The Folklore of Fossils by Hobb the Ploughboy – a read aloud version of my show at the Scarborough Fossil Festival at the Rotunda Museum 2017.
Oh hello everybody. I am Hobb. Hobb the ploughboy. I’ve been a boy for forty five years, boy and boy, ever since I was a boy.
Ploughboy. It is a very scary job.
And I will tell you what I’ve got. I’ve got a stick.
It is my prodding stick.
What I do is this (*Jiggle, prod*) then I go along a bit, like this (*shuffle*), then I do this a bit (*Jiggle, prod*).
You’ve got your field right and you’ve got your ploughboy. I work the fields up along the top of the cliff and it is my job to clear away the stones before the plough comes so they don’t break.
So, I am going to sit down and tell you all about stones
There are big stones and there are little stones.
That’s it. That’s all there is to tell.
Well alright there might be a bit more.
The big stones are easy. And the little stones are SCARY.
I get my stick and I go like that there that there… Oh I’ve done that bit.
I find a big stone. The big ones (*clunk*) are much easier, you just have to pick them up and carry them to the edge of the field, easy. Then they are all lined up along the edge of the field and then you can tell where the edge of the field is. You will have seen them. Ah, no, in youradays, not in myadays but in youradays you have things called a fence, don’t you! Well we had stones, big ones.
The little stones, they are the scary ones.
I get my stick, and I go like that there like that there… Oh I’ve done that.
And I find a small stone, I pick them up, carry them to the corner of the field where there is a mini-mountain of them, (that’s called a Cairn that is). They have scary things. You have to be careful. Sometimes they slip off the top and slide down and crack in half at the bottom – “Aaaaaaargh!”
Terrible things, terrible monsters, terrible lizards – well bits of them. Therapods, that’s monster’s footprints. Something very scary has been creeping about here.
So, anyway, I get my stick, I go like that there like th… Oh. I’ve done that bit.
And sometimes, I dig out a stone, a perfectly ordinary looking stone. I go over to the pile, turn it over and – Aaaaaargh! – there is a hole going into it.
I go like that there that there and… I’ve done that.
I find a stone.
Aaaaaargh. It is stuck on my finger. Help Help pull it off (a child does so after much resistance). It has holes going right through it! That’s magic that is! Ooooooo Witches and wizards do that magic stuff they do. Ah, of course, this is in myadays, not in youradays, in youradays they will say oh no there is no such thing as magic, there are no witches or wizards, that is science that did that. I don’t even know what science is but they go on to say that what actually created the holes in the stones was creatures eating it – THAT’S EVEN SCARIER!!!!
Well thank goodness the wizards turned all the scorpions to stone, that’s all I can say.
Now this scares me. Look at this. Seashells. Do you know what is scary about these? Look how far away we are from the sea. How on earth did they get all the way up here?! And what is really scary is – what was it that ate them???
And then there is these things, I ask what it is and the answer I often get is ‘Annomites’.
I know what these are. Imagine we are at the top of the cliffs in Whitby up by the Abbey. There are fishermen, there are priests and there are monks, and they are shouting, “Get out.” – “Go away.” – “You are not a saint.” – You cannot be a saint – because – you – are – a woman!”
At this point I got to play the saint herself Saint Hilda (to quite mixed reactions), “Yes, I am a woman.”
“And I am a saint”, she said. She went on to say, “I shall prove it to you, by the power of the four horsemen of the Lord and the Holy Ghosty Spirity Thingy (Well it went something like this I think), and by the power of the mother of the blessed babe – and all the cupids and cherubim’s as well – I shall make all Whitby safe; safe forever and for all time.
The grass was moving! There was a slithering, a shining, a weaving, a glistening, a wending, a bending, a lifting, a slithering – The whole of the field was moving. It was… It was… It was snakes! Millions of billions of zillions of lots of them. Snakes. Did I say? There were snakes.
Her arms were upheld and she prayed and every single snake slithered off, slithered off the cliff.
