The Hand of Glory

Their seems to be a few versions of stories telling about the “hand of glory”. This one seems to come from ‘About Yorkshire’ by Macquoid. Normally “hands of glory” came from hanged men, and were used by thieves to protect themselves from being detected…

In 1797 A.D., the Spital House inn on Stanmore is said to have been kept by one George Alderson, who, with his wife, and their maid-of-all-work, Bella, managed the establishment.

The inn at that time consisted of a long, narrow building, standing with one end to the highroad. The lower story was used as stabling for the horses of the stage-coaches, which crossed this wild moor on their way from York to Carlisle. The upper story was reached by a flight of steps leading up from the road to a stout oaken door. The deeply-recessed windows were all barred with stout iron bars.

One cold October night, the red curtains were drawn across the windows, and a huge log-fire sputtered and crackled on the broad hearth, and lighted up the faces of George Alderson and his son, as they sat talking of their gains at the fair of Brough Hill; these gains, representing a large sum of money, being safely stowed away in a cupboard in the landlord’s bedroom.

Mrs. Alderson and Bella sat a little way off spinning by fire-light, for the last coach had gone by, and the house door was barred and bolted for the night. Outside, the wind and rain were having a battle: there came fierce gusts which made the old casements rattle, and stirred the red curtains, and then a torrent of rain swept smartly across the window, striking the glass so angrily that it seemed as if the small panes must shatter under its violence.

Into the midst of this fitful disturbance, only varied by the men’s voices beside the hearth, there came a knock at the door.

“Open t’ door, lass,” said Alderson. “I wouldn’t keep a dog outside on a night like this.”

‘”Eh! Best slacken the chain, lass,” said the more cautious landlady.

The girl went to the door; but when she saw that the visitor was an old woman, she opened the door wide and bade her come in. There entered a bent figure, dressed in a long cloak and hood; this last was drawn over her face, and as she walked feebly to the armchair which Alderson pushed forward, the rain streamed from her clothing and made a pool on the oaken floor. She shivered violently, and refused to take off her cloak and have it dried. She also refused the offer of food or a bed. She said she was on her way to the north, and must start as soon as there was daylight. All she wanted was a rest beside the fire: she could get the sleep she needed in her armchair.

The innkeeper and his wife were well used to wayfarers, and they soon said “Good-night,” and went to bed; so did their son. Bella was left alone with the shivering old woman. The girl had kept silence, but now she put her wheel away in its corner, and began to talk. She only got surly answers, and, although the voice was low and subdued, the girl fancied that it did not sound like a woman’s. Presently the wayfarer stretched out her feet to warm them, and Bella’s quick eyes saw under the hem of the skirts that the stranger wore horseman’s gaiters. The girl felt uneasy, and instead of going to bed, she resolved to stay up and watch.

“I’m sleepy,” she said, yawning; but the figure in the chair made no answer. Presently Bella lay down on a long settle, beyond the range of firelight, and watched the stranger, while she pretended to fall asleep. All at once the figure in the chair stirred, raised its head, and listened; then it rose slowly to its feet, no longer bent, but tall and powerful-looking. It stood listening for some time. There was no sound but Bella’s heavy breathing, and the wind and the rain beating on the windows. The woman took from the folds of her cloak a brown, withered, human hand; next she produced a candle, lit it from the fire, and placed it in the hand. Bella’s heart beat so fast that she could hardly keep up the regular deep breathing of pretended sleep; but now she saw the stranger coming towards her with this ghastly chandelier, and she closed her lids tightly. She felt that the woman was bending over her, and that the light was passed slowly before her eyes, while these words were muttered in the strange masculine voice that had first roused her suspicions:

“Let those who rest more deeply sleep;

Let those awake their vigils keep.”

The light moved away, and through her eyelashes Bella saw that the woman’s back was turned to her, and that she was placing the hand in the middle of the long oak table, while she muttered this rhyme:

“Oh, Hand of Glory shed thy light,

Direct us to our spoil tonight.”

Then she moved a few steps away, and undrew the window curtain. Coming back to the table, she said:

“Flash out thy blaze, O skeleton hand,

And guide the feet of our trusty band.”

