J C Atkinson – The Last of the Giant Killers

JC Atkinson

In almost every instance what may be called the starting-point of the several stories depends upon, or is connected with, local legend, local fact (of whatever kind), or ‘local habitation.’ The Giant-casts, Giant building-works ; the King Arthur legend; the legends of the Loathly Worm ; of the nightly destruction of the day-done work of Church-building, and the ultimate flitting of the materials to another site ; of the Barguest or Church-grim; of the insatiable Hunter with his horses and hounds buried with him, and his doom to hunt for ever, or until the Day of Judgment; of the other presentation of the same idea involved in the Gabble-ratchet notion; of the underground passages from historic buildings; of the guarded treasure reachable by some of them; and the like, are — at least have been — not only as actually localised in this district as in any other in England or the northern Continent of Europe, but have been, nay, are still, more readily accepted and accredited than the great slides and falls of rock and earth from the moor-banks, or the former prevalence and sway of the Wolf in our forest fastnesses. For even the fact that, as late as 1395 the ‘tewing’ or dressing and tanning of fourteen wolfskins, in a lot, is charged for in the accounts of Whitby Abbey, while it is enough to suggest that, in remoter places such as the forest-begrown wilds of Danby and Westerdale, those pleasant neighbours must have had a ‘ royal time of it,’ is still not enough to keep alive in the popular mind the circumstance that the Woodales in those parishes were ‘dales’ named after the ‘wolf ‘ and not after the ‘wood,’ or that the many Wolf-pits, Wolf-hows, and so on, we still hear of about, are but the scanty remains of hosts of like-named places or objects.

Taken from the preface of one of my favourite books, The Last of the Giant Killers or The Exploits of Sir Jack of Danby Dale written by the Rev. J. C. Atkinson and published in 1891

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