They went down and down and down and, (is that enough downs or should there be more? “More!”) down and down and down and (is that enough downs or should there be more? “More!”) down and down and down and (is that enough downs or should there be more? “More!”) (How about on long ‘down’ all together? “Doooooowwwwwwn”)
As they fell they coiled up, as they coiled up they turned to stone ‘Aaaaaaaaaargh!’
In youradays, not in myadays, in youradays you will say they are ammonites (or you might be one of those that says annomites), but I will tell you something you didn’t know, what they did in myadays and what they still do in Whitby in youradays. And this bit is true, it might be the only bit that is, this bit is the truth. A Whitby person, a fisherman or someone who lives there like, they are walking along the beach, like this…. And they spot an ammonite, what they do is they pick it up, get out their knife and they cut a mouth and two eyes in. Then it looks like a snake and they put it back on the stones for all to see. Then me, or you, are walking along, like this…. And we are like, ‘Look it is a stone snake, it must be true what they say about Saint Hilda after all!’ Well that’s what we are supposed to say anyway.
That still happens today.
The Vikings are scary. But they were frightened of snakes. Frightened of ammonites. They would see snakes on the beach and in the sea but they would also see them in the sky; in the night, in the north, in the winter. They would see the twisting green writhing around the night and they would say, “Look, it is Jormungand the serpent!”
He was huge. He would crawl around the land, biting people’s heads off! Crawl about the land biting people’s heads off! “Would anyone else like to volunteer to have their head bitten off? Many volunteer.
Even the gods themselves were frightened of him, well fed up of him anyway – biting people’s heads off!
So the big boss god of all the Viking gods, Odin he was called, except we don’t say it like that in my stories we say Ooooooooooooodiiiiiiin. What’s he called?
He was right fed up, so he went and he grabbed Jormungand and he held him up in the air and he went to the sea and he threw him in!
He grew so big that he went all the way around the world until he met his tail. Now they do say that he swims around the world with his tail in his mouth like this….
But I say that is daft. He would swim around with his head above his tail, like this….
Then he can look around and see what he is doing.
Let’s say there’s an elf on the beach. There’s an elf on the beach. There.
“Ooooo hello, I am a little elf it is nice to meet you,” he squeaks. Grumpth Gruffle Gulp. Gone.
See, a lot more sense.
(this next bit is actually an outtake from the show, so I have put it back in here as an easter egg – a special gift for you.)
Then sometimes I pick out a rock and there is a tooth in it, a huge great big tooth, a tooth from a black panther. “Aaaaaaargh!”
Technically, actually, they are a puma, but there are hundreds of reports of Black Panthers a year in Britain. Some say it goes back to when we hid in trees. You are up at the top and you are look out and along comes a black panther – “Aaaaaaaaaargh!”
Everyone hears and climbs the tree, (if they don’t then – “Aaaaaaaargh!”)
Nowadays in youradays when people see shadowy shapes the mind turns the shapes into a black panther so we can scream out a warning just to be on the safe side. So they say don’t worry if you think you have seen a black panther you have just seen shadows. That means to me that when you go out if there are any shadows whatsoever, which of course there will be, then you will definitely see a panther – “Aaaaaaaaaargh!”
But really it is a Belemnite they say, which means that it isn’t a tooth at all, it is just a seashell, that isn’t exciting at all is it, just a great big granddad winkle.
Others though say it is an elf bolt. That it fires from the elf’s bow and when it hits you – you fall in looooooove.
Then there is the devil’s toenail. If that is what it is. I didn’t know he had such big feet.
But I did know he has a big thumb. When he built Filey Brigg he dropped his hammer and picked up a haddock. Filey Brigg is a long sharp rock that sticks out into the sea. The devil built it, it should have been three times as long. Then it would have stuck out into the sea and speared ships. The devil was hammering away and he dropped his hammer. He reached into the sea quick to grab it and grabbed a haddock by mistake. If you go look at fish you will know which is a haddock because you can clearly see a thumb print on it (this bit is true). Look at that thumb mark and think to yourself, it is right about the devil dropping his hammer! “Aaaaaaaaargh!”