At once the light shot up a bright livid gleam, and the woman walked to the door; she took down the bar, drew back the bolts, unfastened the chain, and Bella felt a keen blast of cold night air rush in as the door was flung open. She kept her eyes closed, however, for the woman at that moment looked back at her, and drawing something from her gown, she blew a long, shrill whistle ; she then went out at the door, and down a few of the steps, stopped, and whistled again; but the next moment a vigorous push sent her spinning down the steps into the road below, the door was closed, barred and bolted, and Bella almost flew to her master’s bedroom, and tried to wake him. In vain. He and his wife slept on, while their snores sounded loudly through the house.

The girl felt frantic! Then she tried to rouse young Alderson, but he slept as if in a trance. Now a fierce battery on the door, and cries below the windows, told that the band had arrived. A new thought came to Bella. She ran back to the kitchen. There was the Hand of Glory, still burning with a wonderful light. The girl caught up a cup of milk that stood on the table, dashed it on the flame, and extinguished it. In one moment, as it seemed to her, she heard footsteps coming from the bedrooms, and George Alderson and his son rushed into the room with firearms in their hands.

As soon as the robbers heard his voice bidding them depart, they summoned the landlord to open his doors, and produce his valuables. Meanwhile, young Alderson had opened the window, and for answer he fired his blunderbuss down among the men below.

There was a groan, a fall, then a pause, and, as it seemed to the besieged, some sort of discussion. Then a voice called out: “Give up the Hand of Glory, and we will not harm you.” For answer, young Alderson fired again, and the party drew off.

Seemingly they had trusted entirely to the Hand of Glory to keep them safe and unobserved.

The Bosky Dyke Barguest

Near Fewston, in the Forest of Knaresborough, is a spot named Busky or Bosky Dike where a barguest used to be seen (until they built a school in the spot in 1878).  The following poem told of the creature that used to frequent the spot…

The Bosky Dyke, the Bosky Dyke,

Ah ! tread its path with care ;

With silent step haste through its shade,

For ‘ Bargest ‘ wanders there!


Since days when ev’ry wood and hill

By Pan or Bel was crowned;

And ev’ry river, brook, and copse

Some heathen goddess owned.


Since bright the Druid’s altar blazed,

And lurid shadows shed,

On Almus Cliff and Brandrith Rocks,

Where human victims bled.


Hag-witches oft, ‘neath Bestham oaks,

Have secret revels kept,

And fairies danced in Clifton Field,

When men unconscious slept.


Dark sprite and ghost of every form,

No man e’er saw the like,

Have played their pranks at midnight hours,

In haunted Busky Dyke.


There milk-white cats, with eyes of fire,

Have guarded stile and gate,

And calves and dogs of wondrous shape,

Have met the trav’ller late.


And ‘ Pad-foot ‘ oft, in shaggy dress,

With many a clanking chain,

Before the astonished rustic’s eyes,

Has vanished in the drain.


On winter’s eve, by bright wood fire,

As winter winds do roar,

And heap the snow on casement higher,

Or beat against the door.


Long tales are told from sire to son,

In many a forest ingle,

Of rushing sounds and fearful sights,

In Busky Dyke’s dark dingle.


But lo! there now, as deftly reared,

As if by magic wands,

In superstition’s own domain,

A village schoolroom stands.


Where thickest fell the gloom of night,

And terror held its sway,

Now beams the rising sun of light,

And intellectual day.


Before its beams, its warmth, its power,

Let every phantom melt,

And children’s gambols now be heard,

Where fearful bargest dwelt.


Yet softly tread, with rev’rent step.

Along the Busky shade,

There ghosts our fathers feared of old.

Will be for ever laid.

Auld Betty of Halifax

A short tale from “Notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties of England”, concerning a shape shifting witch from Halifax. Most Yorkshire witches seem to turn into hares, this one is a cat…

An old man, convinced he had been cursed by Auld Betty the witch, set out on the dangerous task of catching her. She could change her shape, and was often seen in the shape of a black cat.

Sure she would return to do him harm again, he set a cake baking before the fire and waited, armed and ready with a three-pronged fork. As if out of no-where, a large black cat sat in front of the fire, washing it’s face, though he hadn’t seen or heard it come in.

“Cake burns”, cried the cat.

