The Cornish folktale of Jan Tregeagle

Jan Tregeagle is a name that is known all over Cornwall. In Cornish folklore he is considered the wickedest man that ever lived. His cries and wails can be heard when the wind howls through the trees and woods, across the bleak, cold moors and along the rugged coasts as he struggles to complete the task allotted to him. Like the Wandering Jew who is doomed to an eternity of endless, restless wandering, Tregeagle must work to complete hopeless tasks until Judgement Day when he will be brought before the Almighty for for release, or endless condemnation as the Lord shall see fit.

The Faustian Pact

Around the world there are many legends and stories from diverse cultures that tell the story of how a person sells their soul to the devil in return for riches, power or long life. To begin with things go well as the seller reaps the benefits of the Faustian pact. However, the devil does not forget and there comes a time when he has to be paid. The story of how of Jan Tregeagle, a Cornishman, sold his soul to the devil is one such story. As is often the case with legends there are a number of different versions that vary by location and who is telling the story and this version is influenced by others. Even so the Faustian theme of a person selling their soul to the devil and the reluctance of the seller to honor the bargain when the time comes remains, as well as the setting of a series of impossible tasks to keep that person on earth until the Judgement Day. Many people think Jan Tregeagle was a real man who was a magistrate who may have lived and worked in 17th century Cornish town of Bodmin. By evil means, including cheating an orphan from their rightful inheritance, he had acquired great wealth and to help him fulfill his desire for riches he made a pact with the devil.

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The Cornish Legend of the Mermaid of Zennor

Cornwall in the extreme west of England is a peninsula with a long, rugged coastline with many towering cliffs, hidden coves, harbors and small fishing villages. The Cornish people around the coast for centuries made their earthly living from the sea and took their spiritual guidance from the church and these two themes often mix with old pagan beliefs which became woven into local folklore and legend.

By H.J. Ford, illustrator – Public Domain

Is there a hidden meaning?

The legend of the Mermaid of Zennor is certainly quaint with more than a touch of romance, but could any part of it be true? There are many folktales and legends from around the British Isles that have deeper meanings than often seen apparent. They often have a hidden moral or warning of some kind hidden in the symbolism and have parallels or links to other legends from other parts of the world. Is there a hidden meaning in the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor?  Read more

Legends about Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Bedivere throwing Excalibur into the lake – Public Domain

Dozmary Pool is a small lake hidden away in the bleak wilderness of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It is a wild, remote and desolate place that is associated with a number of Cornish and British legends.

King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake

This is a place of ancient legend and traditions that tell of great people and great events and evil people who must pay their dues to the devil.  This is the place where the Lady of the Lake received Excalibur from Bedivere after the mortal wounding of King Arthur, after the Battle of Camlan his last battle.

Jan Tregeagle

It is also the place where the evil Jan Tregeagle was committed to endless toil until the Final Judgement Day after making a Faustian pact  with the Devil.   Read more … Continue reading