Khasi Folktales: The Origin of Thunder and Lightning

The Khasi People

The Khasi people live in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya with populations in the neighboring state of Assam and some regions of Bangladesh. They evolved their own unique mythology and folklore and created many wonderful folktales that attempt to explain different aspects of the natural world.  There are all sorts of stories featuring monkeys, tigers, lynxes and other wild animals.  The domestication of some animals is also dealt with telling how dogs, cats, goats and oxen came to live among humans and give explanations of cosmic creation and natural phenomena. The Khasi divinities, such as the twin goddesses Ka Ngot and Ka Iam, who gave their names to the rivers Ngot and Lam respectively, are found along with other divine beings.  All this and more can be found in Folktales of the Khasis by Mrs. K. U. Rafy (1920) and presented here is a retelling of the story What Makes the Lightning?

What Makes the Lightning?

The story begins in the young days of the world when animals socialized with people. They spoke their language and tried to copy human customs and manners.  Every thirteen moons the people held a great festival where there were many sports and events.  People competed against each other and demonstrated their abilities in many different activities and one of the most popular was the sword dance.  All the people from the hills and the forest would come and take part and it was a gay and happy time.   The animals loved this event and would watch the people competing, dancing and having fun and the younger beasts began to ask the elders for a festival of their own.  After considerable thought the elders agreed and said that the animals should appoint a day when their own festival should be held.

U Pyrthat’s Drum

With great enthusiasm the animals learnt all the skills and rules for the competitions and all the moves and steps for the dances.  When they were ready they set a date for the festival to begin, but no one knew how to let everyone know the event was taking place. Someone suggested that perhaps U Pyrthat, the thunder giant, would beat his drum to tell everyone the event was beginning.   U Pyrthat  agreed and began to beat his drum summoning all the animals to their great festival.  His drum could be heard in the farthest of hills and the most remote places of the forest and the animals flocked towards the sound excitedly and a soon a great multitude gathered around U Pyrthat and his drum.

The animals had gone to great trouble to prepare  grooming and preening themselves to look their very best.  Each one carried either a musical instrument or a weapon relevant to how they intended to participate in the festival events.  There was much merriment when the squirrel marched in banging on a small drum followed by a small bird called the Shakyllia playing a flute, who was followed by a porcupine clashing cymbals together. It was a very happy day and all the animals were jolly and laughing, sharing a jokes and having fun.  The mole looked up and saw the owl trying to dance but because her eyes were not used to daylight she kept bumping into objects.  The mole laughed so much his own eyes became narrowed and his vision unclear and that is how we find him today.

The Sword Dance of U Kui, the Lynx

When the fun and merriment reached its height U Kui, the lynx appeared carrying a most splendid silver sword which he had lavished a lot of money on.  He had bought it just for the festival because he wanted to show off his skills in the sword dance.  Calling everyone to attention he began his dance leaping and stepping with energy, grace and precision.  Everyone cheered and admired his elegance of movement and technique but his success went to his head and he began to see himself as better than the others.

U Pyrthat’s Sword Dance

U Pyrthat, the thunder giant, saw the performance of the lynx and was full of admiration for his dancing skills and was very impressed with the silver sword.  He had not brought a sword himself as he had brought the drum he used to summon everyone. Thinking that he should like to try a dance or two wielding such a fine sword he asked the lynx if he could borrow it as a favor. U Kui was reluctant to allow the thunder giant to borrow his silver sword not only because it was so fine and expensive but because he did not like the idea that he might be upstaged.   The crowd seeing his reluctance began to shout,

 “Shame! shame! shame!”  

and booed and hissed thinking that it was rude and ungracious of him to refuse being as the thunder giant had beat his drum to summon them all.  In the end the lynx was shamed into lending the the giant his sword and reluctantly the handed it to him.

Taking hold of the magnificent silver sword the thunder giant prepared himself to dance.  When he was ready he suddenly burst into life leaping high and whirling the flashing blade in circles all around him.  He danced so furiously and leapt high and the flashing blade dazzled everyone.  As he danced he beat on his drum so hard the earth shook and the animals fled in terror.

Thunder and Lightning

U Pyrthat was inspired by the silver sword and danced faster and faster, leaping higher and higher.  Carried away by his dancing and the wonderful blade he leaped right into the sky with the silver sword flashing all around him while he beat on his drum, the sound rumbling and crashing down to earth.  At times, the noise of the drum and the flashing of the sword are still heard and seen by people all around the world.  They called it thunder and lightning, but the Khasis people know that it is the drum of U Pyrthat, the thunder giant and the stolen sword of U Kui, the lynx, that the people hear and see.