“Turn it then”, replied the man.

“Cake burns”, cried the cat again.

“Turn it then”, replied the man.

“Cake burns”, the cat repeated, and the man made the same answer again.

The man had been told not to mention any whole name while watching the cat, or to shout, but to instead let the cat become transfixed by the burning cake in the hope it changed shape tostop the cake burning itself. It was late, however, the man was tired, and he lost his temper, swearing at the cat.

Instantly, the cat sprung up the chimney, with the man scrambling after it, trying to pierce it with the three-pronged fork. Although scratched by the cat, he managed this, though the injured cat got away.

The next day auld Betty was ill in her bed, staying there for several days, but the man who had been witched was relieved of all his symptoms.

Wadda of Mulgrave, and Bell, his wife

Large standing stone in the centre of a field, trees in background

I always appreciate the “proof” you often find in stories about the devil or about giants.., just look for the stones mentioned for proof of Wadda’s existence 🙂

In the distance past, before the Norman invasion of these lands, a castle stood a few miles North West of Whitby, near Lythe, called Mulgrave Castle.

It stood on a hill side, but on a higher, craggier hill nearby, now stands a pile of stones known as Wadda’s grave. The local people say that this is the grave of a giant, who built Mulgrave Castle.

Wadda and his wife, Bell, between them built both the old Mulgrave castle and Pickering Castle too, some twenty or so miles apart.

Wadda was said to be one of the plotters involved in the murder of Ethelred, the King of Northumberland, and needed to build himself a stronger castle. Unfortunately, Bell had already started building Pickering Castle, and they only had one hammer between them.

Rather than work on one and then the other, they each worked alone, throwing the hammer the twenty or more miles between them. They did this with ease, just shouting beforehand, so the other was ready to catch it!

The Roman road, too, which crosses this part of the country, is named Wadde’s Causeway, and was formed by the same couple for the convenience of Bell crossing the moor to milk her cow.

Wadda did the paving while his wife brought the stones in her apron. Her apron occasionally slipped, with the stones falling to the ground. Evidence of this can still be found in the area, with large heaps of stones still visible nearby.

This worthy couple had a son, also called Wadda, whose strength was equally as marvellous as that of his parents. One day, when still little more than an infant, being impatient for his mother’s breast, while she was away milking her cow near Swart Hole, he seized an enormous stone, and, in a most impatient and rude manner, hurled it at her across the valley, and knocked her to the ground. She was barely hurt, yet so great was the violence with which she was struck that a considerable dent was made in the stone!

This stone remained until recent years, showing proof again of the family’s great strength, though it was broken up to mend the highways not long ago.

If anyone should need further proof of the existence of these giants, look at the hill by Leland, near the site of the old castle of Mulgrave, and you will see where Wadda and Bell were buried. Two upright stones stand some twelve feet apart, marking the head and foot of the giants’ grave.

The Giant of Dalton Mill

A story about Jack and a giant… but not *that* one! This one used to have proof it was real in and old mill!

At Dalton, in the parish of Topcliffe, there was formerly an old cornmill, with the miller’s house attached. In front of the miller’s house there was a long ridge, or mound, known as the ‘Giant’s Grave,’ and in the mill was preserved a long, straight instrument, like a large sword, or straightened scythe-blade, believed to have been the giant’s knife.

While the mill stood, these mementoes were visible for all to see the truth of the story of the Giant of Dalton Mill.

This giant had the same taste for bread made of human bones as had the one, in a more familiar story, who is accused of declaring:


‘Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum,

I smell the blood of an Englishman

Be he alive or be he dead,

I’ll grind his bones to make my bread’


One day the giant of Dalton captured a youth, on the adjoining wilds of Pilmoor, whom he led home, and kept secluded in the mill, working as the giant’s servant, but always denied freedom or time off.

Jack, the lad mentioned, was determined to have a holiday at the approaching Topcliffe fair. The fair day came, on one of the hot days of July, and, after a hearty meal, the giant lay down in the mill for his afternoon nap, still holding the knife with which he had been cutting his loaf of bone flour bread.

