Wild Edric’s Wife
In ‘The Science of Fairy Tales’ (1891), Edwin Sidney Hartland recounts the following tale told by the medieval writer Walter Map (Born 1140- Died c. 1208–1210). ‘Wild Edric*, of whose historic reality as one of the English rebels against William the Conqueror there is ample proof. It appears that Edric, returning from hunting, lost his way in the Forest of Dean, and accompanied only by one boy, reached about midnight a large house which turned out to be a drinking-shop, such as the English, Map says, call a gulidhouse. On approaching it he saw a light, and looking in, he beheld a number of women dancing. They were beautiful in countenance, bigger and taller than ordinary women. He noticed one among them fairer than the rest, and (Walter, perhaps, had Fair Rosamund** in his mind when he says) more to be desired than all the darlings of kings. Edric rushed round the house and, finding an entrance, dashed in and with the help of his boy dragged her out, despite a furious resistance in which the nails and teeth of her companions made themselves felt. She brooded in sullen silence før three whole days; but on the fourth day she exclaimed to her new master: “Bless you, my dearest, and you will be blessed too, and enjoy health and prosperity until you reproach me on account of my sisters, or the place, or the grove whence you have snatched me away, or anything connected with it. For the very day you do so your happiness will forsake you. I shall be taken away; and you will suffer repeated misfortune, and long for your own death.” He pledged himself to fidelity; and to their splendid nuptials nobles came from far and near. King William heard of the wonder, and bade the newly wedded pair to London, where he was then holding his court, that he might test the truth of the tale. They proved it to him by many witnesses from their own country; but the chief testimony was that of the lady’s superhuman beauty; and he dismissed them in admiration to their home. After many years of happiness Edric returned one evening late from hunting, and could not find his wife. He spent some time in vainly calling for her before she came. “Of course,” he began, angrily, “you have not been detained so long by your sisters, have you?” The rest of his wrath fell upon the empty air; for at the mention of her sisters she vanished. And neither her husband’s self-reproaches, nor his tears, nor any search could ever find her again.
* Eadric the Wild also known as Eadric Silvaticusand and Eadric Cild led resistance against the Norman invasion. Allied with the Welsh prince of Gwynedd and Powys Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, he attacked Hereford Castle and burned down Shrewsbury. Defeated King William I at the Battle of Stafford in 1069. Eadric submitted to King William in 1070 and joined his 1072 invasion of Scotland.
** Rosamund Clifford (Born c. 1150 – c. 1176) mistress of King Henry II of England (Born 5 March 1133 – Died 6 July 1189)