St German's Priory, Cornwall

St German’s Priory, Cornwall

The Grimm episode last week was titled “The Wild Hunt,” and I mentioned to David and Amber that it’s been a while since I read a Wild Hunt story. Today’s story isn’t really about “The Wild Hunt,” but it’s got a similar feel. “Dando and His Dogs” was told by Robert Hunt in  Popular Romances of the West of England; or, The Drolls, Traditions, and Superstitions of Old Cornwall, 1865. I read it here.

Dando is a priest, a regular “jolly friar,” who definitely enjoyed the good life, the best food and drink available. The people liked him though, since he was good-natured and freely forgave all of his parishioners, just as he freely forgave himself his own vices. As a man gets older,  “he becomes more deeply dyed with the polluted waters through which he may have waded,” and Dando certainly did, becoming more selfish and putting his own gratification above all else.

The priest was an excellent huntsman, chasing game far and wide, but without regard to others property, trampling over others’ corn-field and gardens. The neighbors were upset, but didn’t complain too loudly, afraid of his priestly power.

“Any man may sell his soul to the devil without going through the stereotyped process of signing a deed with his blood. Give up your soul to Satan’s darling sins, and he will help you for a season, until he has his chains carefully wound around you, when the links are suddenly closed, and he seizes his victim, who has no power to resist.”

Dando’s worship became more and more hypocritical. The devil had him in his grasp and carefully looked after his prize. Dando had health and wealth and he became more and more self-indulgent and more reckless. Food, drink filled his days and women and men filled his nights. He would hunt any day, even the Sabbath, if is seemed auspicious. One Sabbath morning, Dando and his riotous group were hunting. Exhausted after a long run, Dando called for drink. One of his group asked where to get it and he joked, “Go to hell for it, if you can’t get it on earth.” (Not a smart thing to say.)

At the moment, a hitherto unnoticed hunter presented a flask to Dando, telling him it was a good liquor “distilled in the establishment you speak of” that would warm and revive him. Gee, I wonder who the stranger could possibly have been? Dando, stupid man, drank it. It was delicious and Dando asked if it was the drink of the gods. The stranger replied that no, devils drink it. Dando said that he wished he were one then.

Then he noticed that his new friends had taken several of the animals they had killed. Dando seized them exclaiming they weren’t the stranger’s, they were his. The hunter replied that he keeps what he catches.  Dando  became terrible angry, roaring with rage, while the hunter just laughed and declared the game his. “I’ll go to hell after them, but I’ll get them from thee,” shouted Dando.

“So thou shalt,” said the hunter; and seizing Dando by the collar, he lifted him up and placed him in front of him on the hunter’s horse, a beautiful black creature. The horse took off down the hill and the dogs, barking furiously, followed. They came to the banks of a river and the horse with its riders and the hounds jumped deep into the water, disappearing in a blaze of fire. many of the villagers witnessed it.

Dando was never seen again, but on Sunday mornings, you can still hear the priest’s dogs howling.

The moral’s pretty clear, eh? It’s kind of an old-fashioned “the devil’s out there waiting to get his claws into you” story. On the other hand, it does have a good point, small sins, unkindnesses, lies, whatever, tend to lead to bigger ones.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.