Cheshire Folklore: The Legendary Floating Island of Redesmere

 

 

The Floating Island of Redesmere

Redesmere Lake is an artificial lake situated not far from Siddington in Cheshire.  The lake is about half a mile long and was originally constructed to feed water to the ornamental lakes of Capesthorne Hall.  A local legend that tells how there was once a floating island on the lake that was alleged to move around the lake though today it is not visible as such. Although the idea of a floating island may seem fantastic they are a natural phenomenon found in many parts of the world.

The name Redesmere is believed to mean reedy marsh or reedy pool and some say the island was made of reeds and peat and even said to have trees and bushes growing on it. It was eventually thought to have and eventually joined with the east bank.  Old maps do show an island in the lake which according to tradition was said to float,  though it may have been simply floating upon the surface being more a  stationary feature than a mobile one. Whatever the truth of the floating island may be it plays an important part in a legend that is attached to Redesmere and a version of that story is presented here.

Sir Reginald

There was once a bold  and loyal knight named Sir Reginald who had fought bravely and ferociously for King Henry V and distinguished himself at the Battle of Agincourt.  It is said he always fought hard, asking for no quarter and gave none in return.  His pennant could be seen fluttering wherever the fighting was the hardest and the fiercest.   His deeds upon the battlefield were held in high esteem and he was a man of good and impeccable character, a stalwart friend, and a fierce enemy.   Indeed, he may well be seen as a good and honest knight and the best of his order,  yet he had a flaw in his character that was often troublesome.  You see, he had a terrible quick temper which when things were not going his way would come to the fore leading him to make rash decisions he would later regret.  Then, he was prone to sulking alone and brooding upon what might have been.  Still, despite these faults, he was always a man of his word, even though it may have been too hastily given.

The Fair Lady Isabel

In a cottage quite near to Redesmere, there lived a very fair and beautiful lady whose name was Isabel.  For Sir Reginald, she was as lovely as sunlight and as mysterious as moonlight.  Indeed, all who knew her agreed her sweet and good-natured mien was a delight to behold.  Sadly, she lived a solitary life in virtual social isolation, her family and friends strangely absent.   Alas, for poor Sir Reginald for his heart was quite taken by her and he dreamed of marriage to her one day. Now there was a mystery as to why the fair Isabel lived alone in poverty in a humble cottage when she had been born of a noble line and was, in fact, the heiress of vast and valuable estates.

Sir Hugh

The answer to the mystery rests with another knight, though not so noble, whose name was Sir Hugh.  He had cheated Isabel out of her rightful inheritance and forced her to live in the lowly cottage near Redesmere.   Now, when Isabel told Sir Reginald of the secret of this mystery he was outraged.  As was his character and without forethought, he vowed vengeance and that he would reclaim her lands and rightful inheritance from the dastardly Sir Hugh.  He quickly gathered his men and attacked the stronghold of his enemy, but  unfortunately, even though he had the best and most noble of intentions, in his hot-tempered haste to right a wrong, he did not prepare properly and Sir Hugh soundly defeated him.

The Death of Sir Hugh

Although Sir Hugh bested Sir Reginald his victory was to prove to be short lived.  Not long after his victory, Sir Hugh faced a grimmer and more deadly enemy which none have ever defeated. It was at Christmas time while he was drinking and feasting and celebrating the festivities with all his men at arms and cronies.  Sir Death gatecrashed the party and  swiftly and unexpectedly struck Sir Hugh down as he downed a goblet of wine in one go.  All his friends and men were shocked at the suddenness of his demise and fled in fear. The former servants and guardians of Isabel’s felt empowered to at last claim for her what was rightfully hers and at last, she came into possession of her estates and inheritance.  Of course, they made sure they too were reinstated to their former status.

Fytton

Now the restoration of Isabel to her rightful inheritance with estates and riches also brought her to the attention of many who began to notice just how beautiful and desirable and indeed, rich and unmarried she was.  Such is the way of the world  that she found friends and suitors appearing out of nowhere to tell her just how wonderful and gorgeous she was and how much they adored her.

One such suitor was one rather young and very handsome fellow of very dubious character who claimed he was some distant, long lost relative by the name of Fytton.  He made it his business to insinuated himself into her society and into her affections.  Somehow he forgot how he had previously distanced himself from her when she was naught but the socially isolated lady of the humble cottage by Redesmere.

Because of her isolation, Isabel had no friends to turn to for support or an older female relative who could be her mentor and guide her with unfamiliar or complicated matters such as those of the heart.  It is also fair to say that her sudden good fortune in coming into riches after so long in poverty went to her head a little.  Isabel had little experience of men and the way of the world and responded to the flattery of Fytton and his advances, but it is probably fair to say that talk about their relationship by others was certainly exaggerated out of all proportion.

