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“I was Satan’s Roadie”: Tracking the Devil in English Local Lore

  • 26/10/2021
  • 18:00-19:30
  • Online talk

Jeremy Harte (Curator, Bourne Hall Museum, Ewell, and author of the forthcoming Cloven Country: Legends of the Devil in England) talks about the Devil in local legends.

‘I was Satan’s roadie:’ Tracking the Devil in English local lore

Part ogre, part buffoon, the Devil of local legend is very different from the theological one. Where do these subversive stories come from?

According to legend, the English landscape – so calm and welcoming on the surface – is really the Devil’s work. Throughout the country, local lore describes the infernal labour with which great rocks were hurled into place, hills heaped up, valleys carved out. That hideous strength laid down great roads in one night, spanned impossible gorges with slender bridges, and left scars everywhere as the hard stone melted like wax under the tread of those burning feet. It sounds terrifying, and yet popular tradition always countered the hellish threat with a happy ending. The dreadful impending fate would always be averted at the last minute by a smart tinker or a cunning old widow – the rocky missile would fall short, the intended sacrifice scuttle away. The Devil in these stories is clumsy and easily fooled, a vast lumbering ogre and no match for the quick wits of humankind. In his travels, Jeremy has scanned the Devil’s Chimney and his Cheeseknife, his Parlour and his Punch Bowl, as avidly as any landscape archaeologist, even though these relics are not real, never had been thought real: the stories are not ancient survivals, not even medieval (who had punch bowls in the Middle Ages?), they are village jokes. But jokes always have a point.

Tickets £5.00 via Eventbrite, £3.00 FLS members with Promo Code, ticket sales open 13 September