TALES OF BRITAIN: Spring 2018

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With TALES OF BRITAIN, the first British folktale anthology to be released in decades, nearing publication, it seems timely to migrate all the weekly blogs going back to the launch at Glastonbury in 2017 to a safer place, as Nuada knows what Unbound does with them after publication. I’ve made attempts to keep references intact for this migration, but if you’re missing any video or audio, you can probably find it somewhere on the www.TalesofBritain.com website HERE.

London Pride Has Been Handed Down To Us…

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

… London Pride, is a beer that’s RANK! Merry Folklore Thursday, me old cocker-knee sparras!

After last week’s birthday shenanigans in Kernow, it looked like we’d been confronted with another major challenge for this week’s Urban/City theme – because the idea that we hadn’t covered DICK WHITTINGTON in any of the last year’s blogs seemed absurd!

Dick Whittington’s fictionalised life story is one of the most celebrated city fairytales in world folklore, but of course our 77 tales covers the whole country, in all areas, so it’s not the only city represented – Nottingham is obviously key to the Robin Hood series, we’ve done Coventry with Lady Godiva, plus there’s Bath, Canterbury, and the smallest city in the UK, St. David’s! But, as in real life, the City of London was always going to take the custard cream.

The story of Dick and his clever cat is not the only London tale in our book, of course – we already made you feel ill by talking about Tudor horror BEWARE THE CAT which is in the St John’s Wood area – but though cats remain a theme, the Dick tale we know is a lot more palatable.

To many people, the image below may be what they really think of when ‘Dick Whittington’ is mentioned – OH, YES IT IS! – along with those Bow bells chiming “TURN AGAIN, WHITTINGTON, THRICE MAYOR OF LONDON!” and the evil of King Rat and so on:

… But it’s no great revelation to say that there really was a beloved 15th century Mayor of London called Richard Whittington who was born near the Forest of Dean, but made his fortune in the English capital, becoming a moneylender to three Kings – Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V – and establishing all sorts of charitable institutions alongside his Lady Mayoress Alice FitzWarin.

True, the engraving above was doctored after the legend of the mayor posthumously grew – the cat you see here was originally a skull – so it’s difficult to say how much of the meat of the familiar story has any even slight truth to it – Dick arriving in London hoping to find the streets paved with gold, meeting the lucky cat, being taken on as a skullion treated worse for his hard work than Idle Jack is for being lazy, and then either investing in or joining the crew of an exotic trading voyage to distant climes, where the cat’s success in clearing a Sultan’s palace of a plague of rats (including the infamous King) led to the establishment of his great fortune, allowing him to marry his dream girl, Alice.

There is no set plot to the tale when it comes to panto, but many different retellings, so we chose a succinct route, making the story more about Dick’s search for love than riches, and exploring the idea that he’s a hero who doesn’t get involved in any heroics, but is rewarded for his KINDNESS.

And today’s London may be unrecognisable from the old city that Dick knew, but he remains far from forgotten 600 years later. Any tale-loving tourists who visit the metropolis can not only get their picture taken with a statue of his cat outside Archway tube station – even more impressively, the nearby Whittington Hospital marks the same site of one of the mayor’s original establishments (and of course, its logo is a cat), while a charity begun by the historical Dick is still in operation to this day, which is more than you can say for Robin Hood.

This is roughly the area where the heartbroken lad was said to have ‘turned again’ on the instruction of the Bow bells – but as they are nearly five miles away, that’s where your pinch of salt has to come in handy. But it just goes to show, from the most idyllic rural village to the tiniest town (we’re playing the Ludlow Fringe last Saturday of this month!) to, indeed, the black-bogey-packed scrum and stress of London itself, there is folklore wherever you go in Britain. Maybe even Milton Keynes (did that concrete cow just moo?).

We’re still awaiting news as to what happens now with the book, and dearly hoping Unbound are still aiming to get it to everyone before the end of the year, but as we’ve said before, the more pre-orders and pledges we get, the stronger the book’s march to bookshops will be, so please keep spreading the word, and if you haven’t yet – pledge! Dick would have. He was nice like that.

Happy Birthday To Us: In TINTAGEL!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Happy birthday to Folklore Thursday, and happy birthday to Brother Bernard too!

Now, this is uncanny. After completing nearly a year of annual blogs themed to Folklore Thursday’s lovely whims, this is the week we were planning to give ourselves the week off – ‘Tales of Britain Is On Holiday, in Tintagel!’ – due to Brother Bernard hitting the terrifying milestone of 7,040!