U Kui’s Heartbreak

U Kui was heartbroken at the loss of his fine silver sword.  Folks say that afterwards he made his home near a great hill and would sit and look at the sky when U Pyrthat danced.  He kept piling stones upon the hill hoping one day to make it high enough to reach the sky where he hoped to to  reclaim his sword from the dancing thunder giant.

© 13/03/2019 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright March 13th, 2019 zteve t evans

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Native American Tales: Raven and the Shadow People

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From The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends – Sacred Texts

Presented below is a retelling of The Shadow People and the Raven, from The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends, by W.L. Webber.

The Shadow People and Raven

Raven flew down softly alighting on the beach. Taking off his wings and beak he became a man and walked along the strand.  It was a very hot and sunny day and his naked skin began to burn as he walked in the sunshine beside the sea. The beach was covered with shells and as he walked they scrunched underneath him cutting and bruising his feet. Raven made his way to the village to the lodge where the Shadow People lived

The Shadow People saw him coming and whispered among themselves,

“Careful, Raven is here!  

He who twists truths!

 He who is cunning is here!

Watch him, watch him, watch him!

Carefully!”

Raven entered the large shady lodge, glad to escape the burning sun and to rest his cut and wounded feet. Looking around he noticed with surprise how clean and orderly everything was and how everything had its place.  Hanging from the beams were salmon and halibut.  The roof planks had been left open for the smoke hole and light streamed in illuminating all the corners of the lodge.  Raven walked around the lodge and as he did so, he caught a quick glimpse of something from the corner of his eye.  He quickly looked around and but there was no one there.  He began snooping around just to see what he could see.

He saw lots of different kinds of food stored neatly on shelves around the lodge.  There were berries, nuts, roots and many other kinds of food. He was feeling hungry and seeing the red salmon hanging from the beams he took one down and as he did so out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw someone following him.  Turning quickly, he saw a shadow was following him everywhere he went but saw no person. Ignoring the follower he made his way over to the Chief’s beautifully carved cedar chest and sat down placing the fish beside him while he looked at his cut feet which were hurting him.

Reaching beside him for the salmon he found to his surprise that it was gone.  Thinking he must have been imagining things and had not picked it up after all, he went back and chose another.  While doing so he noticed again that a shadow was following close behind him all the time.

He thought this was very strange and mysterious and while he sat thinking about it he put the salmon down beside him to considered the matter.  After awhile he reached down beside him for the salmon, but it was gone, which he found very disconcerting. He tried a third and a fourth time but the same thing happened and all the time the shadow followed him.  Looking over to where the salmon were hanging he saw the ones he had taken were hanging in exactly the position when he had take them and still the shadow was beside him.

Raven began to lose his temper and tried to stamp and jump on the shadow but it jumped as he jumped and was quicker than him.  Then to his surprise someone he could not see said in a loud voice next to him,

“You look to be well fed,

What are you going to do?

Where will this lead you to?”

Whence the questions came,

Raven could not name.

Their bodies were not plain;

He gazed and looked in vain.

Sane or insane was he!

Afraid to wait and see,

He limped toward the door

But, moving as before,

His angry Shadow wriggled.

The others laughed and giggled.

Raven knew ’twas near.

“Something strange is here,

I’ll out, and quick away,

They’ll have no more to say.” (1)

Raven left the lodge and walked back through the village.  The villagers ignored him as if he was invisible but he knew they really saw him. To test them he walked over to where a group of children were playing, but still they appeared not to see him.  Raven found that no matter where he went and no matter what he did he could not escape from the shadow that followed him.

He came to a place where there were a number of strange wooden carvings and he sat down to try and think things over.  Was he cleverer than his own intelligence? Was he stronger than his own self? Would he always be followed by this shadow?

Raven rested until his feet were healed and then putting on his beak and wings assumed the shape of a bird.  Flying up into the bright, happy sky he felt free of these concerns. Whether Raven found the answers to all of his questions we do not know, but even now as he flies high in the sky his shadow follows his every move on Earth.