As sleep overpowered him, his fingers relaxed their hold of the weapon. Jack gently drew the knife from his grasp, and then, firmly raising it with both hands, drove the blade into the single eye of the monster. He awoke with a fearful howl, but with presence of mind to close the mill door, and so prevent the escape of his assailant. Jack was fairly trapped, but his native ingenuity came to his aid.

Being blinded, the giant could only grope for him. Jack, looking desperately for escape before the giant grabbed him, slayed the giant’s dog, which was just rousing itself from sleep as the giant shouted. It took him but a few minutes to do this, and hurriedly take off its skin. This skin he then threw around himself, and, running on all fours and barking like the dog, he passed between the giant’s legs, got to the door, and, unbarring it quickly, escaped.

The giant, mortally wounded, didn’t last long after Jack’s escape. Death claimed him shortly, but the grave and the knife survived in the mill to prove the story for years to come.

Upsall and its Crocks of Gold

Castle remnants including more recent wall

I’m sure I’d heard this one a long time ago, it’s a story about travelling far but then realising that treasure can be found at home… and if you don’t believe it’s true, just look for the elder tree in the old castle grounds.

High up on a spur of the Hambleton Hills, overlooking the great Vale of York and the hills beyond it, and the whole country, from York into the county of Durham, stands the small village of Upsall. In this village they tell a story of a man, in days of old, found treasure near their old castle.

At the village of Upsall resided, many years ago, a man called George, who dreamed, on three nights successively, that if he went to London Bridge he would hear of something greatly to his advantage. He pondered this a while, but thought it best to take note of these dreams and set off to the capital as soon as he could.

George went, taking many days to travel the whole distance from Upsall to London on foot. Having arrived there, he waited near the centre of the bridge, until his patience was nearly exhausted, and he began to feel he had acted very foolishly indeed. A kindly Quaker, who had passed him by earlier in the day, stopped to ask why he was waiting there for so long. After some hesitation George told this kindly stranger about his dreams. The Quaker laughed at his simplicity, and told him that he had had that night a very curious dream himself, which was, that if he went and dug under an elder bush in Upsall Castle Yard, in Yorkshire, he would find a pot of gold, but he did not know where Upsall was, and inquired of the countryman if he knew?

George, reluctant to share this possible bounty, claimed he had never heard of such a place, and then, thinking his business in London was completed, returned immediately home.

As soon as he arrived in Upsall, he grabbed his spade and went to the old castle yard, without even stopping for a rest and a drink. George dug beneath the bush, and there found a pot filled with gold coins, but on the cover was an inscription in a script he did not understand.

He hid the gold in a safe place, secure he had made his fortune, but the pot and cover were put on display in the village inn. One day, a bearded stranger came in, and while waiting for his food, saw the pot, and exclaimed with surprise!

‘Why have you a pot lid, with writing in the old language?’ He asked the locals. No one replied to him, so this time he asked ‘Do any of you know what it says?’.

They admitted they did not, so the stranger took the pot lid down and read it out to them:

Look lower, where this stood

Is another twice as good’

The man of Upsall, one of the crowd, upon hearing this slipped from the inn, grabbed his space, and dashed to the old castle. This time he dug deeper below the bush, and found another pot filled with gold, far more valuable than the first.

It had taken longer to dig up the second pot than the first, and it was after dark before he managed to struggle home with his treasure. When he woke up the next morning, he emptied the gold out and noticed that this also had an inscription on the lid. It was a repeat of the first one, which he remembered had been translated as:

Look lower, where this stood

Is another twice as good’

He went straight back to the castle, and the hole which he had not yet had time to refill. Encouraged by the inscription, he dug deeper still, and found another pot which made him rich until the end of his days.

If anyone should doubt this story, then find your way to the old castle at Upsall and you’ll find the bush still there that hid the treasure beneath it. Just look for an old elder bush, near the north-west comer of the ruins.

The Golden Ball

A golden coloured ball
Photo by Peter de Vink from Pexels

From Yorkshire Folklore, VOL I (1888), pages 94-96. This was in a Yorkshire dialect, so have tinkered with the language but not the structure. Though I really like one of the early lines “He’d gold on his cap, an’ gold on his finger, gold on his neck, an’ a red gold watch-chain – eh! but he had some brass“…

There was once two sisters, who after walking home through the fair, saw a handsome young man stood between them and their house. They’d never seen such a bonny lad before, and he was dripping in gold. He’d gold on his cap, wore golden rings on each finger, gold around his neck, and a thick gold watch-chain disappearing into his waistcoat pocket. Held out towards the lasses, in each hand, there was a golden ball. He gave one to each of them, but warned them that if they ever lost their ball, then they’d be hanged.

