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This 'pleasant game' is borrowed from the pseudo-hagiography of the middle ages. It is found not only in one of the spurious Gospels, but also in the legend of St. Columbanus, who, as we are told, performed a similar miracle by hanging his garment on a suubeam.
MR. THOMAS HICKATHRIFT, afterwards SIR THOMAS HICKATHRIFT, Knight, is praised by Mr. Thomas Hearne as a famous champion.' The honest antiquary has identified this well-known knight with the far less celebrated Sir Frederick de Tylney, Baron of Tylney in Norfolk, the ancestor of the Tylney family, who was killed at Acon, in Syria, in the reign of Richard Cœur de Lion; Hycophric, or Hycothrift,' as the mister-wight observes, being probably a corruption of Frederick.' This happy exertion of etymological acumen is not wholly due to Hearne, who only adopted a hint given by Mr. Philip Le Neve whilome of the College of Arms. Their conjectures, however, accord but slightly with the traditions given by the accurate Spelman, in his Icenia. From the most remote antiquity, the fables and achievements of Hickifric have been obstinately credited by the inhabitants of the township of Tylney. Hickifric' is venerated by them as the assertor of the rights and liberties of their ancestors. The monstrous giant,' who guarded the Marsh, was, in truth, no other than the tyrannical lord of the manor, who attempted to keep his copyholders out of the common field, called Tilney Smeeth; but who was driven away, with his retainers, by the prowess of Tom, armed with only his axle-tree and cart-wheel. Spelman has told the story in good Latin, and we subjoin it to the text.*
We have not room to detail the pranks which Tom performed when his natural strength, which exceeded twenty common men,' became manifest; but they must be noticed as being correctly Scandinavian. Similar were the achievements of the great northern champion Gretter, when he kept geese upon the common, as told in his Saga. We are not very deeply read in northern lore, but we
In Marslandia sitæ sunt Walsoka, Waltona, et Walpola-In viciniis jacent Terrington et St. Maries-Adjacet TYLNEY veteris utique TYLNEIORUM familiæ radix. Hic se expandit insignis area quæ a planicie nuncupatur Tylney Smeeth, pinguis adeo et luxurians ut Paduana pascua videatur superasse. Tuentur eam indigenæ velut aras et focos, fabellamque recitant longa petitam vetustate de HICKIFRICO (nescio quo) Haii illius instar in Scotorum Chronicis qui civium suorum dedignatus fuga, aratrum quod agebat solvit; arreptoque temone furibundus insiliit in hostes victoriamque ademit exultantibus. Sic cum de agri istius possessione acriter olim dimicatum esset, inter fundi dominum et villarum incolas, nec valerent hi adversus eum consistere, redeuntibus occurrit HICKIFRICKUS, axemque excutiens à curru quem agebat, eo vice gladii usus; rota, clypei; invasores repulit ad ipsos quibus nunc funguntur terminos. Ostendunt in cæmeterio Tilniensi, sepulchrum sui pugilis, axem cum rota insculptum exhibens.'Spelman's Posthumous Works, p. 138.
hope that Messrs. Grimm will agree with us that Tom's youth retraces the tales of the prowess of the youthful Siegfried, detailed in the Niflunga Saga, and in the Book of Heroes. It appears from Hearne, that the supposed axle-tree with the superincumbent wheel was represented on Hycothrift's' grave stone, in Tylney churchyard, in the shape of a cross. * This is the form in which all the Runic monuments represent the celebrated hammer or thunderbolt of the son of Odin, which shattered the sculls and scattered the brains of so many luckless giants. How far this surmise may be supported by Tom's skill and strength in throwing the hammer (Part. I. Chap. 48.) we will not pretend to decide. If, on the other hand, any of our antiquarian readers should think it right to withhold their assent to the proposition that Thor can be identified with Tom Hickathrift, they may have the full benefit of our doubts. The common people have a happy faculty of seeing whatever they chuse to believe, and of refusing to see the things in which they disbelieve. It may therefore be supposed, that the rude sculpture which the Tylneyites used to call the offensive and defensive arms of their champion, was truly nothing more than a cross, of which the upper part is inscribed in a circle, a figure often found on ancient sepulchres.