© 28/11/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright November 28th, 2018 zteve t evans

(1) The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends – Sacred Texts

Vancouver Legends: The Lost Island

 

Legends of Vancouver

Emily Pauline Johnson, also known as Tekahionwake, was a Canadian poet and performer.  Her father was a hereditary Mohawk chief of mixed ancestry, while her mother was an English immigrant.  In 1911, she published a collection of legends and folktales told to her by Chief Joe Capilano, based on the stories and traditions of his people.  She called the collection, “Legends of Vancouver,”  and published under the name E. Pauline Johnson.  In her Author’s Foreword she says,

“These legends (with two or three exceptions) were told to me personally by my honored friend, the late Chief Joe Capilano, of Vancouver, whom I had the privilege of first meeting in London in 1906, when he visited England and was received at Buckingham Palace by their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

To the fact that I was able to greet Chief Capilano in the Chinook tongue, while we were both many thousands of miles from home, I owe the friendship and the confidence which he so freely gave me when I came to reside on the Pacific coast. These legends he told me from time to time, just as the mood possessed him, and he frequently remarked that they had never been revealed to any other English-speaking person save myself.”

Chief Joe Capilano, was also known as, Su-á-pu-luck, a leader of the Squamish people, indigenous to southwestern British Columbia, Canada.   Presented here is a retelling of one of those folktales called The Island. 

The Island

Su-á-pu-luck spoke saying, “Tekahionwake, our people have lost much over the years.  Our lands are gone, our hunting grounds and our game.  Our religion, language, legends and culture that our ancestors taught us from the beginning are forsaken and forgotten. Many young people do not know them today.

These things are gone and can never return.  The world has turned. Although we may seek them out in the hidden places; the high mountains, the dark forests or the concealed valleys of the world we will not find them.  They are gone forever like the island of the North Arm. Once it was there and now it is gone. Maybe it is somewhere near, but we just cannot see it. Although we paddle our canoes in the sea around the coast we’ll never again find the channel, or the inlet, that  leads to the past days of our people and the lost island.”

Tekahionwake  replied, “You know well there are many islands on the North Arm and many channels and inlets.”

“Yes, but none of  these are the island that our people have sought for many, many years,” Su-á-pu-luck told her sadly shaking his head.

“Perhaps it was never there,” she suggested.

Sighing and shaking his head he said,

“Once it was there.  Both my grandfathers saw it and their fathers saw it.  My father never saw it and neither did I. My father spent many years searching for it.  He searched all the sounds along the coast north and south, but he never found it. In my youth I sought it for many days.  At night I would take my canoe and paddle in the stillness of night. Twice, long ago, I saw its shadow. I saw the shadow of it high cliffs and rocky shores and the shadows of tall pines crowning its mountain summit as I paddled my canoe up the arm one summer night.  The shadow of the island fell across the water, across my canoe, across my face and across my eyes and entered into my head and has stayed. Then, I looked. I turned my canoe around and around and looked but it was gone. There was nothing but the water and the moon reflecting on it, and no, it was not a moon shadow, or a trick of the moon, “  

“Why do you keep searching for it?”  asked Tekahionwake, perhaps thinking of all of the dreams and hopes in her own life she could never attain.

“You see the island has something I want. I shall never stop searching!” he replied and fell silent.  She said nothing because she knew he was thinking and would tell her  a legend from the old days. At last, Su-á-pu-luck spoke,

“I tell you, Tekahionwake, long before the great city of Vancouver appeared when it was but a dream of our god Sagalie Tyee,  before the new people had thought of it, only one medicine man knew that there would be a great camp of new people between False Creek and the inlet.  The dream had come to him from Sagalie Tyee and it had haunted him ever since. When he was among his people laughing and feasting it was there. When he was on his own in the wilds singing his strange songs and beating upon his drum it was there in his mind. Even when enacting the sacred rituals that cured the sick and the dying, it was there.  The dream came to him again and again.

I tell you, Tekahionwake, it stayed with him following him through life wherever he went and he grew old and the dream stayed.   Always he heard the voices that had spoken to him in the days of his youth. They told him, ‘ There will come many, many, people who have crossed the sea and crossed the land. They will be as the leaves in the forest and they will built a great camp between the two strips of salt water.  Their arrival will bring the end of the great war dances. The end of wars with other people. The end of courage, the end of confidence. Our people will be dispossessed of our ways, of our tradition, of our land and who we are. Our people will learn the ways of the newcomers and our ways will be forgotten and we will no longer know ourselves.’

I knew the old man hated the words – hated the dream.  He was the strongest man, the most potent medicine man on the North Pacific Coast but even he could not stop it,  could not defeat it.

I tell you, Tekahionwake, he was a tall man, strong and mighty.  His endurance was like Leloo the timber wolf.  He did not need to eat for many days and could kill the mountain lion with his bare hands.  He could wrestle and defeat the grizzly bear. He could paddle his canoe through the wildest sea and the strongest wind riding upon the crest of the highest waves.