The youngest of the sisters, while playing catch by herself near a park wall, lost her ball over the wall. She ran to follow it, but as she rounded the wall, saw it roll across the last of grass and into the house. She couldn’t get in to follow it, and no-one answered the door, before men came to drag her away to answer for losing the ball. Her sweetheart promised he’d recover the ball before she could be hanged, and went to search for it himself. He found the gate locked, so started to climb over the wall. When he was right on top, an old woman came and stood in front of him and told him there was only one way to get the ball – he must spend three days in the house.

The lad agreed, and found the door to the house unlocked when he got there. He searched the house from top to bottom, but there was no sign of the golden ball anywhere. As night closed in, he heard movement outside in the courtyard. Looking out through the window, the yard was as full of spirits as rotten meat is full of maggots. He heard steps coming upstairs next, so hid behind the door, keeping as still as a mouse. A giant came into the room where he was hiding, five times as tall as the lad, he was, but luckily the giant didn’t see him. Instead, he leant down to the window and looked out to the spirits outside in the yard, and as he leant on his elbows, the lad jumped out on him from behind and chopped him in half with his sword. The top of the giant fell down to the yard, and the bottom half stayed at the window, as though still looking outside. There was a great cry from the spirits outside when they saw half their master come tumbling down, and they called out “The comes half our master, give us t’other half.”

So the lad said, “It’s no use o’thee, a pair of legs standing alone, so go join your brother”, and he threw the bottom half of the giant out of the window. As soon as the legs hit the yard, the spirits went quiet.

The next night, the lad stopped at the house again, and a second giant came in at the door. The lad was expecting this, and it entered, he swung his sword, chopping the second giant in half. This took the giant so much by surprise that the legs carried on walking across the room and up the chimney.  “Get thee after they legs”, said the lad, and threw the head up the chimney too.

The third night, no giant appeared, so the lad got into one of the beds. As he started to drop to sleep, he heard the spirits moving underneath the bed, rolling the ball back and forth between them. He quietly lifted his sword and knelt up, and when one of the spirits moved his leg out from under the bed, he quickly chopped it off. Another spirit stuck its arm out from the other side of the bed, and he cut that off too. As the spirits squirmed under the bed, trying to keep away from the sword, they pushed each other into his reach, so the lad maimed them one by one, until they plucked up enough courage to flee together, wailing and wailing as one. This left him free to pick up the golden ball they had left under the bed, and go off to seek his true love.

The lass had been taken to York to be hanged, and as she was brought out to the scaffold she cried out:

“Stop, stop; I think I see my mother coming.

Oh mother, have you got my golden ball,

And are you coming to set me free?”

“I’ve neither got thy golden ball,

Nor come to set you free,

But I have come to see thee hung,

Upon this gallow tree.”

The hangman told her to say her prayers and be ready to be hanged by the neck until she was dead. But in return she said:

“Stop, stop: I think I see my father coming.

Oh father, have you got my golden ball,

And are you coming to set me free?”

“I’ve neither got thy golden ball,

Nor come to set you free,

But I have come to see thee hung,

Upon this gallow tree.”

So the hangman told her to hurry with her prayers so he could get on with it, and to get her neck in the noose. But again, she said to stop, excusing herself as she saw her brother, her sister, her uncle and aunt, even her cousin coming to save her. The hangman had had enough, thinking she was just playing games to delay the inevitable and told her that her time was up. Just then, she spotted her sweetheart coming through the crowd, holding the golden ball above his head, she she cried out one last time:

“Stop, stop: I see my sweetheart coming.

Sweetheart, have you brought my golden ball,

And come to set me free?”

“Aye, I’ve brought thy golden ball,

And come to set you free,

I have not come to see thee hung,

Upon the gallow tree.”

Needless to say, she was allowed down from the scaffold and took better care of the golden ball from then on.








The Child in the Wood, or the Cruel Uncle

A woodcut showing a child inside a tree, with 3 people on horses nearby, dogs, and other trees.