From Tom Hickathrift and Thor we must proceed to their immortal compeer JACK THE GIANT KILLER. In Jack's memoirs, a Wormius, a Rudbeck, a Bartholinus, a Schimmlemann, a Stephanius, or a Peringskiold might discover indubitable resemblances to the fictions of the Edda. Jack, as we are told, having got a little money, travelled into Flintshire, and came to a large house in a lonesome place; and, by reason of his present necessity, he took courage to knock at the gate, when, to his amazement, there came forth a monstrous Giant with two heads, yet he did not seem so fiery as the former Giants, for he was a Welch Giant.'+ This Welch Giant was rendered less fiery' than he would naturally have been, in consequence of breakfasting,' as the story says, on a great bowl of hasty pudding,' instead of keeping to the warm invigorating
A Norfolk antiquary has had the goodness to procure for us an authentic report of the present state of Tom's sepulchre. It is a stone soros, of the usual shape and dimensions; the sculptured lid or cover no longer exists. It must have been entire about fifty years ago, for when we were good, Gaffer Crane would rehearse Tom's achievements, and tell us that he had cut out the moss which filled up the inscription with his penknife, but he could not read the letters.
† See History of Jack and the Giants.' Part I. Chap. v. p. 14.-The edition which we use has no date, but was Printed and sold by J. Pitts, No. 14, Great St. Andrew's Street, Seven Dials.' It is far less correct than the older edition printed at York by J. Kendrew, near the Collier-gate. Yet, on the whole, as Dr. HARWOOD justly observes on a similar occasion, (View of the various Editions of the Classics with remarks by EDWARD HARWOOD, D.D. London. 1775. p. 214.) it has fewer inaccuracies than a scholar might justly expect from a London edition.'
national diet, toasted cheese. To this low feeding we also attribute the want of sagacity which enabled Jack to outwit him,' notwithstanding his two heads. The history states that Jack undressed himself, and as the Giant was walking towards another apartment, Jack heard him say to himself,
'Though here you lodge with me this night,
My club shall dash your brains out,-quite.'
Say you so, says Jack, is that one of your Welch tricks? I hope to be as cunning as you. Then getting out of bed he found a thick billet, and laid it in the bed in his stead, and hid himself in a dark corner of the room. In the dead time of the night came the Giant with his club, and struck several blows on the bed where Jack had artfully laid the billet, and then returned to his own room, supposing,' as the romance writer observes with emphatical simplicity, that he had broken all Jack's bones.' In the morning early Jack came to thank him for his lodging. Oh! said the Giant, how have you rested, did you see any thing last night? No, said Jack, but a rat gave me three or four slaps with his tail.'
To this adventure, though the locus in quo is placed in Flintshire by the English writer, we find a parallel in the device practised by the Giant Skrimner when he and Thor journeyed to Skrimner's Castle of Utgaard, and related at large in the twelfth chapter of the Edda of Snorro. At midnight the mighty son of earth laid himself to sleep beneath an oak, and snored aloud. Thor, the giantkiller, resolved to rid himself of his unsuspicious companion, and struck him with his tremendous hammer. Hath a leaf fallen upon me from the tree?' exclaimed the awakened Giant. The Giant soon slept again, and snored,' as the Edda says, as loudly as if it had thundered in the forest.' Thor struck the Giant again, and, as he thought, the hammer made a mortal indentation in his forehead. What is the matter? quoth Skrimner, hath an acorn fallen on my head? A third time the potent Giant snored, and a third time did the hammer descend, with huge two-handed sway,' and with such force that Thor weened the iron had buried itself in Skrimner's temples. Methinks,' quoth Skrimner, rubbing his cheek, some moss hath fallen on my face. Thor might be well amazed at the escape of the Giant;-but Skrimner, acting exactly like Jack, had out-witted his enemy, by placing an immense rock on the leafy couch where Thor supposed he was sleeping, and which received the blows of the hammer in his stead.