No warrior could stand against him, he could defeat whole tribes.  He had the strength and courage of a giant and feared nothing on land, sea, sky or in the forest, he was completely fearless.  The only thing he could not defeat – could not kill – was the dream of the coming of the newcomers. It haunted him! It was the only thing in life he had faced that he could not defeat.

I tell you, Tekahionwake, It obsessed him.  The obsession drove him from the village.  He left his people, the dancing, the story telling, he left his home village by the water’s edge where the salmon gathered and the deer quenched their thirst.  Chanting wild, wild songs he climbed through the trailess forest to the summit that the newcomers call Grouse Mountain.

On top of the world on Grouse Mountain he ate nothing and drank no water and fasted for days.  He chanted his medicine songs day and night. Below him, beneath the mountain, lay the strip of land between the two salt waters and in that high place  the Sagalie Tyee – the god of our people – gave him the gift of seeing into the future. As he looked out from the mountain over the strip of land his eyes saw across one hundred years.  

He looked over what is called the inlet and saw great lodges built close together in straight lines.  Some were tall and vast being built of wood and stone. He saw the strait trails the newcomers made between the lodges and saw crowds of newcomers swarming up and down them.  

He saw the great canoes of the newcomers and how they moved without paddles.  He saw the trading posts of the newcomers and how they multiplied. He saw the never ending stream of newcomers pouring steadily on to the strip of land and watched as they multiplied among themselves.  

gambierislandsilhouette

By Kyle Pearce from Vancouver, Canada (Gambier’s Distinct Shape) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

At last the vision faded and he saw the world in his own time and was afraid.  He called out to the Sagalie Tyee, ‘I have not much longer on this earth. Soon I shall meet my ancestors in the place prepared.  I pray to you not to let my strength and endurance die. I pray to you not to let my courage and fearlessness die. I pray to you not to let my wisdom and knowledge die.  Take them, keep them safe for my people that they may be strong and wise enough to endure the rule of the newcomers and remember who they are. Take these things from me and hide them where the newcomers cannot find them, but where someone from my people one day will.’

Finishing his prayer he went down from the top  of Grouse Mountain singing his songs of power to where he kept his canoe.  Launching it he paddled far up the North Arm, through the colors of the setting sun and long into the night.  At last he came to an island surrounded by high grey cliffs, where a mountain soared in its center crowned with pine trees.  As he drew near he could feel all of his courage, his bravery, his fearlessness and his great strength float from him as wisps of mist that wrapped themselves around the high cliffs and mountain shrouding the island from view.

With all his strength gone he barely managed to paddle back to the village.  When he arrived he called the people together and told them they must search for ‘The island’  where they would find all of his strength and courage still alive forever to help them with their dealings with the newcomers.  That night he drifted into sleep and in the morning he did not wake up.

Ever since our men, young and old, have sought for the island.  Somewhere, in some lost channel, some hidden inlet along the coast, it awaits us but we cannot find it.  The great medicine man told them one day we will find it and when we do we will get back his power along with all his strength, all his courage, all of the wisdom of our forefathers, because such things do not die but live on through our children and grandchildren and their children.”

His voice quivered and ceased and her heart went out to him as she thought of all of the of courage and strength he possessed. She said,

“Su-á-pu-luck, you say the shadow of this island has fallen upon you!”

“That is true, Tekahionwake,” he answered mournfully, “but only the shadow!”

© 31/10/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 31st, 2018 zteve t evans

 

Elen of the Hosts: Goddess of Sovereignty, King Maker, Warrior Queen of the Britons

This article was first published #FolkloreThursday.com as British Legends: Elen of the Hosts – Saint, Warrior Queen, Goddess of Sovereignty on 21/06/2018 by zteve t evans

Elen of the Dream

Historically, Elen of the Hosts was a real woman who lived in the 4th century, but in British legend and Welsh and Celtic mythology, may go back even further.  She appears to have been a woman of many roles that have grown and evolved over the centuries to the present day. Today, Elen is best known for her part as the subject of the affections of the emperor of Rome in strange tale of The Dream of Macsen Wledig, from the Mabinogion. The story depicts her as a mysterious woman of power who knows how to gets what she wants and appears linked to the giving and taking of sovereignty a very powerful attribute.  Presented here is a discussion about who Elen was, and how she has changed and evolved over the centuries, hopefully  encouraging the reader to perhaps research and create their own ideas for themselves.

