The Legend of the Giant’s Lapstone

A giant lived in a cave near the top of Stony Ridge. He was a kindly bloke, a cordwainer by trade. The giant had a daughter who is described by Blakeborough as rarely with her father, and whilst absent on mysterious and ethereal missions left control of the household to an old housekeeper. The daughter longed to transform the cave into a luxurious home but could only use her magical powers for the good of others.

Stony Ridge

A wicked baron moved into the district and went about corrupting the local young men leading them into licentious, drunken and debauched behaviours. The women of the district were terrified of the baron and his entourage, many of the women fled in fear.

The giant began to hear tales of the shame that the baron was bringing to the women of the district and a number of men and women approached the giant to ask for his protection. On hearing of what was happening the giant was so shocked that his lapstone dropped from his knee with a crash that shook the local hills. He took the stone and hung it over the entrance to his cave. Then taking a metal bar he struck it three times calling on the gods to rise in vengeance.

Soon a beautiful chariot, fashioned in the shape of a giant boot and drawn by thirteen swans, descended from the sky driven by the giant’s daughter.  The daughter demanded to know why she had been summoned. Her father showed her the men and women who had come asking for his protection.

Woodcut,_showing_Venus_in_chariot._Wellcome_L0006603

The daughter turned to the men and told them that they had fallen because they were inclined to evil therefore their sin was their own. She then turned to the women and said that their case, in some, was different. Some were forced to wickedness but others, like the men, had brought themselves to shame and that they would be tested. The daughter then took her father’s knife and magically fashioned a hole in the lapstone, she then called upon each of the women to step forward and be tested by attempting the place their leg into the hole, then, depending on the verdict of the stone, divided the women into two groups.

Once the testing was complete the daughter addressed the first, largest group telling  them that they had nothing to feel ashamed about and any children born to them would crown their heads with blessing and not with remorse or shame,  she also informed them that any wrong done to them would be avenged on that very day. She then turned to the second, smaller, group of women and told them that the stone had convicted them and although their tempter will be removed, their shame will follow them for the rest of their days. The daughter then took the lapstone into her flying chariot and was seen, in the distance, to drop it onto the side of the bank of the Basedale Beck.

As the group retuned home from the giant’s cave they met a maiden who told them that she had been chased by the baron and his hounds. She told them how she had fled to the Basedale Beck hoping that she could escape from the pack by crossing running water. As she reached the edge of the beck the baron was just about to seize her when she lost her footing and slipped down the bank. At that moment she heard a loud thunderbolt fall to earth at which point she fainted. When she came around the hounds were lying dead around a large stone that had fallen to earth and there was no sign of the baron. Blakeborough ends the tale saying that the stone had at once become a Nemesis and a tombstone, and had rid the district of an evil thing.

Baysdale

Source – The Hand of Glory. J. Fairfax Blakeborough. 1924

Image of Venus on her chariot being drawn by swans by Albumasar Abalachi [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Giant’s Lapstone

Hob Hole

The Giant’s Lapstone was a large boulder on the southern slope of the Basedale Beck valley at Hob Hole. The boulder  was described by Blakeborough as Hanging, as though balanced and held by some unforeseen agency.  he goes on to state that The massive rock was believed to possess the power of detecting those maidens who had in any way deviated from the paths of virtue..It was recognised as a testing-place of virginity and purity.

In the centre of the boulder was a hole about two feet deep shaped like a foot print. The tradition held that a maiden whose purity was tarnished would be able to place her leg in the depression without difficulty, whereas the leg of a virtuous women would cause the cavity to close towards the apex thus preventing her foot from being fully inserted.

The stone was also a place of pilgrimage  for newly married women seeking a blessing on any children that they may have. For a pilgrim to receive a blessing from the stone she had to the perform the following ritual.

The visit must be made on a Monday, the mother to be had to bring a cobblers hammer and a shoe for her left foot. She had to then sit on the stone and recite a long doggeral rhyme. Blakeborough gives us an imperfectly remember version of the rhyme.

Cobbler, cobbler, look on me,

I come to crave thy blessing,

…….

I beat thy leather for thee.

…….

Nine nails to bind the heel I take.

…….

A wild boar’s bristle, long and strong, 

To thy wax-end I fix it.

To nine long strands well rolled,

I wax them well with drawn wax,

I wax, I wax it well for thee.

……..

I wet the welt, I beat the welt,

As on they last I lay the welt.

…….

Tough and firm from the middle hide,

Well-beaten on they lapstone,

I lay my sole upon thy last.

Strong as nine wax-ends thrice doubled,

So none but thy giant hands could pull asunder.

 

Now lifting up the shoe the supplicant had brought along with her, she continued:

 

The shoe is now made,

As well shaped as it I now put on, I pray

May all my children be;

Strong in every part.

I claim but one shoe from thee today.

May I never have a two-birth.

I cast my old shoes from me,

Poor and shapeless.

No part upon the lapstone ever lay-

Into the water I cast it-

To it may all my ill-luck cling,

And that of all that shall be mine. 

So cobbler look upon me

With favour and great graciousness,

I pray thee look upon me,

And all mine yet unborn;

Ere I bid thee good-day. 

Sadly, nothing remains of the Lapstone. Some time around 1830 the boulder slipped into the valley bottom causing an obstruction in the beck and the stone was broken up by blasting. The portion of the stone with the footprint shaped depression was taken to Castleton where it was used as a mounting-stone outside of one of the inns. This stone is thought to have been broken-up to repair the road. The legend of the Giant involves a wicked Baron and a boot-shaped chariot drawn by thirteen swans. I will write that tale in another post.

Source – The Hand of Glory. J Fairfax-Blakeborough. 1924