But then, thanks to some otherworldly psychic connection known as ‘coincidence’, it’s Folklore Thursday’s birthday too – so we’ll share our birthday holiday snaps.

Besides, the main tale we have chosen to put Tintagel on our map (Tristan & Isolde also having a Fowey connection), is also surely all about having something to celebrate: young Arthur pulling Excalibur from Merlin’s charmed rock in a magical clearing (based somewhere in the Tintagel village, though to be honest we couldn’t find it), in THE SWORD IN THE STONE!

As a penniless author, I refuse to blush to admit that I had never personally been any further south west than Torquay before, despite the many tales in our collection based right down here. The train from Bath came through Totnes and St Germans, literally the sites of the first and last tales in our book! But besides taking a humble billet in the interesting town of Bodmin (where I saw no beast, but wrote a brand new folktale retelling as a birthday treat to myself, ‘The Exorcism of Jan Tregeagle’), the big birthday trip to the ruins of Tintage utterlyl failed to disappoint: it’s a truly awesome place to behold and explore and worth every penny and expended calorie (also, it’s insanely dangerous, and the most exhausting tourist outing I’ve ever experienced: you’ll need to be fit).

Anyone who loves Glasto will instantly feel at home in Tintagel village, first of all: joss-stick and crystal city! I avoided buying a wooden Excalibur for 15 quid, but was chuffed to see the Merlin’s Cave shop even has a wee stone circle round the back…

 

Then, once descending the breakneck path to the National Trust shop, the compact but bijou exhibition you find there primes visitors nicely for the vast rocky ruins they’ve come on such an epic voyage to experience…

One you’ve clambered up the steep rocky steps and inclines, even the knowledge that many of the ruins are 700ish years older than the legends that brought you there can’t spoil the pleasure of exploring what remains of the home of Uther’s enemy, Gorlois – or indeed, Tristan’s uncle King Mark. Story boards litter the site, and you can even visit the medieval rebuilding of the garden where Mark snooped on Tristan & Isolde, with the plot mapped out in decorative slates.

I of course took the opportunity of filming as much as possible for an eventual Tales of Britain launch vid, and there’s some very rough footage attached!

Tristan & Isolde always seems to have a stronger anchor in historicity than any Arthurian lore (and remember, passionate Arthurian debaters, Tales of Britain also takes time out to detail the Arthurian claims to Wales, England, Scotland and France), but on this gloriously sunny day, the visit happily reaffirmed our decision to set The Sword In The Stone here, as the beginning of our Arthur cycle.

We were indeed lucky with the weather, but carefully scaling from the Dark Age outcrops down to Merlin’s Cave on the beach, with the glowing blue waves and splashing waterfalls… if you want to walk onto the set of the movie Excalibur, Tintagel is where you come – with the far north-west town of Glastonbury as a fitting conclusion to any tour, just as Avalon was the conclusion to Arthur’s tale.

Apologies to any Arthur claimant far from the southwest who scoffs at the boasts made here, to being Arthur’s home – yes, we’re all aware of the paucity of any evidence for our greatest mythical figure, let alone historical sites… but you have to admit, whether you prefer to picture the Romano/British warlord based on Hadrian’s wall, in South Wales, or over the channel, Cornwall and Somerset have totally owned the legend and made it work better here in the south west than anyone else can. So if you want to *feel* you’re walking in Arthur’s steps, this is where you come, and you will not be disappointed.

Oh well, back home north-west, and on with the 7,041st year. And if you didn’t get Brother Bernard a present – get a friend to pre-order Tales of Britain today!

Art of the Landscape: Wade & Bell in Whitby

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

I hope everyone’s feeling creative for this Artistic Folklore Thursday…? We think we win this week, as we have two artists who created the actual landscape itself!

This is Wade’s Causeway, which you’ll find in the Whitby area of North Yorkshire – some call it a Roman road but, like many a ‘Roman road’, it’s been around a lot longer than the Romans – because it was built thousands of years ago by landscape sculpting GIANTS, Wade & Bell!

“What, more hill-making giants?” the cry goes up, and yes, we covered the Wrekin in Shropshire last week, but the giant who made the Wrekin did it entirely by accident – Wade & Bell, the beloved giant couple of Whitby, may sound like a telecommunications company, but they were the area’s greatest CRAFTSGIANTS, and they created many local landmarks with their own enormous hands, living in peace with the little people (us).