Sir Reginald’s Oath

After his defeat by Sir Hugh,  Sir Reginald had taken to his castle and shut himself away in shame and embarrassment at having been bested by the man who had so badly cheated the woman he loved.   When he heard of how his foe had been vanquished by death he had cheered up.  Then he heard how Isabel had at last come into her inheritance and how this dishonorable young man, Fytton was wooing her his mood plummeted once again.

Although the accounts he heard were exaggerated he took to sulking angrily and acting in a completely  inappropriate and childish way.  His squire, who had served him faithfully and accompanied him at Agincourt, at last, took it upon himself to berate his master in the hope of jolting some sense into him and he was probably the only man who could have done this.  Even so, although Sir Reginald respected and liked his squire and did listen to him, his temper got the better of him and he rashly swore a solemn oath  saying,

“Until the island moved along
The bosom of the mere,
He would not look upon the face
Of Isabel de Vere.”
Anon
After uttering this vow Sir Reginald fell into sickness and took to his bed.  His condition quickly deteriorated and he fell into a state of unconsciousness.  Now, although Sir Reginald had been well and truly beaten by Sir Hugh his courage and devotion had not gone unnoticed by Isabel. Hearing about his sickness shocked her out of her own naive and foolish behavior and she rushed to be at his side.  With outstanding dedication and devotion, she nursed him back to health and he was delighted to discover that Isabel carried deep feeling for him.

As he his strength returned under the care of Isabel and slowly his memory returned he realized he had been very rash and foolish and one thing that troubled him greatly. Despite his many faults, Sir Reginald always did what he said he would do and the oath he had sworn, though done rashly and with little thought, now bound him and he explained the situation to Isabel.

It broke his heart as well as hers but he believed that he would have to distance himself from her or break his vow and so he asked her to leave.  Reluctantly she agreed. From then on he became a more thoughtful and gentler man and the legend says that when those in heaven who look down saw how he had changed they decided to help.

The Island Floats

A great storm blew across the sea sinking and wrecking many ships before it hit land.  It then ravaged across the land uprooting trees and blowing roofs off buildings in its path.  When it hit Redesmere the island was taken by the wind causing it to float across the mere to rest in a different position.  As soon as Sir Reginald heard about this wonder he quickly made haste to tell his true love of the floating island which released him from his rashly sworn oath,

“And there, although his tale of love
Was a wondrous tale to tell,
Yet must the good Sir Reginald
Have told it passing well;
For when ’twas o’er, the lover pressed
A willing maiden to his breast,
And lo I a fond kiss told the rest
To his fond Isabel.”
Anon

And there, I will leave the reader to decide for themselves of the truth of the legend of The Floating Island of Redesmere and perhaps to create their own ending for the bold Sir Reginald and the fair Lady Isabel.

© 26/10/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 26th, 2016 zteve t evans

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The Lost World of El Dorado

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In search of El Dorado

In the 16th century when the Spanish Conquistadors conquered Mexico they began to hear rumors of a fabulous priest-king who was said to cover his body with gold dust. The conquistadors called him El-Dorado or the Gilded King, and the Golden One. The city he ruled over was said to be paved with gold and held unimaginable treasures.

The Zipa and the Zaque

When the conquistadors explored what is now Columbia they found the Muisca people who were organized into the Muisca Confederation. This confederation had two rulers; the Zipa and the Zaque. The Zipa ruled over the southern part of the confederation that was then called Bacatá and now known as Bogota and during the time of the Spanish conquest the Zipa held ascendency over the Zaque.

The Zaque ruled over the northern part of the confederation. These were positions of tremendous prestige, authority and power and they were held in great honor by the people. Elaborate ceremonies surrounded them and were part of their duties to participate in and perform.

The Zipa was held in such high esteem that even members of the Muisca nobility would not dare to look him in the face. Although the position was inherited it was not from a patrilineal line. The new ruler would come from the oldest son of the oldest sister of the previous Zipa so he would be the nephew. Although there were some exceptions to this and the people had some say in the matter, but usually only to give their consent to the successor at the ceremony on Lake Guatavita.

One of the most important tasks of the Zipa was to offer the gods gold and this was done with great ceremony at Lake Guatavita the sacred lake of the Muisca. In a ceremony on barge on Lake Guatavita the Zipa would be covered in mud and then gold dust sprinkled over him and then floated out to the middle of the lake. While his people watched from the shore he would dive in the water washing himself clean of mud and gold dust. His attendants then threw gold and silver objects and precious stones into the water for the gods and the people would roar their approval from the shore.  Read more Continue reading

Wilderness Tales: First Falling Thunder and the Little Bird

This is a retelling of a folktale from the Colorado foothills collected by  Charles M. Skinner called Riders of the Desert, published in his book Myths and Legends of Our Own Land  (1896).

