady de Trussell returned to her husband at night though, Sir William had still not woken from his slumber and she became quite worried. He had gone too far this time, and was obviously very ill. She resolved at once to drive out the demon drink from him by aqueous means.

All the servants were woken, and sent to the kitchen, where bucket upon bucket of water was drawn from the well and heated in a heavy cauldron. It was passed up the stairs along a train of people with many more buckets, to the bedchamber where work began on curing poor Sir William. While Lady de Trussell prayed to the Almighty, her Lord was washed with both cold water and with hot; it was poured on his head and in his mouth, his feet were bathed and then his hands; more water was called for, it all started again. The maids were constantly kept running up and down stairs, till next morning when, just as Lady de Trussell was about to give up hope, Sir William slowly opened one eye. Overjoyed, her Ladyship rushed to his side as he attempted to speak. However, he spoke not to her but to a groom standing at the foot of the bed, "Giles, bring me a pot of small beer". But Giles did not move, "Hurry, d'you hear me?"

Lady de Trussell was furious, but hiding her anger, she sent the groom out of the room with a nod and a knowing smile. He soon returned with a full ale-pot and , handing it to Sir William, he helped him to drink. The Lord soon spluttered though and spat out what he had drunk - it was nothing but water! Thus it continued: our patient was fed nothing but water-soups, water-potions, water-tonics and water-gruels for a full three days, and he was forced to drink them.

Each day Lady de Trussell would sit by her husband's bedside and pray for his soul. Sir William tried to ignore her but, by the fourth day, he could not help but be moved by her devotions. He could stand it no longer. Dragging himself from his bed, he got down on his knees and pleaded with his wife to forgive him his trespasses. He truly promised he would never touch another drop of alcohol again, and swore to his Lady fair, "By the cross on my shield, I'll build you a church to show my sincerity, and I cannot think of a better saint to whom to dedicate it than the holiest water saint - John the Baptist". Sir William had made up his mind and now there was no stopping him. He put on his doublet and hose and ran downstairs to commence immediately the arrangements for the building of his new church.

Within a few weeks the workmen had been assembled, the foundations were laid and the church began to grow. First the nave then the choir were built, and it wasn't long before the transepts with their arches joined them. Lastly came the marvellous tower crowned with a beautiful tapering spire that would rival Salisbury Cathedral itself. Both Sir William and his wife were delighted with the finished article - a magnificent cruciform church, the best in Berkshire.

But, "Wait," cried Sir William, "there is something missing . . . the vane. Of course, the weather vane. Fetch it somebody. Who will fix the vane on the steeple?" He looked around hoping for a volunteer, but none was forthcoming. The glazier shook his head, the painter looked at his shoes, the joiner examined a mark on his jacket, the tinker turned away, the carver skulked aside, the brazier stuck his nose in his brasswork, the gilder twiddled his thumbs, and the mason just stood and stared. His Lordship was in quite a quandary. What should he do? He ranted and raved, but still there was no response. "Will none of you rascals go put up this vane?!"

At this outburst, a young broad shouldered fellow, known to all and sundry, stepped forward. It was Dicken Smith. "Marry, Sir William, I fashioned that vane with my own hammer and tongs, and fire and bellows. I'll do what you want. I'll put it on the top of the spire myself," he declared. "I only ask that, when I've done it, you send me up a brimming cup of ale, so I can drink to the King's good health." Sir William was delighted.
"I'll do more than that, my lad," he said. "When you're safely on the ground again, I'll fill your purse with a dozen crown as well."

So a man of great skill with a rope was fetched, and from the church roof he lassoed the top of the spire. Then, with a pulley and rope, everyone helped hoist the smith up the steeple's dizzy slope. Step by step he walked up through the sky. The crowd below watched with baited breath until he had safely reached the top. A great sigh of relief spread through the gathering. Dicken took the vane from his belt and, with an iron brace, he fixed it to the steeple. He turned and waved to signal his success, and the people below let up a great cheer.

Not wanting to break his promise, his Lordship quickly ordered that a tankard of ale and a cup be winched up to the smith. Dicken received them eagerly - climbing a steeple was thirsty work. He seemed to be standing in mid-air, but his precarious position did not prevent him from filling the cup. Then, as the crowd watched, he drained it in one and shouted, "Long live the King," at the top of his voice.

But the happiness of the occasion was not to last. As his patriotic words reached the ground. Dicken lost his footing. His feet faltered. The rope slipped. His hands could not hold him. He fell. It was a horrible sight. He plunged through the sky like a broken doll: rolling and whirling around, and smashing into both spire and transept as he went. Thump! His crushed remains landed by the side of the path.

All around rushed to Dicken's aid, but what could they do? It looked as if every bone in his body was broken. "Hurry," cried Lady De Trussell as she ordered four men to construct a make-shift stretcher, "we must get him into the house". They pushed their way through the crowd surrounding poor Dicken. "Out of the way!" her Ladyship screamed. they took him up and lifted him. Not a sign of pain did he give, save a word barely uttered. It was something like "Oh, oh . . .". Then with a spasm and a shudder young Dicken died.

He was buried, next day, at the spot where he fell, so all would remember Dicken Smith's courageous deed and his sad death which so marred the celebrations at the completion of Shottesbrooke Church. The stone that covers his grave can be seen there to this day, with his last words inscribed upon it: "O.O.".