This is Blakey Topping, one of a number of hills said to have been formed by the mighty Wade’s craft hobby, and the Causeway itself was created to help his wife Bell take her enormous cow a-milking – in our retelling (one of 77 stories tied to the landscape you’ll find in the book), in order to give human for miles around wonderful cream teas straight from the massive udder!

*Cow may not be actual size.

Admittedly, there’s not much of a narrative to Wade & Bell’s tale, but the huge artists left their mark on this landscape so much, we felt we could not leave them out of our collection. I must admit, yer author visited Whitby several years ago, but was too blind-sided by pirates and Dracula to appreciate Wade & Bell’s artistry at the time, so a return visit to the Causeway, Blakey Topping, the Hole of Horcum and many other landscaping projects of the creative couple, seems in order.

Now we’d better keep this week’s blog brief – we have a copy-edited TOB manuscript to okay by Monday – thankfully, you’ll be glad to hear the suggested changes are very very few this time, maybe we can still get this wonderful story collection to you all before Xmas! Once this stage is done, hopefully a really enthusiastic designer can get to work – and we still have no illustrators, if anyone out there wants to get involved! Wish us luck, and if you haven’t – keep on pre-ordering!

THERE MIGHT BE GIANTS: Round the Wrekin

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

OW BIST THEE, FOLKLORE LOVERS? (In my Shropshire voice.)

‘Creature Lore’ is a wide open goal for Tales of Britain – we’re well stocked with so many flavours of little people, from mystical faeries to the ‘duergar’ of the Scottish borders, and then there’s a whole menagerie of vicious scaly things, not just worms and dragons but the Saffron Cockatrice and many more, and there are trolls, and banshees, and shape-shifters… but then there are the giants. Oh, so many giants.

As William Blake himself would have told you (he loved musing about Britain’s origins, one of his descendents of Albion is pictured below), no mythical creature is more central to the British story than the mighty giant. Indeed, as we told you in our Brutus blog, it’s long been believed that these titanic offspring of Queen Albion were the original inhabitants of this island, back when Doggerland was only freshly wet, and the island was newly minted.

There are unquestionably more tales in our collection of 77 from each corner of the island concerning giants than any other creature you care to mention – except for humans, at least. We’ve told you about the kind giant on the Isle of Lewis, while of course Jack and his adversaries are the most famous, and there are several more humungous natives hiding within this book, which we’re desperate to get into your hands… but today, we’re going with the first giant we ever knew about – the creator of The Wrekin hill in Shropshire.

As a Shropshire Lad, this is one of the only stories in our collection which your author was told from infancy, and knew well long before the idea of writing a book like this could ever have seemed possible – memories of Mum pointing out the hills and unfolding a silly stories of scuffed shoes and soily soles. There’s something about seeing a grand piece of the landscape, and hearing crazy old-female-spouse’s tales about how it came to be, which has always thrilled me to the atom.

And one thing Shropshire does very well indeed, is hills. In my native south Shropshire, it’s the Clee Hills which dominate the country all around (and Titterstone Clee Hill has inspired one original story of my own), plus AE Housman/Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, and the Long Mynd, are all part of the terrain. However, in north Shropshire, The Wrekin has long inspired folk for miles about – and even ended up putting in the odd appearance in the work of PG Wodehouse, whose family moved to Shropshire at a very crucial time for young Plum. His school stories, set in the area, were based at a school called Wrykin, where Psmith met Mike.

Anyway, without wishing to delve right into the narrative – we’re confident you’ll love the way we’ve retold it – the hill’s origin story involves a HUGE AND VERY STUPID GIANT (which we’ve called Reeky) and a small and very clever cobbler from Wellington (who we’ve called Urkle). The former’s plan to drown the people of Shrewsbury by damming the Severn is foiled in a shoe-related way which fellow Salopians may already know well, and the resultant mounds of earth have given us The Wrekin and The Ercall to explore on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

As the cigarette card above attests, it’s one of the more celebrated giant legends of Britain, and one on which we’re proud to have put our own stamp!

If there are any Salopians – or west midlands/Welsh border folk generally – reading this, by the way, do come and see our one-man show for the Ludlow Fringe on Saturday 30th June at The Blue Boar! Brother Bernard will be back booming some fresh tales – and though ‘The Giant Who Wanted To Drown Shrewsbury’ went down very well last year, we’re tempted to mix things up with some different stories this time. If we pick a giant-based story, the antics of the evil giants of Stokesay Castle may be closer to home…

A Funny Old Game: Elidor & The Golden Ball

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

We hope this sporting Folklore Thursday finds you all cheering!

