Hobb’s Tale of the Time of the Normans – (some of it is a bit grizzly) – (Please share, like and add comments).
There I was sat in the centre of the park by the river in my Hobb outfit, (which is basically a dress and tights), with a huge black cloak with a huge black hood; waiting. I was waiting to suddenly start in a deep scary voice. ‘Long long ago!’
I could not see ahead of me because of the big hood, but eventually I heard a group approaching and saw their feet gathering around, ‘Long long ago!’
Luckily it was the right group!
Jules Montgomery of Barmby Moor School had asked me to be there to meet her group, or rather groups. They had teamed up with Garton on the Wold School for a trip to York to go around Cliffords Tower.
There was only room for one of their groups at a time, so they were to split up and spend an hour in there and an hour with me.
Life with the Normans was Jules’ suggestion and, as they had been studying the topic, plus would be hearing the relative history of the tower, I thought I better be a bit different to all that. Jules suggested tales of the Normans from the local perspective.
Hence Hobb’s view.
Long long long
Long long long
Long long long ago (the hood was off)
There used to be a great tower here upon a hill.
Do you know where it was?
“There!” “There!” There!” they all point.
Oh, no, you’ve got a new one.
In my-a-days it was over there. I point to where the Eye of York is now.
This one wasn’t there in my-a-days. It must be from your-a-days. What do you call it? “Cliffords Tower.”
Oh no, what did you call it that for?! You have called it after the enemy.
Clifford was one of the nasty bad guys from that horrible place over the mountains; the place of the red rose.
Ah, I think I know why it got called that. It is a joke.
When they caught him they hung him. They hung him from the tower and left him there.
For a long long long time, is that enough longs or should there be more?
For a long long long long long long long time, is that enough longs, er, yes perhaps so.
A long long time he hung there, and people would look up as they passed and say, ‘Hello Clifford.’
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha…
Well perhaps it isn’t funny now-a-days, but it was then.
‘ Ha ha ha ha ha ha,’ is that enough ha ha’s or should there be more?
“No!” “No more!”
After years of folk saying, ‘Where are we going fishing?’ Down past Clifford’s tower ha ha ha ha ha – it all wore a bit thin, but the name stuck.
That is what I say about it and I should know because I am Hobb.
Let me introduce myself I am Hobb, Hobb the pigman.
Not that I have got any pigs, but you know how you all have a pig in your house don’t you. “No.” “Yes.” “No.” Well some of you have. Everyone did in my-a-days. Not in your-a-days but in my-a-days. And you know how you would get fed up of them around your feet? And would push them out of the door, so they were all wandering about in the street. Well I felt sorry for them all and I have them all round at my house. I am always warm on a night, and I am never short of company. People don’t tend to like me very much, because of the smell, but the pigs like me, so that’s all right.
They was a tower here, a big castle on a hill you know, long long long before that-there William feller came here. The Saxons built it, or the Angles or both of them. That one was destroyed. The Vikings came and the Vikings destroyed it. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Is that enough Viking laughter? “No.” Everybody then; “Ha ha ha ha ha ha.“
Well there I was in The Globe in Shambles having a glass of porter, and then I went across the street to a pub called The Globe and had a glass of porter. I like the Globe, but the porter isn’t as good, I don’t like The Globe but the porter is far better there and it is only across Shambles so I popped back into The Globe for another, while my pigs waited outside.
It wasn’t so bad. We all got nattering and chatting and we got onto the Vikings. There was Ragnar you see, long long long long, shall I? No, OK, just the one long then, long ago there was a Viking king called Ragnar. Ragnar Hairy-breeks; he of the hairy trousers. He stormed through Europe taking town after town, city after city. He came to Paris, oh, he took his army with him of course, he didn’t do it all on his own. Paris was a bit trickier. A big strong city. So he put the place under siege. That’s where you don’t let anybody out and you don’t let anybody in. It tends to make you hungry does that, but more on that later. For now, let’s just say that they had a lot of food in there; they managed to survive for two years. Eventually they gave in because they were very very hungry, very.
They gave in, and they gave him all their treasure; gold, jewels, crepe recipes, everything.