The Dream of Macsen Wledig

Her story begins one day when the emperor of Rome, Macsen Wledig, was out hunting. Feeling tired in the midday sun, he decided to take a nap. As he slept, he experienced a dream that had an incredible effect on him. In that dream, he travelled across mountains and along rivers, and undertook a sea voyage which brought him to a fair island. He crossed that island and found a magnificent castle and in that castle, seated in a golden hall, was a beautiful woman and he fell in love with her. Macsen had found the woman of his dreams within his dream and, typical of a dream, he never gets his kiss. When he moves to kiss and embrace her, he awakens, and in the waking world there is no Elen. But Macsen wants his kiss badly and now the world has changed for him. He is obsessed with her to the point that he can think of nothing and no one else. His health fails and he begins to waste away and pines for her, telling his counsellors, “and now I am in love with someone who I know not. She may be real and she may be unreal, but I am mortally stricken, so tell, what am I to do?”. Although he did not know it at the time, the woman in the dream was named Elen, and it is clear from the dream that she was someone very special, but who was she?

Who was Elen?

Although very little for certain is known today about her, it can be seen from the dream that Elen was not an ordinary woman. Today she is known by many names. She is Elen Luyddog in Welsh or in English, Elen of the Hosts, and also known as Elen of the Ways, Elen of the Roads and Elen Belipotent in reference to her military leadership skills. She also is known as Saint Elen or Helen of Caernarfon, sometimes being named as Helen rather than Elen, and there are still more names. Elen was believed to be the daughter of Eudav, or Eudaf Hen, a Romano-British ruler of the 4th century who became the wife of Macsen Wledig, also known as Magnus Maximus, a Western Roman Emperor from (383-388AD). She was the mother of five children including a son named Constantine who was also known as Cystennin, or Custennin. She introduced into Britain from Gaul a form of Celtic monasticism and founded a number of churches. There are also many holy wells and springs named after her and there still exist roads were named after her such as Sarn Elen.

She was also a warrior queen. According to David Hughes in his book, The British Chronicles, Volume 1, after Macsen was defeated and executed, Elen reigned over the Britons. She led the defence of the country against invading Picts, Irish and Saxons. After a long, hard fight she pushed the invaders out, earning the name Elen Luyddog, or Elen of the Hosts and Elen Belipotent meaning “mighty in war”. In the Welsh Triads, Elen of the Hosts and Macsen Wledig, or in some versions Cynan her brother, lead an army to Llychlyn, which some scholars such as Rachel Bromich see as a corruption of Llydaw, or Armorica which does fit better with what is known.

There is a line of thought that sees characters in the Mabinogion as Christianised versions of far older gods. Some people also see her as being a conflation of several women and ultimately derived from an ancient Celtic goddess of sovereignty. The theme of sovereignty in one form or another does appear in the dream and she appears as the catalyst that can make it happen, or take it away.

Elen’s Power

From the dream, we learn that she was in the company of her father, Eudav, who was the son of Caradawc and is also known as Eudaf Hen, (Eudaf “the Old”), or Octavius, a King of the Britons, so she was a lady of considerable importance. This is evidenced by the surroundings in the dream, which matched exactly those she was in when the messengers of Macsen find her. Her response to the messengers is not one from a woman who sees herself as being subordinate to men or emperors, or anyone else no matter who they may be. When the messengers tell her about the great love their emperor holds for her and request she accompany them back to Rome, she revealed part of her true power by flatly refusing. Instead she told them to return to Rome and tell the emperor that he must travel to her if he truly loved her as he claimed. Macsen obeyed …

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Hungarian Folktales: Cinder Jack

512px-man_on_horseback_-_sir_anthony_van_dyck

Image by Anthony van Dyck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Presented below is a retelling  of a Hungarian folktale called Cinder Jack from The Folk-Tales of the Magyars by Erdélyi, Kriza, Pap, Jones, and Kropf.

The Tale of Cinder Jack

There was once a farmer who had three sons.  One morning he noticed a considerable amount of damage had been done to the vines in his vineyard so he asked his eldest son to guard it.  The eldest cheerfully complied and took a cake with him to eat for his lunch. At lunchtime as he was eating the cake a frog appeared and asked him for a piece.

“Never!” cried the boy, “Go away!” he shouted and threw a stone at the creature.  The frog hopped off saying no more and in the hot afternoon sun the boy fell asleep.  When he woke up he discovered someone had been in the vineyard destroying many grape vines.

