In keeping with my tradition of the past few years, I’m sharing a lighter, less scary winter tale for Christmas Eve. As with last year’s Christmas Eve offering, this one is more of a fairy tale. It’s by the minister/scholar/folklorist Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924).
The narrator goes hunting with a friend out on Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall. They get lost after sunset, and wander into the boggy mire of Crowdy Marsh. After being separated from his friend, the narrator stumbles upon a mysterious, lonely cottage on the edge of the Marsh.
You can read “Crowdy Marsh” here.
Like many of Baring-Gould’s supernatural stories, “Crowdy Marsh” has a bit of a moral to it, but it’s not heavy-handed, and it feels rather appropriate to the season. Baring-Gould also gives us a nice interpretation of the Wild Hunt, specifically the version of the Wild Huntsman named Dewer.
Here’s hoping you’re enjoying my winter tales in your cozy abode, not a cold damp marsh! I wish a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and a joyous day to all who don’t.
A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.
Featured image: A walk on Bodmin Moor, 30 Sept. 2010 by Phillip Capper (License CC-by-2.0). Source: Wikimedia. It’s not marked, but I believe that’s Brown Willy in the background.
Detail from Bodmin Moor, by Thomas Rowlandson (c. 1825). Source: Wikimedia
An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw
Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry
Yippie yi Ohhhhh
Yippie yi yaaaaay
Ghost Riders in the sky
“Riders in the Sky” was written by Stan Jones, and first recorded by Burl Ives in 1949. My favorite version is the 1979 recording by Johnny Cash:
The old cowboy in the song sees the devil’s herd riding through the sky, chased by the exhausted ghosts of damned cowboys, who will never catch them. One of the ghosts stops and warns the old cowboy to mend his ways, or he, too, will be chasing the herd for all eternity.