Ta-in-ga-ro and Zecana

Ta-in-ga-ro, which means First Falling Thunder, built his lodge in the Colorado foothills among the towering sandstone columns.  Although he was brave in battle and swift in the chase he preferred to spend his time in the company of Zecana, which means Little Bird, who was his wife, rarely joining in with the forays of the men of his tribe.

He trapped beaver and hunted the wild sheep and would take them to a trading post on the Mexican border.  He would take his beloved Zecana along with him as he could not bear to be parted from her.  It was on one such outing when a Spanish trader saw Zecana and became enamored with her.  He dreamed about her day and night to the point where he became consumed by his own lust for her and craved for his fill of her body.  To satisfy his hunger he plotted to separate her from Ta-in-ga-ro who rarely left her side.

To achieve this aim while keeping his feelings for Zecana secret he persuaded Ta-in-ga-ro to undertake a journey to a distant mountain, promising him that Zecana could remain in safety and comfort at the trading post until he returned.  Ta-in-ga-ro was an honest man who would never knowingly hurt anyone and could not envisage that everyone was not like himself and  he agreed and began the journey.

A Bad Omen

Along the way, he stopped at a spring to rest and refresh himself.  He saw how the blue sky and clouds reflected in the cool clear waters and after he had drunk his fill he cast some beads and wampum into the water as was customary to thank the spirit.  Throwing his offering into the spring he was most shocked to see a bad omen manifest within the water.  Instead of reflecting the sky to his horror and fear he saw the agonized and anguished face of his beloved wife appear.

As fear washed over him he jumped to his feet and jumped upon his horse and galloped back to the trading post without stopping for rest or food.  When he arrived at he jumped from his horse and ran into the building looking for his wife.  Neither she or the Spaniard were there and not knowing what else to do he returned to his lodge.

Zecana

It was a long and lonely journey and both he and his horse were exhausted, but he rode day and night and one morning as the dawn was breaking he saw the sun coming up over his lodge.  There to his absolute joy as entered his home was his beloved wife Zecana.  She was happily singing as she went about the care of the home just as she always had done.  Joyfully he greeted her holding arms out to embrace.  She turned her head to look at him and then casually returned to her singing.   He turned her towards him and looked into her eyes.  what had once been dark and mysterious pools that shone with inner beauty were now dead.  She looked at him through dead eyes and she did not know who he was.  Her mind and reason were  no longer there.

The Madness of Zecana

Ta-in-ga-ro cried out in shock and stepped back and then gently sat her down and cradled her lovingly in his arms.  Slowly with his gentleness and patience, he learned from her babble the terrible ordeal the Spaniard had inflicted upon her.  When she had finally managed to tell her story a fleeting look of remembrance came into her dark eyes and in her tortured mind she briefly saw her husband and remembered her love for him.  Then, pain came into her eyes and tears flooded down her face.  Suddenly, her hand snaked out and grasped the dagger he always carried at his side.  Stepping back she raised it with both hands and plunged it into her heart falling dead at her shocked husband’s feet.

Ta-in-ga-ro watched this all happen as if it was in slow motion and as the blade entered her heart he let out a cry and reached forward but was too late to stop her.  He stood frozen to the spot for hours overcome by the horror of his wife’s suicide.  Eventually, the strength of his forefathers came to his rescue and he knew she had passed on.  Setting his house in order he wrapped his wife’s body in buffalo skin and laid her in what he thought was a comfortable position for her to sleep, though he knew the body was not her and her soul had flown.   Then he lay down beside her and slept for his body was exhausted and his emotions numb.

The Spaniard

Two nights later the Spaniard lay sleeping in his bed at the trading post.  Ta-in-ga-ro had passed the guards unseen like a shadow and now stood over the sleeping man looking down upon him.  In the darkest hours the Spaniard awoke with a start by strange feeling as his mouth was gagged by his belt.  Although he tried he could not cry out and his teeth bit into leather.  He felt fear as a noose tightened around his throat and struggled to free himself but to no avail.  In seconds he found himself bound hand and foot and flung over someone’s shoulder.  Struggle though he did he could not break free and could not even make a sound as he was carried stealthily out of the house.

Ta-in-ga-ro placed him across a horse tying him to the beast’s body firmly.  He then wrapped an arrow in cotton and set it a light firing it into a nearby haystack to create a diversion.  While everyone was busy dousing the flaming haystack he mounted his own horse bound Spaniard into the desert concealed by the smoke.