Trouble was, most of his Vikings said, ‘We quite like it here, we have got used to it, we think we’ll stay.’ That left him with a smaller army when he came to Britain and it left France with a load of Vikings who would later turn into Normans, or their off-spring would many many years later. Many.
So along here came Ragnar and died terribly at the hands of a Saxon king, but that is another story for another time.
Those ones he left behind though, many many years later their children’s children’s children’s ch, you get the idea. The king’s army, the king of France (as we call it now).
Along came a Viking, well a few. The leader of this army was a big guy, you might call him Rolo, or Rolf, he said he was called Hrolfr. Ganger Hrolfr in fact. Ganger means walker.
He ran mainly, very fast, and right at you. He was so big that no horse would carry him; his feet trailed along the floor when he sat in the saddle. So he ran, with his army riding behind him. Well, not when they were on a ship, then they sailed. There were ships full of them. A hundred ships they say, with a hundred men in each one they say. How many is that? “A thousand?” “Ten thousand?” “A hundred thousand?” I will tell you how many and you will repeat it after me. How many? A lot! How many? “A lot.”
They went in by river and then they travelled the lands. Till presently they came again to the great river around a great bend far from their ships. There across the waters was a huge army. The king at their head. His army was far larger. He was about to call for a charge to ride across the river and kill these invaders with their tall leader when he heard his own army talking behind him. ‘Those fellers over there are from the North.’ ‘They are Northmen.’ ‘That is where our forefathers were from.’ ‘We are kin.’ ‘Family.’ ‘We can’t fight them.’
The king heard this and thought that he had better change his plan. ‘What is it that you want?’
Ganger Hrolfr replied, ‘All this. All the land at this side of the river.’
The king was not happy with this but felt he had no choice, ‘This you can have as long as you swear allegiance to me.’
‘How would I do this?’ called Ganger as he strode across the river with his strongest few.
‘You must bow down and kiss my foot.’
‘I will bow down to no man,’ cried Ganger. He turned to his mightiest warrior, ‘Would you do this duty for me my good friend?’
Tor Eric stepped forward with a wry grin, (that is a bit of a smirk if you didn’t know). He walked forward towards the king who was sat before him on his horse. Tor Eric took the king’s foot, he didn’t bend, he lifted the foot quickly to his mouth and kissed. The king flew off his horse. As he crashed to the floor Hrolfr laughed loud, as did his warriors, their whole army behind them across the river could be heard to be laughing wildly. The king’s men were not laughing; his close knights were reaching for their weapons and stepping slowly forward. The king laughed. The king stood, and laughed and laughed. His knights looked, looked back at Tor Eric and Hrolfr, and then they laughed, a whole army behind them laughing and laughing. Both banks of the river were filled with wild loud hearty laughter.
Hobb laughs, the teachers laugh, the children laugh – a timeless hearty laugh.
So that is even more descendants of the Norsemen settled in France. No wonder the Norman invasion fought so well!
Anyway I went for a walk. To be more correct, I took my pigs for a walk (Oink, wheet wheet wheee), they were fed up of being in the house, well, the hovel actually. Anyway, we went for a walk.
So there I was in the ale house on the street of stone, the pigs were in the front yard and I was sat with a glass in the inne: Yee Newe Starre Inne. You might know it better as Yee Olde Starre Inne, but this was a long time ago when the Starre Inne was newe.
Sipping away at my porter and listening to my friend who was a porter, lending a tanner to my friend the tanner, and… – that’s quite enough of that, let’s just say there were a few of us. Then I was asked what I thought of the news, I wasn’t able to think about the news, because I hadn’t heard the news. Then I heard the news; the king was dead. My friend the Crier was quite upset about it, yes he had been crying about it all over town. I didn’t know. The pigs are so noisy you see. Edward? The King? That Edward feller? I asked. Yes I was told. Well, I asked, did he confess anything in the end, but nobody knew.