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you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same

Sep/26/2007, 9:46 am Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 
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Re: british legends


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The Lambton Worm
Around the time of the crusades (in some accounts) in the area around the river Wear, there is a tale told about a fearsome dragon, which terrorised the area and was dispatched with cunning by a brave warrior.

John Lambton, the young heir to Lambton Hall, was fishing on the river Wear one Sunday morning, while all the other villagers and castle residents were at mass in Brugeford Chapel. After a couple of hours of catching nothing, his hook was caught by something powerful and quick, thinking that he had hooked a great fish he set about landing the catch. He toiled for what seemed an age, and finally pulled his prize on the sandy bank.

He had caught a black worm like creature, which was only small, but twisted and coiled with great power. In appearance creature was completely black, with the head of a salamander and needle sharp teeth. It seemed to secrete a sticky slime, and had nine holes along each side of its mouth. Cursing he wondered what to do with the creature when an old man appeared from behind him, he asked the young Lambton what he had caught, and looking at the creature the old man crossed himself. He warned Lambton not to throw the creature back into the river. "It bodes no good for you but you must not cast it back into the river, you must keep it and do with it what you will." At this the old man walked away disappearing as quickly as he had appeared.

John Lambton picked up the creature and put it into his catch basket, walking home he mulled over the stranger's words and looked again at the hideous thing lying in his basket. A feeling of unease swept over him and he threw the catch into an ancient well on the road back to the hall. (The well was forever after known as Worms Well).

The years passed and John Lambton went off to the crusades, with every passing year the worm grew in strength in its deep dark hole. The well became unusable as the water became poisoned, strange venomous vapours were seen rising out of the well, and village gossip surmised that the well had been cursed, and that something unworldly lived in its depths. One morning the village gossip was answered, during the night the worm, now in full maturity, had slipped out of the well and wrapped itself three times around a rocky island in the middle of the river, a trail of black slime outlined its path from the well.

The morning was a hive of activity as the news spread throughout the village and to neighbouring farms. Those brave enough went as close as they dared to get a glimpse of the creature. The dragon had no legs or wings, but a thick muscled body that rippled as it moved. Its head was large and its gaping maw bristled with razor sharp teeth, venomous vapours trailed from its nostrils and mouth as it breathed.

For a short time the dragon did nothing, during the day it stayed in mid stream and at night it came back to land and coiled itself three times around a knoll known as Worm Hill, leaving spiral patterns in the soft earth. This lull was short lived, for soon the beast became hungry and started to rampage around the countryside, always returning to Worm Hill or Worms Rock in the river Wear.

It took small lambs and sheep and ate them whole, and it tore open cows udders with its razor teeth to get at the milk, which it could smell from miles away.

The dragon became bolder and bolder, some brave villagers tried to kill the beast but where crushed and drowned in the river, or torn to pieces with its razor fangs.
  
   
 

Eventually the dragon came to Lambton Hall, where the lord lived on his own. Fortunately the local residents rallied at the hall, and were ready for its coming. They filled a large stone trough with warm milk from the nine kye of the byre. The dragon came to the hall gates but was distracted by the smell of the milk. It plunged into the trough and drained it dry, thus sated the dragon returned to its river abode.

Thus began a ritual that was not to be abated for seven years. The dragon stopped its roaming in the village and left the cows and the sheep alone. It only ventured up the lane to the hall for its daily offering of milk. As the years passed the trail became marked by a path of dark slime and the villagers returned to the village in some semblance of normality. Every so often people from far and wide would come to kill the dragon but would always meet the same fate as those early villagers.

After seven years had passed, John Lambton returned from the crusades a powerful and seasoned knight. When he heard of the plight of his village he devised plan to kill the beast. He went to the wise woman who lived in Brugeford to gain her advice. She told him that the plight of the village was his fault and that it was his duty to remedy the situation. " You and you alone can kill the worm, go to the blacksmith, and have a suit of armour wrought with razor sharp spear heads studded throughout its surface. Then go to the worm's rock and await its arrival. But mark my words well, if you slay the beast you must put to death the first thing that crosses your path as you pass the threshold of Lambton Hall. If you do not do this then three times three generations of Lambtons will not die in their beds."

John listened to the advice and swore an oath to complete it. He then went to the local blacksmith and had him forge a suit of armour embedded in double-edged spikes, and spent the night in the local chapel.

During the next day John Lambton, clad in the specially made armour engaged in battle with the dragon in midstream. Every time the dragon tried to embrace him it cut itself to ribbons on the spikes, so that pieces of its flesh were sliced off and floated down the river on a crimson tide. Eventually the worm grew so weak that he could despatch it with one heavy sword blow to its head.

He then let out three blasts on his bugle to tell of his victory, and as a signal for the servants to release his favourite hound from the house to complete his vow. Unfortunately the servants forgot in the commotion and joy, and as John passed over the threshold of the hall his father rushed out to greet him. Dismayed John blew another blast on his horn and the servants released the hound, which John killed with one sweeping blow from his sword. But it was too late, the vow was broken and for generations after none of the Lambtons died in their beds. It is said that the last one died while crossing over Brugeford Bridge over a hundred and forty year
 

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you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same

Oct/2/2007, 4:28 pm Link to this post Send Email to MaTTsWoRld   Send PM to MaTTsWoRld Blog
 


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