Thursday, 4 October 2018
The Loch Ness Story
A monstrously jolly Folklore Thursday to you, pledgers!
We may be running short of Tales we haven't blogged about, but there's still a certain amount of shiftiness in celebrating this ANIMAL-themed week with the tale of Nessie, the last of the dinosaurs who lives up in the deep waters of Northern Scotland.
Admittedly, her qualification as an animal is slightly circumspect, but more to the point – is there really what you'd call a 'Loch Ness Monster story'? One of our main spurs in creating this book is that we love books on folklore, but that's what you end up with – LORE, random bits of superstition, rather than proper stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Due to the relatively sparse population, decent tales are rare in Northern Scotland, compared to, say, Somerset or Snowdonia. And so somehow we felt we couldn't just ignore Nessie. But eventually we had to face the quandary – what is her 'tale', exactly? There are tantalising similarities between the aquatic creature – some kind of evolutionary offspring of the plesiosaur, some believe – and the Scottish Kelpies, water horse spirits, of whom many a tale is told… but otherwise...?
History is a crucial element of our book – placed in rough chronological order, the Tales of Britain show that our country is a mongrel brew created by endless washes of immigration for millennia – and so that was the story we had to work from, as source material: the known history of the Loch Ness Monster.
There is a scrap of ancient lore about St Columba threatening a sea monster in the RIVER Ness, not the loch, back in the 6th century, but as that was pretty par for the course in saint biographies (we do try to avoid saint myths in our collection, they tend to be so tiresomely pat), it's largely irrelevant. If anything, the real Nessie story begins in 1933, with the testimony of a holidaying tailor called George Spicer, which inspired photographer Hugh Gray to provide the famous photographic image of a long neck rising from the waves, just a few months later.
And so began the greatest industry in the history of British cryptozoology. But even then, there's not really anything in the form of a plot here, despite the awful movies spun off from the legend over the years, which we certainly didn't want to reference. So, given the existing history, our Loch Ness Monster story – one of the very few in our collection set in the 20th century – is, we admit, largely original. We share our own take on who this poor animal might be, surrounded by cynical photographers and investigators day after day, wanting a bit of peace – and a run-in with a local bullied schoolgirl, which changes the latter's life forever.
Inventing new stories is not what Tales of Britain is all about, and this is nearly unique – the flimsiness of the Black Shuck legend also required a fair bit of narrative creativity, but in general, preserving the ancient stories of this island as they have long been told is what really matters. But who knows, if enough folk buy, enjoy and share Tales Of Britain, our Loch Ness Monster story may become part of the warp and weft of British folklore anyway.
Oh, and talk of monsters give us a good chance of plugging our next show – believe it or not, our first ever HALLOWE'EN TALES OF BRITAIN will take place on Saturday afternoon, 4pm on 27th October, upstairs at the Ring O'Bells in the wee Somerset village of Widcombe – directly behind Bath Spa train station, 5 minutes walk, so anyone travelling from other climes will have a very easy journey to come and join in all the spooky fun! There will be ghosts, killer black bulls, witches and demons galore, plus free sweeties and scares for all ages!
And perhaps even, a famous monster or two...!
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