The Vikings loved a good fossil find, a sign from the gods if ever there was one. The Vikings long long ago, in theiradays not in myadays or in youradays carried them about. And sometimes as you know the Vikings would go to war. Sometimes, as you know, they would die. When they did, as you know, they were buried. Sometimes, as you didn’t know, they were buried in a ship. With their fossils and all their weapons and everything.
Well, they said that the ship would rise up, into the air. Yes it was a gggggggggghost ship; a ghost ship. There might be one underneath you right now, right where you are.
If you do find one in the ground ever, the Vikings in it wouldn’t look too good. They would look like that Gristhorpe man, and bits of the wood that were left would be petrified. And that is your ghost ship so now I am petrified.
The ship rises up into the sky and flies all the way up to the holy mountain up there look. No don’t look, unless you have washed your face.
The dead Vikings land on the holy mountain and come back alive in a ghosty kind of a way and walk down the mountain, like this….
They travel through the hunting fields and all the way to the Viking heaven – What’s it called? Yes that’s right – Valhalla.
To the big boss god of all the Viking gods, what’s he called? Ooooooooooodiiiiin. Yes that’s right.
And they fight all day. Yes that’s what Vikings think of as heaven; fighting. All day, “Hey you’ve chopped my arm off, never mind, carry on.” “Hang on you’ve chopped my head off I will just balance it back on.” They go on like that till teatime, and then they have fish and chips or something and they get better ready to start all over again tomorrow.
They go on like that till the end of the world. What’s that called? Ragnarok. Yes that’s right.
(Gritting of teeth is required during this next paragraph.) – The gods and the monsters rise up against each other and they fight and fight until everybody is dead, dead. (ungrit now.)
The seas rise up and wash everything away. Lightning strikes the great tree and it will fall, eeek creak eeek crash! Fall, bumphf dumphf boom boing dumphfffft.
Just one branch remains, sticking up out of the sea. The debris of the old world will gather around the branch and form a new land.
From the branch will climb down Lith and Lithrasia to start the world anew.
From the edge of the sea the power of the old gods will rise up like a globe of light and the world is alive.
Listen, listen for the healing songs of Odin.
What if there is one of those gggghost ships right underneath us right now? – “Aaaaaaaargh!”
But Ragnarok hasn’t happened yet. What hasn’t happened yet? Ragnarok.
You can still see the tree, look up, with your eyes in a certain kind of a way, look, a huge tree with a different land along every limb. That’s what the Viking say.
I went to a Viking camp. Not in theiradays, in youradays, yes not in myadays, in youradays. A Viking camp.
I bought this amber, this is amber, real amber, it cost a lot of money. This is very special amber, so the Viking market man with a Viking market stall told me. He said that these are the actual tears of Frejya. I paid fifty pound each for them.
Freyja is the goddess of loooooove. What is she the goddess of? Loooooooove. That’s right.
There she was at the top of the tree and she was, in a live performance you would get to see what a good actor I am, because she is beautiful!!!!
I possibly do better at acting the next role, because she met a handsome man….
She fell madly in love with him, she said, “I have falling madly in love with you and I want to be with you forever.” He cleared off and never came back.
They do say that if you listen carefully you can still hear her crying now. Because, yes, she started to *cry* and the tears rolled out of her eyes, dripped down her face and fell all the way down through the sky into the sea, turned into amber and get washed up on the shore. Then that Viking market stall Viking man gathers them up and sells them to fools like me, I mean people like me!
Who believes me? Are you do believe me that these are the actual tears of Frejya. I might get some of my money back. Who would like to buy a piece? It is £55 each. £60. £65……………..
A huge thank you to Libby and Wendy and the team from Create, and to Julie of the Fossil Festival for putting the fantastic Scarborough Fossil Festival together at and around the Rotunda. And of course to Tim the Geologist who supplied just the right fossils and really got the idea of what I was doing. Thanks all for doing the lifting and shifting too.
I will see you all there next year.
Oh yes and to the highly imaginative participants, I reckon around a thousand people saw my show and contributed with comments, input, reactions and feedback.