Another local book: The Old Man of Mow.

Another local book found, Alan Garner’s The Old Man of Mow. It’s a story woven around a set of photos of two boys having random adventures and exploring in and around Mow Cop.

The cover picture shows them at the foot of the giant column of rock known as The Old Man of Mow, on the summit of Mow Cop.

The photos were obviously not staged with the story in mind, as the story seems rather loose and shoe-horned in afterwards. Such things can work, and the British photo-comics of the 1970s made them work in b&w for an audience in middle-childhood. But in this instance one imagines that not many children were impressed on reading the book. Most of the photos are in mid-1960s black-and-white, in that dour Bill Brandt sort of style that was then fashionable among agitprop photographers of the inner-city. It doesn’t suit the rural setting or the tale.

Still, the storyteller was Alan Garner and some of the colour pictures are fine , so it’s of some interest. In 2020 one might even ask permission to revisit the book with an ink pen and watercolours, to make a new and lighter version by drawing over the photos.

Garner’s Red Shift would revisit the site a few years later…

“The Man in the Moon”, Ludlow, circa 1314-1349

In my readings on Tolkien I’ve been pleased to discover another supernatural lyric narrative poem from the Midlands, which in time and spirit seems to sit alongside Gawain and the Green Knight on which I recently wrote a book. The “Man in the Moon” lyric is from the Harley MS. 2253, also known as “The Harley Lyrics”. The best authorities say this performative verse is from Ludlow, now in Shropshire, and must have been written by a scribe who was active c. 1314 to c. 1349. Which puts it about a generation before Gawain, and in a similarly liminal border-place in the Western Midlands. It thus has the same difficulty of language and translation that Gawain has, but is just as lively. It has the Man in The Moon coming down to earth, and behaving in a strange ‘alien’ manner, so in a way it’s sort of ‘proto science-fiction’. I’ve done a free translation of it that some may enjoy.

Download: Man_in_the_Moon_1314-49.pdf

Complete Mythlore

Last time I looked, in December 2017, not all of Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature was online. But it appears that the entire run is now in PDF and online for free.

Note that the internal OCR of some words can throw off some searches. For instance, an internal site search for Earendel will not pick up the discussion of the early Earendel poems in the article “Niggle’s Leaves: The Red Book of Westmarch and Related Minor Poetry of J.R.R. Tolkien”. Yet a Google search of site:https://dc.swosu.edu/cgi/ will find it, as the Googlebot runs its own OCR on PDFs and the word occurs in the early pages of the article (the Googlebot sometimes doesn’t OCR all the pages).

“Hark the robbers!”

A Wolstanton children’s game-song, collected circa the early 1890s by Miss Alice Annie Keary, folklore-collector of Stoke-on-Trent, and published in The Traditional Games of England.

Incidentally, she grew up at “The Hollies”, Trent Vale and she later gives her location as the very nearby Oakhill (aka Oak Hill, on the edge of Trent Vale). This is not to be confused with the Oakhill just beyond the south-east edge of Stoke, which online map services will misleadingly take you to if you search for “Oakhill”.

A parish newsletter, placed online, mentions than an old lady remembered that “The Hollies” was demolished but was located quite near to where the Tesco store is today…

“Revd Pat Dunn has been a resident in Trent Vale since 1948 and shared her memories of growing up in a village … As we watch building on a plot of land near to Tesco, Pat told me that the large house recently demolished, was called ‘The Hollies’.”