The fictions of the north, and indeed of the east, are no less distinguishable in the robbery which Jack, who, after all, was an unprincipled young dog, committed on a simple cousin of his,* a huge and
* History of Jack, &c. Part I. chap. vi. pp. 18-21.
monstrous Giant having three heads, and who would beat five huna dred men in armour. Jack terrified his three-headed cousin out of all his wits, by telling him that the king's son was coming. This is heavy news indeed, quoth the giant, but I have a large vault under ground, where I will run and hide myself. In the morning, when Jack let his cousin out of the hole, he asked what he should give
him for his care, seeing that his castle was not demolished. “Why, an
, swered Jack, I desire nothing but your old rusty sword, the coat in the closet, and the cap and the shoes which you keep at the bed's head. Thou shalt have them with all my heart, said the Giant, as a just reward for thy kindness in protecting me from the king's son, and be sure that thou carefully keepst them for my sake; for they are things of excellent use: the coat will keep you invisible, the cap will furnish you with knowledge, the sword cuts asunder whatever you strike, and the shoes are of extraordinary swiftness.' Every one of these wonderful articles has been stolen out of the great Northern treasury, though we cannot pretend to explain in what manner Jack's cousin, the Giant with three heads, became possessed of them. The coat is, in fact, the magic garment known in ancient German by the equivalent denomination of the Nebel Kappe,' or Cloud Cloak, fabled to belong to King Alberich, and the other dwarfs of the Teutonic cycle of Romance, who, clad thereiu, could walk invisible. To them also belongs the Tarn-hut, or hat of darkness, * possessing the same virtue. Velent the cunning smith of the Edda of Sæmund wrought Jack's sword of sharpness,' which in the Wilkina Saga bears the name of Balmung. So keen was its edge that when Velent cleft his rival Æmilius through the middle with the wondrous weapon, it merely seemed to Æmilius as though cold water had glided down him. Shake thyself, said Velent. Æmilius shook himself, and fell dead into two halves, one on each side of his chair. That the stories of Velent's skill were well known in this country is evinced by the Auchinleck text of the Geste of King Horn, where he is called Weland.
Jack's shoes of swiftness were once worn by Loke when he
Wolf Dietrich saves his life by the loan of this hat of darkness.
Mournfully he sighed, for Dame Grel his sword had ta'en,
Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, p. 91.
escaped from Valhalla. In the Calmuck romance of Ssidi Kur, the Chan steals a similar pair of seven league boots from the Tchadkurrs, or evil spirits, by means of the cap which made him invisible, which he won from certain quarrelling children, or dwarfs whom he encounters in the middle of a forest.'* Are these mere incidental coincidences between the superstitions and fictions of the followers of Buddha and of those of Odin ?
In the history of Jack and the Bean-stalk,' the consistency of the characters is still finely preserved. The awful distich put into the mouth of the Jette or Ettin, the principal agent in this ro
'Snouk but, snouk ben,
I find the smell of earthly men,'
is scarcely inferior to the 'fee faw fum' of the keen-scented anthropophaginian of the other. The bean-stalk, 'the top whereof when Jack looked upwards he could not discern as it appeared lost in the clouds,' has grown in fanciful imitation of the ash Ygdrasil reaching, according to the Edda, from hell to heaven. As to the beautiful harp which played of its own accord,' and which Jack stole from the giant, we must find a parallel for it in the wonderful harp made of the breast bone of the king's daughter, and which sang so sweetly to the miller, Binnorie Oh Binnorie,' and in old Dunstan's harp which sounded without hands when hanging in the vale. Before we dismiss the Giganticide, we must remark that most of his giants rest upon good romance authority: or, to speak
* 'Now the son of the Chan and his trusty servant travelled along a river and arrived in a wood, where they met many children who were quarrelling with each other. 66 Why do you thus dispute?" said they.
'We have found a cap in this wood, and each of us wishes to keep it. What is the use of the cap?
The cap hath this virtue, he who wears it is seen neither by the gods, nor men, nor the Tchadkurrs.
Now go all of ye to the end of the forest, and run hither. And I will keep the cap and I will give it to him who first reaches this spot and wins the race.
So spake the son of the Chan, and the children ran, but when they came back they could not find the cap, for he had placed it on the head of his companion, and they sought for it in vain."
And the son of the Chan and his companion travelled onwards, and they came to
a forest wherein they met many Tchadkurrs who were quarrelling with each other.
Why do you thus dispute?" said they.
It is I, exclaimed each Tchadkurr, to whom these boots belong.
< What is the use of the boots?
"He who wears these boots," answered the Tchadkurrs, "is conveyed to any country wherein he wishes himself."
"Now," answerred the son of the Chan, " go all of you that way, and he who first runs hither shall obtain the boots."
'And the Tchadkurrs ran their race accordingly. But the Chan's son had concealed the boots in the bosom of his companion, who at the same time had the cap upon his head. And the Tchadkurrs sought for the boots, but they found them not, and they went away.'-Second Relation of Ssidi Kur.