Of course his father was not very happy and the next day sent his second eldest son to guard the vineyard.  Exactly the same thing happened with him, the frog came and asked him to shade his food. He gave it nothing and chased it away and fell asleep and when he woke up found the vineyard had been vandalized.

His father was furious and at a loss to know what to do.   His youngest son, who they called Cinder Jack because he always sat with his feet in the ashes of the fire to keep them warm, spoke up saying,  “Father, my two brothers have tried and failed therefore trust me and I will not fail you and the vineyard will remain safe.”

This caused his father and two brothers to laugh and make fun of him because they thought him something of a simpleton.  Nevertheless, Cinder Jack was adamant and at last his father allowed him to guard the vineyard. So the next morning Cinder Jack went into the vineyard taking a cake with him for his lunch.

The Hungry Frog

After spending all morning alertly patrolling the vineyard he grew hungry so he sat down took out the cake and began to eat.   As he ate the frog appeared and hopped up to him and sat staring at him with a questioning look on his face and then asked for a piece of the cake.  Cinder Jack immediately broke of a generous portion and gave it to the frog.

After they had finished eating the frog gratefully gave the boy three rods.  One was made copper, one of silver and the other of gold. The frog then told him that three horses would appear pretty soon and begin to trample the vineyard.  Like the rods the horses would be copper, gold and silver in color.  Then he told him that if he pointed the appropriately colored rods at the horses they would become as tame as can be and obey his commands.

Just as the frog foretold the horses arrived and began to trample over the grapes. Cinder Jack pointed the rods at them and told them to stop.  Just as the frog had said, they did and obeyed his every command.  That year the vineyard produced beautiful grapes that made the most wonderful wine. Cinder Jack never told his father nor his brothers what happened just resumed his usual position by the fire with his feet in the ashes keeping them warm.

The king of the land had a beautiful daughter and he decided it was time she was married.  To find what he thought of as a suitable husband he decided he would hold a competition with her as the prize.  He had his servants erect a tall fir pole before the church with a golden wreath of rosemary tied to the top.  Then he made proclamation saying that any man who could retrieve the rosemary from the top of the fir pole in one jump would win the hand of his daughter in marriage.

The Copper Knight

The news spread far and wide and all of the best and most noble knights of the land came to try their luck but all failed.  As the last one rode sadly away a knight suddenly appeared dressed in copper armor riding upon a copper horse with his visor covering his face.  Racing up to the fir pole spurred his horse into a jump and easily snatched the rosemary wreath from the top of the fir pole and rode off before anyone could move.

His two brothers had witnessed the scene and when they returned home they told their father about the mysterious copper knight and his massive jump.  Cinder Jack was sat with his feet in the ashes as usual and told them that he had seen the entire scene much better than they. When they asked him where he had been to see it all he told them, ’On top of the fence.”  Therefore the two brothers went and pulled down the fence to prevent their younger brother using it to see from again.

The Silver Knight

The following Sunday, because the copper knight had not claimed his daughter’s hand, the King ordered that a higher pole be erected with a golden apple on top  and announced that whoever could pluck the golden apple from the top of the pole could have his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Once again all of the knights of the realm tried to pluck the apple and all failed.  As the last one failed there came riding a knight all in silver armor riding upon a silver horse who spurred it to a massive jump and plucked the golden apple from the top of the pole and rode away before anyone could approach him.

Again his brothers came home with the news of what they had seen.  Again, Cinder Jack told them he had witnessed the event much better than they by standing on the pig shed. This annoyed his brothers so they demolished it so that he would not be able to use it again for that purpose.

The Golden Knight

The third Sunday, the king ordered an even higher pole to be erected and this time one of his daughter’s silk handkerchief was placed at the top.   Once again all the knights in the land came and tried their luck and all failed and at the very last there came a knight clad in golden armor riding upon a golden horse.   The golden knight spurred his horse to a magnificent jump and took the handkerchief and rode off.

Again the two brothers went home to report what they had seen but this time Cinder Jack told them he had witnessed the scene from on top of the roof.  Furious, the two brothers took off the roof of their house to prevent Cinder Jack using it again.

The following Sunday the King announced the knights who had taken the rosemary, the apple and the handkerchief should bring these prizes to him to prove their worth in a final competition. When none of those knights presented themselves the King ordered every man in his kingdom to appear before him but still he could not identify any of the winners.  As everyone was about to go home in the distance a knight riding a golden charger clad in a suit of armor of shining gold came galloping towards them. Seeing this the King ordered the cannons to be fired in his honor and the church bells to be rung.