Anyway I wasn’t worried, he was from down there and it wouldn’t bother us up here I reckoned. Some of my friends agreed. The one who was a Wait said we would have to find out in the end. Mostly though they were worried, because, it turned out, there were many coming who thought they ought to be king and there would be trouble. There would be trouble mainly round here, fighting and that, they reckoned. (One of them-there would-be kings is buried under that great big church you have, a Viking feller.) They were all going to be coming over here they said.
What did it matter I wondered, as a king is a king is a king is a king, but I was informed I was wrong. The one that worried everyone was coming over from France to conquer. What was he called? “William!” No. Guillaume. That is French for William or any rate maybe William is English for Guillaume. We maybe should end up calling him William but for now he was Guillaume I was told. One of my pals said he was called Guillaume le Rude-word. I wanted to know what the rude word was and it was whispered in my ear. Goodness me that’s a shock. We can’t call him that. We had better call him a conqueror. Yes that would do it; William the Conqueror. Any way there was going to be trouble.
It was true. In no time there was talk of a big battle raging over a bridge just a little way from here. I was told I had to go, not to fight, but because I had pigs and they might need pigs. I couldn’t guess what they might need my pigs for, but I went anyway.
It took a while; these pigs of mine are slow to shift. I had a switch and I switched it, the new one wasn’t any better but I switched with it anyway. There was a lot of noise and a lot of wandering off but eventually we got there. It was too late. It was all over.
I made the mistake of looking around, I shouldn’t have done it, I looked around. It was terrible terrible. You can be sure that when we meet in person for me to tell you all this there will be a lot of stabbing and crying and groaning and dying going on. For now though, just imagine. I wish I hadn’t looked.
Then suddenly there was an army running at me.
They ran right past me, ‘Come on, come on.’ What? ‘Come on, come with us.’ ‘We are running all the way to a place called Hastings, it can’t be far.’ That was going to be their downfall I thought, but I didn’t say anything. What do you want me for? ‘We don’t need you, we need the pigs.’
I had no idea why they might want my pigs but I set off anyway. It was a long slow journey. Oink, oink, oink – switch, switch, switch – wheeet wheeet wheeee. We got there. It was too late. It was terrible, terrible, terrible. Slashing, and stabbing and crying and groaning and dying. All that was over. Well except for the odd bit of groaning maybe. It was all over. Imagine my face as I look around for a very long time. Imagine. That is how horrible it was.
We all know what that battle was called. “The battle of Hastings!” No. The battle of Hastings which isn’t the battle of Hastings because it didn’t happen at Hastings did actually happen at Battle. So it is the battle of Battle. Except if the village of Battle is only called battle because it was where there was a battle then it was just a battle. Then again if battles before the battle of Battle weren’t called a battle and they only started being called battles after there was this one in Battle it isn’t even the battle of Battle. It is called .
That’s where I was anyway .
There ahead of me was a huge army running right at me, this was a horrible terrible army and they were running right at me as I said. I hid. I hid behind my pigs. But because by now I was starting to get an idea of why they might want my pigs I hid the pigs. Once I had hid the pigs in the ditch I hid among the pigs. The horrible army hurried past. They were led by William somebody… “William the Conqueror!” No. The Malet. Him and all the knights and their retinues were a great army and they were being sent north.
It is said they went and crushed York. Crushed it. Then they went back down a bit (which was rather a long way round to do things, but they were new to Britain) and they went to Nottingham.
They went there to crush that place too but I don’t think they managed very well because Nottingham has another name. What is it? “We don’t know.” The City of Caves.
By I got there with my pigs people were starting to come up out of the caves blinking. I was glad they were alright. I was also glad they were blinking because they didn’t see my pigs.
I did meet someone else, someone interesting; the Pig Woman, but that is another story for another time when you are older. She did tell me something though. She said that Malet had been ordered back to York to take charge (See I told you they did things in a long way round sort of way).
So I went back to York. It wasn’t so bad. There was plenty of work. Well there was mainly plenty of work because there weren’t that many people left. The people who were left were very very cross. That Malet feller got us all working though. Well except for the one or two who ran off to send messages about the terrible horrible things that had happened.
