First Published on the #FolkloreThursday, web site, February 17th, 2016 under the title: Cornish Smugglers: The Notorious Cruel Coppinger
One of the most extraordinary and fearsome figures in Cornish folklore and legend was Cruel Coppinger. He is thought by many to have been a real person who attained semi-legendary status from his brutal, criminal behaviour and leadership of a ruthless band of smugglers and pirates.
Pixabay – Image by natureworks – CC0 Public Domain
According to Cornish legend Coppinger was himself a victim of a shipwreck by a massive storm wrecked his ship off the Cornish coast. As was the practice the local people gathered at the shore to see what they could claim when the storm died down. They watched the doomed vessel sinking and the lightning flashes revealed the dark figure of a huge man leaping from the ship and striding through the wild waves to the shore. On reaching the shore he grabbed the cloak from an old woman, roughly shoving her to the floor and then leapt on the back of a horse a young woman had ridden down to the shore. With her still sat on the horse and him behind her shouting furiously in some unknown language, the terrified steed fled and naturally made its way to its home with them both on its back.
Pixabay – hansbenn – CC0 Public Domain
The Fox and the Angel of Death
In Jewish folklore when God created the world he made sure that every animal that walked upon the earth had a counterpart under the sea. To complete his plan he allotted Malak – ha-Mawet the Angel of Death with the task of making sure they were all placed beneath the waters. When the Angel came for the fox the fox began to cry and wail. The surprised Angel asked the fox why he was crying. The fox told him that his best friend had been placed in the water only the other day. Standing on the shore and looking in the sea the fox pointed to his own reflection in the water. When the Angel of Death saw the reflection he believed that a fox had already been placed under the water and so set him free.
The ruler of the sea Leviathan noticed that although all the other animals had their counterpart under the sea the fox was absent and realized the cunning fox had fooled the Angel of Death. This made him think. Now he remembered that the heart was said to be the seat of wisdom and reasoned that if he ate the heart of the fox he would gain its wisdom.
Leviathan summoned fishes who were all his servants and ordered them to bring the fox to him. So the fishes swam off to find the fox and on the way, they came up with a crafty plan. They found the fox walking along the sea shore and they spoke to him. They told him that Leviathan the ruler of the sea was dying and wanted the fox to be his successor because he was the wisest of animals. The fishes flattered the fox and appealed to his vanity. They promised they would bear him safely over the sea to where there was an island of rock. There he could set up a throne safe from the surrounding sea.
The fox was greatly flattered and agreed to be carried off by the fishes to the island of rock. As they left sight of land and entered the vastness of the ocean the fox realized he had been tricked. However, rather than panic he kept calm and questioned the fishes. They laughed and told him that Leviathan wanted his heart to eat.
“Oh, I see, “ said the fox, “If only you had said before then I would have brought it along, for I do not carry it with me. If you quickly turn about and set me off on the shore where you found me I can quickly run and fetch it and then we can take it to Leviathan for him to eat.”
The fishes thought this sounded like a good idea so they swam back to the shore where they had found him and the fox quickly jumped ashore. The fishes called to him to quickly run and fetch his heart but the fox laughed and said, “It is true I went with you when I had no heart but now I have it I will stay here, thank you. I fooled the Angel of Death and it has been easier still to fool you foolish fishes!”
© 18/01/2017 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright January 18th, 2017 zteve t evans
The Rollright Stones are a group of three ancient monuments dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, situated along the borders of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire in England. The complex is made up of three different sets of standing stones individually known as the King Stone, the King’s Knights and the Whispering Knights. Their original purpose and meaning have been long lost but such is the enigmatic and inscrutable nature of the stones that many myths, legends and traditions evolved around the site. Stories of witches and kings, petrification spells, death and madness, failed attempts at moving the stones, fairies living under the stones, fortune telling and superstitions and many more such traditions add to the mystery and magic of the Rollright Stone Complex.
The Witch and the King
Probably the most famous legend tells how the complex was created by a witch who turned an invading king and his army into three sets of standing stones. The legend tells how the king and his army traveling through the district came across a witch who took an apparent dislike to the king and his men and turned them to stone. She then turned herself into an elder tree to watch over them. Read More