The knight galloped up and seeing the princess by her father handed to her the rosemary wreath, the golden apple and the handkerchief.  Then he dismounted and politely and respectfully told the King he had come to claim his daughter’s hand in marriage.  Lifting his visor he revealed his face and the townsfolk were astonished to see it was none other than Cinder Jack.

Marriage

The King kept his promise and Cinder Jack married his daughter.  All of his people loved and respected him and he had a long and happy reign. Now you would think that Cinder Jack would perhaps want revenge for his treatment by his brothers, but instead he rebuilt the house completely and gave them and his father riches and presents. He invited his father to live with him and his wife in their palace.  When the King died, because of his kind nature and generosity they made Cinder Jack their King.

© 25/07/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attribution and Further Reading

Copyright July 25th, 2018 zteve t evans

The Legend of Gogmagog and the Giants of Albion

This article was originally posted on #FolkloreThursday.com called British Legends: Gogmagog and the Giants of Albion by zteve t evans on 25 January 2018.

According to British legend, Gogmagog was the last survivor of a mythical race of giants that ruled the island of Albion before the arrival of Brutus of Troy and his Trojan followers. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in The Historia Regum Britanniae (‘The History of the Kings of Britain’) written about 1136, tells the story of how the Trojans came into conflict with Gogmagog and the giants of Albion. 

Although Geoffrey made it clear where Brutus and the Trojans originated, he revealed nothing of the history of Gogmagog and the giants of Albion. Later writers promoted several versions of a story of the origin of the giants. One tells more about Gogmagog and how he returned to haunt the descendants of the Trojans, taking over a ruined hilltop fortress in Wales now known as Dinas Brân. 

This article attempts to tie the threads together to reveal more of the story of Gogmagog and the giants of Albion. It begins by briefly recalling the voyage of Brutus of Troy and the prophecy of the goddess Diana, and then the conflict between the Trojans and the giants of Albion. We then move forward in time to later centuries to the time of William the Conqueror, when a Norman knight by the name of Payn Peverel confronts the demonically possessed Gogmagog on Dinas Brân, forcing him to reveal his history and purpose and foretelling the future of Peverel and his descendants. 

Brutus of Troy

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, after the fall of Troy some of the survivors of the sack of the city, led by the Trojan hero Aeneas, fled to Italy and settled there. Their descendants began building a new civilization. One of the descendants of Aeneas in Italy was a young man who became known as Brutus of Troy. After killing his father in a hunting accident, Brutus was punished by being exiled. He left Italy and making his way to Greece, where he found many descendants of the survivors of Troy still held in slavery by a Greek king. Leading the Trojans in revolt, he won their release and led them on an epic sea voyage searching for new land to settle and rebuild their lives.

While at sea, Brutus came to an abandoned island named Leogecia and found a temple dedicated to Diana, Jupiter, and Mercury, and after performing the appropriate rites he asked the goddess for guidance. Diana appeared to him in a dream and told him of a rich and fertile island populated only by a few giants. She prophesied that he would be the first of a long line of kings that would rule the island and spread across the world. When Brutus finally arrived on the island it was called Albion, and he found it was as Diana had told him. The giants were few in number, and the tallest and most powerful was named Gogmagog.

Gogmagog and the Giants of Albion

After Brutus and the Trojans, arrived they explored the island and found it very much to their liking. Individually, the giants were much bigger and for the most part stronger than the Trojans. Only Corineus, one of the Trojan captains, could match them. However, there were only twenty-four of them and they could not match the Trojan weaponry, armour, and numbers, and the Trojans battled the giants seeking to claim Albion as their own.

One day, Brutus decided to hold a festival of thanksgiving to the gods. During the festival, with many games and events underway, Gogmagog and the giants launched an attack hoping to take the Trojans by surprise. Although the giants at first had the upper hand killing many, Brutus rallied his men and in the battle all of the giants, except their leader Gogmagog, were killed. He was spared by Brutus specifically to fight Corineus, who defeated him. With Albion now free of giants, Brutus shared out the land among his captains and followers as he saw fit. In legend, Brutus became the founder and first king of Britain and Corineus became the founder and first ruler of Cornwall.

Although Gogmagog was killed, he was to return centuries later during the Norman Conquest of Britain by King William the Conqueror. This story is told in the medieval legends or “ancestral romance” of The History of Fulk Fitz-Warine, a mixture of legend, romance, and imagination by an unknown author or compiler in about 1325-40.