This is from the “Yorkshire Folklore Journal” (Vol I, 1888, p.115) which states it came from “a very old chapbook”. The image above is stated to be from a woodcut in that chapbook! I’ve rephrased it slightly, but not by a massive amount…

In the town on Beverley, in Yorkshire, about 2 years ago (1703). there lived a squire called Somers, who was a very honest gentleman with a good income. He lived with his wife and two year old daughter. Unfortunately, after a short illness, his wife died, leaving him heartbroken. He found he couldn’t enjoy life at all after his loss, and soon fell ill, took to his bed and died after just a fortnight of illness himself.

While ill, he sent for his brother, who lived about 14 miles away, and begged him to take care of his daughter in case he didn’t recover. “Brother”, he said, “I leave with you the dearest thing that I have in the world, my little daughter. Together with her, I entrust my whole estate. Manage it for her use, and take care of her education and upbringing. Look after her as if she was your own, and for my sake, see her married to an honest country gentleman.” His brother faithfully promised to do this should he not recover, so when the gentleman died, the brother takes the little girl home and looked after her kindly for some time.

But it didn’t take long before he became jealous of the fortune that he was looking after for her. He plotted many different ways in which he could take the estate for himself, and eventually decided to abandon her in the woods. He couldn’t bring himself to murder her outright, so took her to a hollow tree, gagged her mouth so she couldn’t be heard crying, and left her inside the hollow. To conceal the crime, he had commissioned a wax model of a child to be made. Once the child was abandoned in the hollow tree, he dressed the wax effigy in a shroud, laid it in a coffin, and held a great funeral for the girl. The wax model was buried, and no one suspected anything but an illness and a sad, young death, all too common in young children.

At the same time this was happening, a neighbouring gentleman dreamed that the following day he would see something that would astonish him. He told it to his wife, who tried to persuade him to stay at home, but he took no notice and went out hunting instead. As he rode through the woods that morning, his horse was startled and nearly knocked him from his saddle. He turned around, looking for what had disturbed his horse, and saw something move in a dark hole. Worried now that his dream was coming true, he told one of his servants to check the hole – it was the same hollow in a tree that the little girl had been abandoned in, and they pulled her out, barely still alive.

He took her home, looking after her as her strength returned, but she was too young to be able to tell them where she had come from. This remained a mystery until Christmas, and they held a feast and a singing at his house. One of his guests recognised the little girl and told them she was supposedly dead and buried. Shocked, the gentleman went to the parish minister and persuaded him to have the grave dug up, discovering the wax model inside the coffin.

The cruel Uncle was arrested and convicted of abandoning the child and attempting to steal her inheritance, and the court decided that the gentleman who found her should be allowed to look after her as if she was his own. This pleased him and his wife greatly, as they had no other children, and had already grown fond of the little girl, looking after her from then onwards as if she was their own.

The Wicked Giant of Penhill

This does feel very Norse like to me! Quite a dark story you can imagine the viking settlers telling…

Penhill Beacon
Large cairn near Penhill Beacon by Roger Templeman (cc-by-sa licence)

When the Norsemen settled in Yorkshire in the old days, they brought some of their gods too, and more importantly to this tale, some of the descendants of their gods stayed on.

Near where Bolton Castle still stands today, and terrorising the countryside all around, lived a giant who was a descendant of Thor, the god of storms and thunder. All he cared about was his vast herd of pigs, and Wolfhead the boarhound that he kept to help him with them. He lived in the time before the Normans came to these shores, and all were scared of him.

Every day the giant drove his swineherd through the gate of his castle on Penhill. He’d count them out and feel proud of how fat and valuable they were.

One day, walking out with his loyal Wolfhead, he saw a small flock of sheep on the hillside. ‘Look at those stupid sheep’, he said to Wolfhead. ‘They are nothing compared to our great pigs, go and have some fun with them.’

So his hound pounced on the first sheep and tore it apart. ‘Another one!’ laughed the giant. So Wolfhead slaughtered one after another of the defenceless sheep, while the wicked giant laughed his socks off.

A beautiful young girl, Gunda, rushed up to him and flung herself at his feet and begged him to make his hound stop. ‘Please Sir’, she implored, ‘this is my father’s flock and all that he has, please call off your beast’.