There were walls and gates around the town, but not across the river. The river was surrounded by marshland as well. So we had to dig in it and get all the muck and mud and rocks and clay and pile it up. We didn’t know why. Well not until they started building on top of it. A castle, a great big castle. Now there was water all around it. That water would become known as Kings Fishpond in later years.
There was a huge draw bridge to get in and they all lived up there looking out at us.
Some of those quietly cross people who hadn’t stayed to dig mud had gone to meet other people and make them cross; livid might be a better way of putting it. They all came here for a fight. Out across the Vale of York they were steadily gathering. The farmers, the Northumbrians, the Scottish, the boy king, so that’s Saxons and maybe Angles too, maybe even three or four Jutes, and one or two Picts perhaps, some Celts or Irish anyway and at last – the Danes. And we, snigger, were all set to let them in. They all were in this together and they were far more than cross or even livid.
William was worried but it took them all so long to get together that he had time to send for William; the other William.
He turned up with a huge army and he saw them all off. We were all alone again (oink).
He was horribly cruel, torturous even, you can be sure that if ever you invite me to your group to tell this I will be torturous to be sure.
For now just imagine the screams.
He built that tower over there at the other side of the river in eight days flat! “What tower?” It’s flat! Well it was over there back then in the back-then-i-days.
The Danes came back!
We all joined in!
3000 Normans died.
King William is said to have said something about God’s Splendour, but what he meant was he was going to kill us all. And he did. Well, no or I wouldn’t be here to tell you. That’s what he said though.
Next thing we know, we can’t get out and they are all around the place.
We got very hungry.
This is the bit where I got to find out just how horrid children’s imaginations can be, because I asked them what they would have to eat. Yes there was sausages and chicken nuggets and Macdoodles (we only ate the box actually), and pigs – No, I hid the pigs on Barmby Moor just in time – we raided all the butchers on Shambles, we drank everything in all the innes and wayside places, we caught birds out of the air and ate them whole (we won’t mention the puppies and kittens because we don’t like to talk about it). Mud, leaves, grass, slime, there was nothing left.
I asked for volunteers and a few came forward. To be eaten. I crept up on them from behind all ready to kill them and eat them, well we had been hungry for like a year or something. I was baring my teeth and raising my claws to swoop and there was a shout. It was coming from outside the walls. ‘If you surrender we will be nice.’ Well something like that. ‘We have lots of scrummy things to eat.’ ‘Come on out it is all alright really.’
We went out and it wasn’t alright. They were horrid, more horrid than you can imagine. Screams and mess and chopping and stabbing and burning and searching. I don’t think there was anybody left.
That wasn’t enough for him.
He sent troops all over the place. Took all the food, broke all the farming things, burned all the farm houses; the land around here and as far up as Durham was a desert. Nothing grew, everyone starved. It all turned wild. Imagine if you will all the weeds and hedges and trees taking over and nobody anywhere. The Harrying of the north. A wilderness was all that was left and a wilderness is nothing.
William built two new castles here, filled them with troops, and then left and never bothered to come back here again. There was nothing to come back to.
Everyone listening to this – lower your head – turn – and slowly quietly walk away.
Hobb’s Tale of the Time of the Normans – by Adrian Spendlow
This story follows research of history and folklore and is told as Hobb would understand it.
I hope to recreate the live atmosphere of dramatic storytelling, but of course a whole lot of the acting out, the facial expressions, the sound effects are a little lost – for instance, the moment of the child who volunteered to be eaten will be forever lost on you unless you see this live. Thank you to the child I hardly met.
There were, at one point, two inns on Shambles opposite each other and both called The Globe.
Porter was a strong dark beer.
Tor Eric is a popular Norwegian name rather than the actual name of the warrior. Pronounced approximately as Tour Eeirik, Tor is of course the root of what a British person would describe as Thor.
A Wait was a musician, they marked the hour and sometimes called the news in the way a Town Crier would.
To this day there is a whole network of caves under Nottingham and you can go on a tour. Perhaps they were a good place to hide even in the days of William.
My art work is intended to illustrate the story in an impressionistic way.
A more complete story in an historical format will shortly be available as a download, for now we do have a history download relating to York…
Also try the Viking Comic Book and History links at the top.