Dinas Brân

According to this text, Gogmagog reappeared when William the Conqueror was travelling around Britain surveying his new domain. As he travelled in the wild hills and valleys, he came across a prominent hill that was crowned by a ruined town enclosed in wide stone walls that for a long time had lain desolate and empty. Today, the hill is called Dinas Brân and overlooks Llangollen in Wales, but the ruins that crown its top are those of a later castle and not those that intrigued William which had been built many centuries before his arrival.

As the day was drawing to a close, he decided to pitch his tents on a level plain that lay below the imposing ruins. Curious and not a little awed, he asked about the place from a local Briton and was told the following story:

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From the Mabinogion: The Dream of Macsen Wledig

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Public Domain Image  – Source

This was article was first published on #FolkloreThursday.com 30/11/2017,  titled British Legends: The Mabinogion – The Dream of Macsen Wledig written by zteve t evans.

British Legends:  The Mabinogion – The Dream of Macsen Wledig

The Dream of Macsen Wledig from the Mabinogion tells the story of how the Emperor of Rome experienced a dream in which he traveled to Wales, then met and became obsessed with a beautiful maiden named Elen. It is a story telling of a mythical past with legendary heroes involved in extraordinary adventures, that many people feel resonates today. The tales were created from traditional and existing works, using both written and oral sources, and were not original works. They were often reworked to reflect current issues, and are seen by many as an interpretation of a mythical past age while also providing an interpretation of the present. Presented here is a retelling of ‘The Dream of Macsen Wledig’ from The Mabinogion Vol. 2 by Sir Owen Morgan Edwards and Lady Charlotte Schreiber. 

Macsen Wledig

Macsen Wledig was an emperor of Rome who had thirty-two vassal kings in his retinue. One day, he proposed that they all join him for a day of hunting. The next day, bright and early, he set off leading the party into the countryside to a beautiful valley that a river flowed through on its way to Rome. It was a hot, sunny morning, and the party hunted throughout the valley until midday. With the sun at its height, Macsen Wledig suddenly began to feel very tired and ordered the party to take a break while he slept by the river.

The Dream of Macsen Wledig

His servants made a shelter for him out of shields, made a place on the ground for him to rest his head. Then they left him in peace and he lay down, and as he fell asleep a strange dream came to him. He found himself following the river along the valley, and eventually reaching its source at the foot of a mountain that was as high as the sky. He travelled on over the mountain, and on the other side found himself travelling through a fair country which he deemed the most beautiful in the world. Travelling on, he came across the wellspring of a river and followed it towards the sea where it grew into the widest river he had ever seen.

The City by the Sea

Standing majestically at the mouth of the river was a fair city that was enclosed by the walls of a massive castle. Its tower and turrets reached high into the sky, and many flags and banners of all colours and designs fluttered gaily in the breeze. Below the castle wall in the mouth of the river lay a great fleet of ships. The greatest and fairest of these had planks of gold and silver, and a bridge of white whale bone spanned the distance from the harbour side to the ship. Macsen Wledig found himself walking slowly over the bridge to stand on the ship. As soon as he was on board, the bridge of bone raised itself and the ship set sail towards the distant horizon to an unknown destination. After many days, the ship came to a beautiful island and lay at anchor.

The Fairest Island in the World

In his dream, Macsen Wledig went ashore and explored the island; travelling through its forests and valleys and crossing mountains and moors from coast to coast. Never before had he seen its like, and he thought it the fairest and most beautiful island in the world. Eventually, he came to a place in the mouth of a river where a majestic castle looked out over the sea. He went down to the castle and entered through its gates. Inside, he found the fairest hall he had ever seen. The walls were studded with gems of all kinds that glittered and shimmered in the sun, and the roof was of gold and gleamed gloriously.

Inside the Golden Hall

Stepping inside the hall, Macsen Wledig saw many fine pieces of furniture and rich decorations wherever he looked. On the far side of the hall, he saw two young men engaged in a game of chess on a wonderfully ornate chessboard. Sitting in a chair of ivory by a pillar of stone was a man with a rugged face and wild hair. On his head, he wore a diadem of gold and on his fingers were rings of precious metals set with gemstones. Golden bracelets adorned his wrists and arms, and around his throat he wore a torc of gold. Although the man was seated, it was clear he had a powerful physique and bearing, and he was engaged in the task of carving chess pieces.

Sitting before this strange man on a chair of burnished gold was a maiden whose beauty was more dazzling than the sun, and Macsen Wledig was almost blinded by her radiance. In his dream, she rose from her chair and he rose from his and they threw their arms around each other.  Then they sat down together, and their faces drew closer, and they sat together cheek to cheek and were poised to kiss.

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