This only made the giant laugh even more, delighting in the fear she showed as another sheep was ripped to pieces in front of them. ‘Perhaps I will stop him, if you make it worth my while’, he leered at her, then grabbed her and tried to tear her clothes from her body.

She squirmed, and wriggled, and slipped from his grasp, leaving him with nothing but a small piece of cloth torn from her jacket. This made him furious, and he roared with anger while she ran away as fast as she could.

The giant, with his great heavy boots, couldn’t keep up, and sent Wolfhead to catch her. She couldn’t run faster than the hound, and tripped and fell in her rush to get away. As the dog jumped onto her to pin her to the ground for his master, she grabbed a rock and slammed it into the hound’s nose. It howled in pain and jumped away, whining for its master. This made the giant even angrier, so he raised his club and killed the poor shepherdess on the spot.

The wicked giant had done so many evil deeds, and so terrified the locals, that he thought nothing of this terrible assault and murder, but simply returned to his castle with Wolfhead.

A few weeks later, bringing the swine out on the morning, he noticed he was missing a young boar. He kicked his only friend, the hound Wolfhead, and ordered him to go and find the missing boar. ‘Go on, you lazy old hound. Find that boar or I will whip you senseless with Thor’s own belt I still wear, and leave you in the woods for the wild wolves to kill.

The hound wasn’t happy at this treatment, and growled as followed his nose on the boar’s trail. He soon found the missing boar, dead with an arrow through its heart.

The giant swore to take the hand of whoever had dared to kill his boar, and ordered his steward to make everyone within the dale who could draw a bow, come to the top of Penhill. Any man not waiting at the top of the cliff by sunset in a week’s time would be thrown into the castle dungeons to rot.

In the meantime, Wolfhead had not returned. Remembering the kick and the giant’s words, he stayed in the forest away from his master. The giant had his men search for him, and even though they found him, he would not return when called. The giant’s temper got the better of him again, and he took out his bow, and killed the only creature that had ever been his friend.

The following day, the local men were lined up waiting for him on Penhill. The giant was still angry after killing Wolfhead, and in no mood to deal gently with anyone. He demanded they told him who had shot the boar. None of them could meet his eye, and none spoke up, as they didn’t know who had shot the arrow.

‘You dare defy me!’, the giant roared so loudly that the stones on the ground shook. ‘Then out of my sight! I swear by my ancestor Thor, that I will make you speak. Tomorrow at sunset, every father shall stand here with his youngest child in his arms, and if you defy me again, I will show you what I am really capable of doing.’

As the men ran away, the giant was amazed to hear a quiet voice. One old man had stayed, leaning on his staff for support, and looking straight at the giant without showing a hint of fear.  ‘What will happen tomorrow, when the men don’t give you the answer you seek?’, asked the old man.

‘I have the power of life and death over these men’, the giant laughed, ‘and you had better remember that and speak to me with respect’.

‘Is that your answer? If so, take heed of my words. Tomorrow is Thor’s day, and if you spill one drop of blood, or cause one of the children to cry out in pain or fear, you will not enter your castle again, dead or alive’, the old man warned the giant.

The wicked giant was too amazed by the actions of the old man to do much more than laugh again. ‘You’re just an old hermit, and you think to speak to me like that! Get back to your cave and you’ll see tomorrow what I do to the likes of you’.

As the sun dipped low in the sky the following day, the local men all returned to the hillside. Slowly and sadly, they climbed the slope, each with a young child in their arms. As they got close to the top, the old hermit met them, reassuring each of them that the giant would not harm any child.

The giant watched the local men from a window in his castle, in a better mood than he’d been in for a long time. He couldn’t wait to make them suffer and get a confession for the killing of his boar. A servant interrupted him as he watched, and tried to warn him of a dream he had last night, and how the ravens and crows circling the castle that day were a bad omen. The giant didn’t let him finish. Angry his pleasant fantasies of torturing the locals had been interrupted, he kicked the servant across the room and left him for dead.

This was the last straw for the long suffering servant, and struggling to his feet, he dragged basket after basket of straw, wood, and peat into the main hall and set them alight.