We’re afraid our crowd of lovely backers has stopped growing – though admittedly we are spending more time worrying about when we will hear back about the latest manuscript copy-edit than actually spreading the word, particularly when there will be so much noise to create when the book is finally available to buy! We can confirm that, besides book dates in Cornall, Cambridge, Bath, Ludlow and Cardiff, there will be a live Tales of Britain show at the Edinurgh Festival, on Thursday 23rd August! More details to follow.

But for now, let’s break the habit of a lifetime, and talk about… I can’t quite believe I’m typing this… SPORT!

Yes, the act of playing games and knocking rounds things around lawns is the theme this week, and the tale which most obviously fits the bill in our collection is actually also one of the very first tales we ever retold – the Pembrokeshire legend of Brother Elidor, and the wonderful game (and excellent custard) he discovered in the fairy kingdom!

Having started out 14 years ago reworking Shropshire folktales for nephews, once the criminal absence of a British foklore collection on our bookshelves became clear to me, I began adding other stories which caught my eye to a folder, and subtly wondering whether I might be able to revive our national lore with a proper book. This year, we finally are!

It’s hard to say why this tale was only the 4th or 5th to be added to the pile – and it’s worth adding, it has nothing at all to do with Alan Garner’s fantasy novel ‘Elidor’. The priest in question seems to have been a historical figure, and Gerald of Wales recorded this tale as a genuine claim from old Elidor, who constantly wept at the memory. We have no idea what 12th century Welsh monks were on, but…

The story runs that this apparently respectable priest of the Pembrokeshire city of St. David’s – the smallest city in the UK by a long chalk – was said to have travelled underground to an alternate reality as a young boy. In this other land, populated with tiny people, Elidor was welcomed and championed as a mighty giant, fed the local delicacy of custard, and introduced to a sport which sounded very like rugby, centuries before an English public schoolboy picked up a football and claimed to have invented the Welsh national sport.

Of course, ball games are millennia old, and have been played in Britain for a very long time, and proto-soccer or rugby, they are much the same – team games with a ball (or perhaps the severed head of your enemy, according to taste) and a goal to kick it into – be it a menhir or the crypt of the nearest village’s parish church, and so on.

Sadly, although Elidor excelled at the game, being so much bigger than his opponents, his claim to ownership of the golden ball involved had tragic consequences when he tried to run back to the land of the humans with it. The little people gave chase, and… well, we should probably not dwell on what happened next here, or we’ll be giving away the whole story!

But then, very few Britons who dare to visit underground worlds full of little people thrive…

JOIN OUR TEAM! If you haven’t yet, PLEDGE TODAY!

Ye Gods: Wayland & Flibbertigibbet in Oxfordshire

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

BY TOUTATIS! Is it Folklore Thursday again already? Gods almighty…

Ferretting out a God-themed tale from our 77 British stories is a taller order than you might think. Probably our most theological tale of all, LONG MEG AND HER DAUGHTERS, is not only all about how we don’t need gods or religion, but it’s also… well, already been blogged about. Obviously. The thing is, unlike Norse, Greek and Roman myths, and cultures in many other corners of the planet, Britain has much less to offer in terms of home-grown God mythology.

This is largely down to the frankly DAFFY trait of the pre-Roman denizens of this island, of not seeing the value of properly recording their culture for generations to come (or maybe this is unfair – perhaps they did finally work out the necessity of coming up with something a bit neater than the odd spot of ogham notching – and yeah, we know ogham was later – but then the Romans destroyed all the evidence). Despite a tangle of silly names which have survived, usually quoted verbatim from The Wicker Man – ‘Nuada, god of the sun’ and so forth – we don’t know a lot about the gods who ruled the lives of the people of Britain from 55AD and beyond. Like so much of this stuff, it’s impossible to tell what is genuinely ancient, and what is the babbling of Victorian antiquarians.

But due to the English coming over and ransacking the place centuries later, we do have plenty of poached Norse mythology on our land. And besides, it’s quite possible that whatever British gods we once had corresponded easily with counterparts in Norse, Greek and Roman myths – Odin/Zeus/Jupiter – and so it matters less than it might seem who we once worshipped. Certainly it was usual for Romans to ally local gods with Roman equivalents: these words are being tapped out right now in Bath, the Roman city of Sulis/Minerva, for instance.

