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Canobie Dick

This story relates to a legend common throughout Britain, namely that of a secret cavern containing sleeping warriors. Often a test is conferred to the person who is shown into the cavern. Usually the tests are failed.

Once upon a time in the Borders region there lived a horse cowper (trader) named Canobie Dick, he was widely admired and feared for his fierce courage.

One night, with the moon high in the sky, he was riding over Bowden Moor on the West side of the Eildon Hills, the scene of the prophesies of Thomas the Rhymer. He had with him a brace of horses, which he had not sold at the local market. On his way along the moonlit road he came across a stranger, who was dressed in a style that had not been worn for centuries. The stranger asked the price of the horses and the stranger promptly paid him in golden coinage from the same period as his dress. However gold was gold, and when the stranger asked if he could meet him at the same place at the same time, Canobie Dick agreed.

On their third meeting, Canobie Dick had become a little more than curious to learn more about his clandestine buyer, and he managed to get the stranger to agree to take him to his abode. The stranger suggested that he had no problem in him seeing his dwelling, but warned him that if he were to lose courage at what he was to see, then he would rue it all his life.

The stranger led the way along a narrow footpath, which led up the hills between the Southern and central peaks to a place called Lucken Hare, which is also famous for the meeting of witches. They entered into the hillside by an opening that Dick had never seen before, although he was familiar with the area, and found themselves in a cavern passage. The stranger turned to Dick and said that he may still return if he so wished, Dick just shrugged his shoulders and urged him to press on.

They walked onward and came to rows and rows of stables, in every stall there was a coal black horse, and by every horse lay a knight in jet black armour, with a drawn sword in each hand. The hall was filled with a soft light from evenly spaced burning torches set into the walls. Each knight was as silent as stone, and there was a strange stillness in the air.

At last they came to the back of the cavern hall, and to a large oak table, on which a sheathed sword and a horn lay.

At this the stranger, who now seemed to be Thomas of Ercildoun (True Thomas ) turned to Dick and said that "the man who shall sound the horn and draw the sword shall, if his heart does not fail him, be the king over all Britain. But all depends on courage and of taking the horn or the sword first."

At first Dick wanted to take the sword but he was seized with a supernatural terror, thinking that to draw the sword would offend the powers of the mountain. He took up the horn and put it to his lips, and quaking, he let out a feeble blast that seemed to echo like thunder around the hall. At once a tumult erupted in the hall, as with a cry and a clash of armour every one of the knights arose from their slumber. The fearsome army rose before him, and terribly frightened Dick tried to free the sword from its scabbard, whereupon a voice boomed.

"Woe to the Coward, that ever he was born,

Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn"

At this he was blasted from the cavern, borne upon a supernatural wind, and deposited down the banking outside the entrance.

Canobie Dick was found the next morning by local shepherds, he had just breath left within him to blurt out his tale before he died.

(A similar tale is told of Alderly Edge, where Merlin takes the place of Thomas of Ercildoun and the sleeping warriors are Arthur and his men).

Daniel Parkinson



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