Ta-in-ga-ro took his captive back to his home lodge where his dead wife lay.  Arriving back Ta-in-ga-ro he ungagged him and loosened his bonds enough for him to eat.  The Spaniard ate and when he had finished Ta-in-ga-ro led a horse he had placed a wooden saddle upon to the door way.  He then cut off the clothes of the Spaniard  and placed him upon the horse ignoring his terrified pleas to stop.  Ta-in-ga-ro then tied the man firmly to the horse.  He then went inside and carried out his dead wife and lifted her corpse upon the horse so that she sat face to face with the Spaniard.  He then freed the burdened  horse  and mounting his own set it free in into the desert.  The horse wandered off carrying the Spaniard and the corpse.  The more the Spaniard struggled the closer his face came to the face of the dead woman.

Into the Desert

The horse carried them both further into the desert.  The Spaniard slipped in and out of consciousness and each came time came to face to face with his victim.  Slowly and surely the horse continued ever deeper into the endless desert.  In the fierceness of the desert heat, the Spaniard sweat profusely and his bonds cut him into his skin and blood dripped from him.  At night the cold desert air froze his bones and although he nodded into sleep each time he did Ta-in-ga-ro yelled at him.  With a jolt, he would awaken to face the corpse whose dead eyes stared into his own.  And so this living nightmare  continued and occasionally, Ta-in-ga-ro gave him a mouth full ,of water to keep him alive but never any food and the Spaniard’s hunger grew.  This nightmare continued for many days and all the time the Spaniard sat face to face with the corpse of Zecana.  He had eaten nothing for days and hunger gnawed at him as he looked into the dead of eyes of the woman he had once so hungered for.

The Madman and the Corpse

At last the Spaniard could bear the hunger no longer and though he hated what he did he sank his teeth into the face of the woman who he had so lusted after.  Ta-in-ga-ro looked on grimly each time hunger took the Spaniard but still continued taking them further and further into the desert.  At last, he heard the Spaniard sobbing and gibbering and knew that madness had come upon him.  Only then did he rein in his own horse and watch as the horse bearing the babbling Spaniard and the corpse wandered deeper into the desert.  Not until he had seen them disappear into the wilderness did he turn his own horse around and ride off.  He never went home but went to join Zecana.

The madman and the corpse were carried into the wilderness that is the  abode of lost and wandering souls.    Few people willingly go to that barren and empty wasteland and fewer return but those who do have an eerie tale to tell.  They say when the little bird stops singing and the first falling thunder is heard the phantom riders appear.  The ghost of the babbling madman staring into the dead eyes of  the woman that he had so hungered for doomed to forever feast upon her flesh on an endless journey through the wilderness.

© 12/10/2016 zteve t evans

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Copyright October 12th, zteve t evans

 

The Monster Fish of Bomere Pool, Shropshire

Bomere Pool

Bomere Pool is situated in the English county of Shropshire about 4.7 miles (7.5 km) south of Shrewsbury between Condover and Bayston Hill.  The pool has several legends attached to it and presented here is a version of a tale that tells how a monster fish acquired the sword of Wild Eadric, an Anglo-Saxon war leader who had fought against the Norman Conquest of Britain.

The Fish and the Sword

The story tells how the squire of Condover was out with his friends in a boat on Bomere   Pool enjoying a day of fishing.  One of them hooked an enormous fish and it took the help of all of the party to pull it into the boat.  The squire and his friends were astounded by the sheer size of the fish and a heated discussion arose concerning the girth of the monster.  A wager was then placed betting that the fish was bigger around the waist than the squire.  In a bid to compare the diameter of the fish to himself the squire took off his belt and with a lot of squeezing managed to fasten it around the girth of the fish.

This caused the huge creature some discomfort and it began to flap about and struggle and managed to flip itself out of the boat and back into the water still wearing the squire’s belt and sword and swam away.  Those who fish the pool say that if the giant fish was ever hooked it would draw the sword and cut itself free before it could be netted.   Legend says that it was once netted but drew the sword and cut the net to pieces and escaped.

A net was made of iron links and the fish was caught and after a struggle brought to the land.  However, once on land, the fish drew the sword and cut itself free slipping back into the pool.  This frightened the fishermen so much no other attempts were made at catching it.  Every now and then it was hooked but it quickly drew the sword and cut itself free.  Sometimes it was seen lurking in the shallows near the banks with the sword and belt still firmly attached to it.

Wild Eadric

Legend tells that there will come a day when the fish will willingly give the sword up but only to the true heir of Condover Hall.  The sword is said to be none other than the sword of Wild Eadric who fought against King William the Conqueror for many years.  He was said to have been born at Condover Hall and was the true heir to the hall and its land and only he, or his descendant, could claim the sword.  The story tells that he was defrauded out of his inheritance and ever since the hall had been unlucky to its owners.  The monster fish was waiting dutifully for the return of the true heir to return the sword to its rightful owner.

© 05/10/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 5th, 2016 zteve t evans