But anyway, the one remaining glaring God-type-person in our book is the Norse beefcake WAYLAND THE SMITH!

Specifically, a corner of Oxfordshire known as Wayland’s Smithy provided our funny little narrative of the brawny Norse hero, and his annoying little immortal apprentice Flibbertigibbet – the flighty one famously mentioned by Edgar in King Lear, and Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music. It’s a simple tale, with the exasperated Wayland trying to sort out his work experience minor immortal, but we think it will raise many a guffaw when the book finally hits shops later this year.

It’s definitely set in a pretty corner of England. Four thousand years before the Saxons came along, dragging their own gods kicking and screaming over to their newly plundered land, Britons of some description began building a mighty tomb in the spot which has become known as WAYLAND’S SMITHY. This south-west corner of the county as we now know it was richly peopled, and richly stamped with habitation and sites of ceremony, going back many millennia –also, the Uffington White Horse (you know, the one that looks like a cat drawn by a three-year-old) is not far away, so there’s plenty to see on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Horses are a crucial part of Wayland’s legend, as a forger of those good-luck-festooned items of ironmongery, horseshoes. Moreover, Flibbertigibbet’s adolescent failure to go and find the right nails for a big horseshoe order for the exiled Wayland is what leads to his downfall, and the elder, greater god’s revenge on his apprentice, pinning him to the ground with a standing stone which makes the young ne’er-do-well bawl his eyes out – hence the name given to that spot today, Snivelling Corner.

Sadly, there’s not much to see there now, thanks to the actions of centuries of farmers whose attitude to the big weird stones on their land would make any Time Team fan weep harder than Flibbertigibbet (it’s not always Romans who are to blame for lost British heritage).

Yet we do still have the legend that if you come to Wayland’s Smithy with an open heart, an adventurous mind, and perhaps a bottle of gin, you can still call on the immortal blacksmith to be up for a transaction. Leave your horse – yes, your horse, which you naturally will have brought with you – tied to this spot, and leave a coin or two conspicuously on the side, and after a reasonable wait (so the legend runs, but perhaps they meant 300 years), you will find the money gone and the horse newly shod. This has been found to be true on a staggering 0 occasions in 12 centuries. Nevertheless, it’s still fun to test the theory. If your horse is up for it.

Alas, this is the only bit of silliness from Valhalla which graces our Tales of Britain. And although he gave us a very kind prod for our campaign late last year, we tragically left our copy of Neil Gaiman’s wonderful collection of Norse God myths on a train only two-thirds ravished, so for all we know this self-same tale may be in there – and we’re not keen on competing with Neil Himself. Nonetheless, if all goes well, and this book is just the beginning of a whole new line in 21st century folklore publications, we may sniff out many more Saxon Gods hiding out there in Britain’s highways, byways and any-which-ways, all waiting to put in an appearance in the next volume…

Pledge today if you haven’t, and the Gods will smile upon you!

A Home-Grown Story: Britain’s Famous Porky Trio

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

A happy ‘Hearth & Home’ Folklore Thursday to all!

This is our 43rd update since we launched last June – a trifle early, due to hoping to attract Glasto punters – and with 77 tales in our collection, we wonder how long we can keep this up, with fresh tales every week tying in to @FolkloreThurs’ changing themes. In particular, we were hoping that the 77 tales would deliver a fair few lovely surprises when the book was finally in the hands of each pledger – but surprises are harder to keep secret after 42 blogs.

When will Tales of Britain be with you, and in shops? It’s painful to admit, we have no clues about this – the manuscript was delivered Halloween 2017, and we once believed it would be a ‘Spring’ release, but at the current speed of production, that would be more likely spring 2019. We sincerely hope it won’t be that far away – not least as that would require another 50 or so blogs. While we’re waiting to discover what Unbound’s plans are, we’re also somehow trying to arrange the launch publicity – storytelling book events in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and England – when we don’t know when the books will be available for them. It’s all highly confusing and difficult, but of course we will keep you updated when we find out more about the situation…

For now, let’s get on with giving away the lovely surprises… not least of which, in our opinion, is THE THREE LITTLE PIGS!

Yes, you could have huffed and puffed and blown us down when we realised that Britain could happily lay claim to this world-famous fairy tale. Okay, so some professional professor of Folklore Studies out there may already be grumbling “But this is a tale of the B-36.3-slash-14 kind, ‘animal trio in danger’, with examples listed in every culture” – to which we naturally blow a merry raspberry. Because the earliest version of this specific story that we could locate – albeit, only traced back to the late 19th century – was not only British, it was very different to the story we all know so well… and it was based quite firmly on THE ISLE OF WIGHT!

