The Devil is a popular character. He, she, it, appears in literature all the time; Dante’s Inferno, Good Omens, Waywalkers, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea to name a few. However, when and where humanity first developed the idea of ‘The Devil’ is difficult to pinpoint, and whether or not ‘The Devil’ actually exists is an argument that most of us are happy to leave to the philosophers and religionists. One thing is for certain though, The Devil has been around for a long time and this character won’t be disappearing anytime soon. In fact with technology today, this character as close to immortality as it will ever get. Unless humanity is wiped out by an asteroid, nuclear weapons, the inevitable death of the solar system, greedy politicians, or a combination of everything that I just mentioned.
I have lived in the UK all my life but sadly, I haven’t really seen very much of it. I put this down to my terrible ‘small-talk’ skills, lack of funds, and an aversion to driving my metal box amongst other, bigger and superior metal boxes. Still, needs must, I have patient friends, and society demands that I see daylight hours, so I do venture out into the outside world.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve driven up and down the Northern part of the M6, passing Cumbria and Northumbria as I’ve made my way up to Scotland. I’ve spotted impressive buildings and landmarks as I’ve travelled and every time this happens I wonder why they are there and what stories they hold. I tell myself that I’ll find out more about them and visit them when I have time, but this rarely becomes a reality. That is, until now of course. I have found myself in a rather fortunate position where travelling around the UK doesn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.
I will be visiting and blogging about Wigtown shortly, a famous book town in Dumfries and Galloway, and I’ve recently made trips to Penrith and Kirkby Lonsdale. My first impressions of Penrith and the surrounding areas is that it seems to be dotted with Castles, or at least, their ruins. However I didn’t spend an awful lot of time here and I didn’t meet The Devil in Penrith, I met The Devil in Kirkby Lonsdale.
OK so I may have lied, I didn’t actually meet The Devil… but I did stumble across Kirkby Lonsdale’s famous Devil’s Bridge and that is probably as close to The Devil as you’d ever actually want to be. Curious as to why this old bridge is called ‘Devil’s Bridge’ I did a little research and a couple of clicks later discovered that it’s one of many bridges referred to as ‘Devil’s Bridge’. Yup that’s right, Devil’s Bridge is actually a popular name for many old bridges and each bridge has a Devil-related myth or folktale.
The story for Devil’s Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale states that The Devil appeared to an old woman, promising to build a bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross over it. When the bridge was finished, the woman threw bread over the bridge, her dog chased after it, and the annoyed Devil received a new pet.
After reading about this particular legend I realised that there are probably thousands of little legends and stories associated with historic sites and landmarks up and down the UK that I am completely unaware of. To the writer in me, this is fascinating and exciting. Myths, legends, folktales and old stories are ripe with little nuggets of inspiration. Who knows what old concept or idea you may be able to revamp or turn completely on its head in order to come up with a new angle for a bestselling novel? If that thought doesn’t galvanize the writers out there then I’m not sure what will. Of course not everyone will be able to travel, but we are armed with the power of the internet so you don’t necessarily need to leave the comfort of your own home. As for me, I think I will try and travel to new places and learn more about the myths and legends surrounding the UK. This wet little island with its serious, tea drinking, queue-forming inhabitants, has never been more mysterious or exciting.
‘You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand…’ – Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Have you visited anywhere or know about any legends, myths and folktales? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear about it!