Childe The Hunter (Transcript)


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In actual fact I think the folklore is based a lot in fact, which is partly why you get stories like Childe Harold, which obviously is one of the main stories of the moor. Um and that’s about the young man. He wasn’t led astray by the pixies…um, would you like me to tell you the story?

Interviewer – I would love to!


Vanni – Well, once upon a time, because that’s the way stories always should start, a long way in the past, what happened was that there was a young man. And the young man went out on the moor. Well he had to go right across the moor because actually he had lands in Plymstock. So he had to go right across the moor, from one side to the other. He was also a hunter, so he was out there on the moor looking for boar and various other animals that he might hunt on the way no doubt. But anyway, as with the moor, you never know what’s gonna happen, and a storm started to brew. And so from one minute when it was beautiful and the sun was shining, the clouds rolled thickly over the moor, and darkness spread around, although it was the middle of the day. With the darkness came the wind and with the wind came the cold and with the cold came the snow. And the snow started to fall gently at first, just little flakes landing on the barren moor. Childe the Hunter carried on. He couldn’t go back, so he had to go forwards. But as he went on the blizzard became thicker and thicker and he ended up below a tor. But up there, it was so cold that he knew, he knew in his heart, that if he went on he would die, for sure, and if he went back he would die for sure, so he had no choice. He was riding his horse, his beloved horse, but to save himself from death, he killed his horse, and he cut it open, and he wrapped himself within the horse. But the snow carried on, and with the snow, darkness started to fall all around the moor. As he realized that his life was slowly ebbing away, he reached out, and with the blood from within the warm horse, he wrote his will on a piece of granite which lay near his head. And he said in his last words written on that cold bleak night on Dartmoor, that whoever should take him to be buried, across the moor in some hospitable corner, would be given all his lands, all the lands around Plymstock. Snow fell. Snow covered him. And he died. Died peacefully, but died alone in the wilderness of the moor. And it was only later that his body was found.

But then what a hue and cry, because there were the monks of Buckfast and the monks of Tavistock, Tavistock Abbey, nestled in the valley, were the first that managed to get to Childe and to take him to be buried. They managed by building a whole new bridge to get across the river, over the Tavy, and to bring Childe Harold to his last resting place.

Up on the moors now there is a monument, a tomb to Childe. And to this day tis said that if you’re up there on a bleak, dark night, and you are near his death place, you will see forever against the white snow, the words, his last words, written in blood on the stones that lie below his last resting place.


Interviewer – When did you first hear that story?

Vanni – Um, when I was at primary school I mean that’s one of the traditional moorland stories. Um I think as a child we were more upset, certainly I was more upset, and I think a lot of my friends were more upset, that the horse died than the young man. But I mean that’s children. And certainly I think that the fact that he was um, that his death meant that Tavistock Abbey gained the lands around Plymstock had no significance. And it was a good adventure story you know I think that was the basis of it.

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