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Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

In The Footsteps of Giants

One of the benefits of the short winter days is the quality of the light (well, when the sun shines) and we have just enjoyed a brilliant sunlit stroll through some ancient rights of way - and I mean ancient. Even the public footpath signs seem to be relics from a bygone age.
Our walk took in the River Granta, the Gog Magog hills, and a stretch of the old roman road that ran from Cambridge to Colchester – and still exists for most of the way. In this well preserved few miles, it is easy to picture the legions, merchants and travellers of the past disappearing into the sunlit mist ahead... but the ghosts aren’t just roman ones...

The Gog Magogs are steeped in history and folklore, with
an iron age fort, roman road and of course the legend of Gog and Magog - a strange tale from Britain’s earliest beginnings.

Spooky shadows on the old roman road

The story starts with the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, who had thirty-three (!) wicked and disobedient daughters. To bring them to heel and curb their excesses, he married them off to thirty three husbands - but the daughters were not at all happy with their arranged marriages, and the eldest, Alba, hatched a plot to cut the throats of their husbands as they slept. The unfortunate chaps didn’t have a chance, and all were murdered in their sleep.

For this crime Alba and her sisters were set adrift in a boat, with enough food for six months, and after a long and dreadful journey they arrived at these islands which came to be named Albion, after the eldest daughter. Here they stayed, and “by coupling with demons they populated the wild, windswept islands with a race of giants”, the greatest of these being Gog and Magog, who dwelt in these hills.

Later on (not sure how much later) an escapee from the sacking of Troy, one Brutus, arrived. With him he brought his champion, Corineus, who faced the now united being of GogMagog in single combat and eventually hurled him from a high rock to his death. The fruits of Albion were now his, and the name 'Britain' derives from Brutus, as Albion came from Alba.

'Fruits of Albion' on the Gog Magog Hills

Legend, and the splendidly unreliable Geoffrey of Monmouth, tells us that Brutus then founded the city of New Troy, which eventually came to be known as London. This is why Gog and Magog stand as guardians of the Guildhall in the City, and are part of the Mayor’s parade. Trust those city boys to claim our giants for their own!

According to some accounts, which caught my fancy today, the site of old Troy was right where we stood. Yes, we were walking through the very centre of the Trojan war. Troy was right here, in Cambridgeshire!

You don’t believe me? Check this link out!

OK, OK, but it makes a great story. And given the right conditions (low winter sun, a touch of mist, a spooky rustling in the trees) you really can believe that you are walking in the footsteps of giants... Romans... or even Trojans!

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3 Comments:

Blogger mike knipe said...

Interesting....
I've recently been reading the Mabinogion - traditional Welsh-centred tales of witches and magic, dog leads made from beards, people turning into various animals and birds and stuff - oh, and putting people in bags all the better to beat them up.(I kid you not...)
But disjointed like a cheese-and-onion-fuelled dream.
Cambridgeshire hills? They certainly knew how to tell a tale...

December 7, 2008 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Miss W. said...

The Mabinogion sounds a lot more interesting than Lord E's trojan ramblings.

Do you remember 'The Owl Service' by Alan Garner? This book was based on a tale from the Mabinogion and when I was twelve or thirteen I was captivated by it. I think it was made into a tv series in the late sixties.

December 7, 2008 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger mike knipe said...

I've not read "The owl Service" but now you've mentioned it, I can use my library card...

I've just read the tale of Branwen the Daughter of Llyr, which is about as surreal as you can get. (decapitations and seven year parties and three little birds that sing a "certain" song and who seem distant yet are clear... Oooer...)
Must have been the mead and the mushrooms and the mould on the meat...

December 7, 2008 at 10:40 PM  

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