The giant, striding out to men the local men and their children, was shocked to see nine dead boars across his path. Another nine steps and he found nine more. Every nine steps towards the meeting place this was repeated, and the giant was incandescent with rage.

As he rounded the last corner, with the peasants stood in front of him, shouted ‘By the great god Thor, not only your babies, but the blood of every living soul here shall stain the hillside red tonight and the ravens shall feast themselves fat on your flesh’.

Then he noticed the old hermit smiling at him and demanded he come and kneel in front of him immediately.

‘I’m no servant of yours, if you want to speak with me, you come here. You are a braggart. Look behind you, and you shall see that I speak the truth’ replied the old man.

The giant turned and saw his castle alight, with a vast cloud of smoke rising from it. He stood transfixed for a few moments, then raised his club and strode towards the hermit. Before he could strike him, however, he stopped once more, the club dropping from his hands, the colour draining from his face, and his body shook with fear.

Behind the hermit stood Gunda, the shepherdess, and Wolfhead, the hound, held back by her on a long rope. The giant stepped back further, getting close to the edge of Penhill cliff. Gunda looked at the giant, then released Wolfhead, who sprang straight at the giant’s throat, the two toppling over the edge of the cliff, never to return.

The Boggart and the knot-hole

This is a story about a Boggart (or Hob) from The London literary gazette and journal of belles lettres, arts, sciences, etc.,  1825, no. 430, pages 252,253. It has similarities at the end with another Boggart / Hob story I have, but the rest is quite different!

One day, a Boggart took up residence (why and how, I never discovered) in the house of a quiet, inoffensive farmer, George Gilbertson. Once there, it seemed to decide that it was the rightful owner and caused a good deal of annoyance. They never saw it of course, as a Boggart is rarely visible to the human eye, though it is frequently seen by cattle and horses. (A Yorkshire term for a ‘shying horse’ is one that has ‘taken the boggle’.)

It seemed to take a particular dislike to the children, tormenting them in various ways. Sometimes their bread and butter would be snatched away, or their porringers of bread and milk be capsized by an invisible hand; at other times, the curtains of their beds would be shaken backwards and forwards, or a heavy weight would press on and nearly suffocate them. The parents had often, on hearing their cries, to fly to their aid.

There was a kind of closet, formed by a wooden partition on the kitchen-stairs, and a large knot having been driven out of one of the deal-boards of which it was made, there remained a hole. Into this one day the farmer’s youngest boy stuck the shoe-horn with which he was amusing himself, when immediately it was thrown out again, and struck the boy on the head. The agent was of course the Boggart, and though the first time was terrifying, it soon became their amusement (which they called laikin’ wi’ Boggart) to put the shoe-horn into the hole and have it shot back at them. This seemed to goad the Boggart into more disruptive behaviour.

At night, heavy steps were heard clattering down the stairs, like someone wearing clogs. Sounds like earthernware and pewter dishes smashing against the kitchen floor were heard, though the dishes were intact on their shelves in the morning.

The Boggart at length proved such a torment that the farmer and his wife resolved to quit the house and let him have it all to himself. This was put into execution, and the farmer and his family were following the last loads of furniture, when a neighbour named John Marshall came up—”Well, Georgey,” said he, “and soa you’re leaving t’ould hoose at last?”—”Heigh, Johnny, my lad, I’m forced tull it; for that damned Boggart torments us soa, we can neither rest neet nor day for’t. It seems loike to have such a malice again t’poor bairns, it ommost kills my poor dame here at thoughts on’t, and soa, ye see, we’re forced to flitt loike.” He scarce had uttered the words when a voice from a deep upright churn cried out, “Aye, aye, Georgey, we’re flitting ye see.”—”‘Od damn thee,” cried the poor farmer, “if I’d known thou’d been there, I wadn’t ha’ stirred a peg. Nay, nay, it’s no use, Mally,” turning to his wife, “we may as weel turn back again to t’ould hoose as be tormented in another that’s not so convenient.”

I believe they did turn back, and seemed to come to a better understanding with the Boggart, though it continued it’s trick of firing the horn from the knot-hole. I remember an old tailor, who used to visit the farmhouse on his rounds, told me the horn was frequently pitched at his head, many years after this first took place.