• Jem Roberts

GreenFire: Herne the Hunter & Windsor Castle

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Happy Folklore Thursday! Lots of love to the sainted 256, but we need to be at least another 100 strong before TALES OF BRITAIN goes into production at last! Keep the faith strong! This Saturday at 3pm we will be kicking off half-term at Bath's Rondo Theatre with TALES OF BRITAIN LIVE, packed with dragons, pigs, pies, battles and bogles! brother Bernard and Sister Sal hope to see you there...

It's a little early for Halloween, but this week's 'fire and ice' theme set down by the @FolkloreThursday folk brought to mind the mysterious green fire which surrounds the ghostly figure of HERNE THE HUNTER, every time he manifests himself in Windsor Forest.

It seems odd now to reflect that when our take on Herne's origin story was lovingly embroidered nearly exactly one year ago, it was in the hot sun of Georgia USA – a proper American Halloween – as we provided the only TOB updates off British soil. But having performed the tale around the campfire back in Blighty a few times since then, we're very happy with the balance of menacing horror, silliness, and a very suitable dollop of humane ecological subtext, in the finished tale, set in the reign of Richard II. It spooks the kids, and contains real danger, but there's always a more comforting story just around the corner to share before bedtime...

It was a very sensitive story to retell, with suicide playing a very central role in the plot, but there are very few horror stories without death playing a part somewhere along the line, so we haven't watered it down.

As for the historical story of Herne, we see no reason why very real skulduggery among the King's woodsmen out Windsor way 700-ish years ago shouldn't have given rise to the figure of Herne – a legend picked up by Shakespeare a few generations later as part of his Merry Wives of Windsor festivities. But the gigantic ghostly antlered figure clearly has roots way beyond any historical record, appearing to foolish interlopers in the royal forests, bathed in greed flame, and... certainly giving them the fright of their lives. He's in the same family tree as Robin Goodfellow, The Green Man and any number of fertility and tree-themed gods and mythical spirits...

You can visit Herne's home at Windsor Great Park for free today – though certain areas cost a fortune! And sadly the great oak where Herne was said to emanate in his eerie green flames died and was cleared away many a century ago – though it's said that George III planted an acorn in the same area, so it's still worth having a look for its descendant! But leave the deer alone.

We have a fuller guide to Windsor Great Park in the book, along with 76 other exciting folktale sites to visit! But until we get to 100%, it's all top secret... pledge today if you haven't, convince someone else to pledge if you have!

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