Specifically, the pretty seaside destination of Shanklin (site of a memorable and crazy-golf-packed holiday at the age of 10) played a key role in the oldest extant version of The Three Little Pigs.

We shouldn’t need to underline the ‘Hearth and Home’ element of the tale – it’s all about using your brains, choosing the right building materials to build your home, and ultimately boiling your enemy in a stew on the fireplace – but there’s so much more to this story than we ever thought.

In fact, our search began with The Isle of Wight – we couldn’t identify any really good standalone unique folktales which came from the island at all, even after putting out requests on Twitter, and were just beginning to lose hope of ever placing an X on our British map there… when we read the original telling of this piggy tale, and discovered the whole forgotten subplot of Pig Number 3 and The Big Bad Wolf, at Shanklin Fair!

With both older siblings already digesting within the wolf’s belly, the third Little Pig, rather than immediately luring their attacker down the chimney and into the pot as in the version of the story that we all know so well, was led on a series of merry chases by the stupid wolf, culminating in an invitation to Shanklin Fair. The original tellings of the tale seem to be a kind of Brer Rabbit and Brer Wolf – or, if you prefer, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd – situation, with the wily prey always outfoxing the villainous hunter. In the Victorian retelling we found, the Pig waited until the Big Bad Wolf was in the right place at the fair, and then climbed into a butter churn at the top of a hill, and rolled all the way down until SMASHING into the hapless baddie, and escaping back to his brick house.

We can see why the story has been streamlined over the years – and we wanted to keep our own version relatively snappy, and so have simplified the Shanklin Fair stuff to just dialogue – but it’s a shame that the Wight Islanders don’t celebrate their ownership of the beloved porky yarn more.

Maybe some folklore experts out there consider the Wight connection common knowledge, and The Three Little Pigs is a regular entry in English Folktale collections, but its provenance seems to come as a surprise to many, and we’re really proud and pleased to get this chance to celebrate one of Britain’s most world famous stories for a new generation – by, of course, the hairs of our chinny-chin-chin. One of the world’s favourite stories, and entirely home-grown.

The Fiery Leap Of Conjuring Minterne

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A toasty FIRE-themed Folklore Thursday to each of our lovely 300 backers!

We’re still trying to find places to do our storytelling show in CORNWALL in early June, and EDINBURGH/GLASGOW in late August (Please email bernard@talesofbritain.com or jem@jemroberts.com if you can help!) but for today’s fiery theme, we’re headed to Batcombe – and be careful, as there’s more than one Batcombe, we’re headed to Dorset, the home of CONJURING MINTERNE!

This ivy-laden tomb lies outside the church of St. Mary Magdalene, but when the body below was originally interred, the site was ‘both half in and half out of the church’, as the medieval magician allegedly requested. The most likely historical John Minterne, whose level of knowledge inevitably led to him being seen as a conjurer, in league with the Devil, was the early 16th century noble referred to HERE, by one of his descendants, no less.

In those days, anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence, the types who didn’t go round swearing that fouling yourself on a Friday was good luck if you then walked twelve times round the horsetrough backwards and wished a happy birthday to a wren… these folk were deemed to be CONJURORS! Weirdoes whose learning could only come from a fictional character known as the Devil.

The story of Conjuring Minterne’s flame-powered horse leap, a kind of ‘Oh Christ I’ve left the iron on!’ moment, in fear of his magical spellbook being left open for all and sundry to delve into, is not long or complicated, and our retelling hasn’t added pages of extra exposition or complication (though a fair few jokes, admittedly). It’s a simple tale with a strong connection to the site, as the horse’s fiery descent not only knocked the church spire askew for centuries to come (and it’s bent to this day!) but also left indelible scorch marks in the field next to the church, which are great fun to try and track down if you pay a visit to the tiny village.

In a way, it’s a shame that more tales aren’t told about this Minterne, as he and his fiery steed seem ripe for all sorts of magical goings on, but there aren’t many wizards in British lore whose graves you can visit, so at least he beats Merlin on that score – and just a few miles to the south east, at Cerne Abbas, is a mighty giant* with no pants on, so you can visit them both in one sunny afternoon!

*But is this lewd big yin one of Jack’s victims? You’ll have to buy our book to find out!

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