Chapter One 4


Hey Ho Raggedy-O

Chapter 1 – page 5

 

We come upon the story at a point a little distance from the beginning — as before our eyes the flames burn up the title and the first scene.

Lady Guenevere is just remarking to King Arthur and Sir Gawain that she has heard about a fantastic round table, just like theirs, only much better. (Kahn notes that when Arthur thought of the idea of a round table, to prevent squabbling among the Knights, about who was the most important, he didn’t foresee the possibility of an argument over the tables themselves.)

“Where is it?” says Arthur, “I can’t possibly sleep till I see it!”

“Seek it yourself!” says Guenevere, “I will not tell. I will say, though, that not only is the furniture better, but the whole castle is much, much finer than ours, and worth more too. In fact this castle, about which I speak, is worth more than all of Brittany.” (Brittany being Arthur’s realm!)

“Well then,” says Arthur, really fired up now, “Me and four other fearless knights, who have God and Our Lady on our side, will dress up as pilgrims and go on a quest.”

King Arthur, Sir Gawain, Sir Bredbeedle –aka The Greene Knight –, Sir Tristan, and Sir Marramiles set off to journey, East and West, through many a strange country. Over an unknown number of fire-eaten pages, they presumably have many adventures, probably involving fights. At last they reach the kingdom of Cornwall. (If Guenevere had only been more helpful, their trip would have been quite short: just an afternoon’s sail across the Channel.)

On arriving at a castle gate they discover, from the porter, that they are at King Cornwall’s place and that he is indeed very, very rich. Cleverly keeping up the disguise of poor palmers, the knights come before King Cornwall, who asks them tricky questions about themselves like,
“Have you ever heard of a grand king who lives in Brittany, who is called Arthur and is rich and handsome?”

“Don’t know him to speak to,” says Arthur slyly, “but I saw him once.”

“Well I knew him quite well,” says Cornwall, “but I knew his wife even better. I was living, rent-free, in their bower at the time. Seven years they fed and clothed me, and when I left I took with me a little present from Lady Guenevere. My beautiful daughter, who stands before you, is the fairest flower in all the land. Arthur doesn’t have a flower like this. He’s not up to it, I understand.”

King Cornwall goes on and on about his marvelous horse that has glistening eyes and is three times faster than Arthur’s.

“By gosh!” says Arthur meekly, “it’s fair, all right.” For an unknown number of missing pages King Cornwall continues in this vein until everyone else is yawning behind their hands.

“Well, time for bed!” says the host at last, and Arthur and his friends retire to the guest room, muttering darkly.
Beside the bed is a thrubchandler. Many learned minds have puzzled over this piece of furniture, but it is thought to have been a large stoppered container, a type of early bedside cabinet. Cornwall has hidden a spy inside this container so that he and his family and staff can have a good laugh at Arthur’s expense when this spy reports back to him about the bedtime antics and conversations of his guests. The spy is none other than Burlow Beanie. As soon as the bedroom door closes, Arthur explodes in a tirade of abuse against Cornwall. He details all that he, with the help of his knights, is going to do to his tormentor. Sir Gawain –who is Cornwall’s nephew, by the way — points out that there are five of them and a whole army on the other side.

“Well,” says Arthur, “if you’re going to go all girlie on me you can just go home and drink wine!”

“Now, don’t be like that,” says Gawain, trying to look serious in his nightshirt, ” I’ll match your vow and go one better. I will ravish the beautiful unnamed daughter and carry her off home to Brittany where she belongs. We can sort out the blood ties later.”

Just when things are getting interesting, there is another gap in the story. Possibly, all the knights boasted about which treasure they would claim and what good account they would make of themselves in the coming battle. Maybe they told scary stories, had a pillow fight. In any case the Burlow Beanie is somehow discovered. One of the knights, we’ll never know which one, is speaking as we take up the story. …….”Well I’m not going to wrestle with it! #*@%!! I’d rather be drowned in the sea!”

Sir Bredbeedle is not afraid: in a former life he was a wizard of some sort himself. He is up to the task. He has his German sword, his Italian knife, and his Danish axe. At the first blow of the sword, the bung of the thrubchandler breaks apart and out pops the Burlow Beanie, like a monster genie. He has seven heads on a single body and he breathes fire that flies skyward. He is able to destroy Bredbeedle’s weapons, after a glorious battle, but the brave knight has an ace up his sleeve in the form of a magic book. The book had been found some time before, washed up on the seashore. Somehow Bredbeedle, with the help of his magic book, persuades Burlow Beanie to assume a more reasonable shape and miraculously has him switch sides. Now Burlow Beanie must do the bidding of Arthur and his knights; in fact he seems quite friendly. Bredbeedle puts the Burlow Beanie into a stone wall for safe-keeping and surprisingly asks Arthur — who now seems to have been given a bedroom to himself — if he is asleep yet.

“Asleep?” says Arthur, “No, I am waking! (that’s what he actually says in the original text) What is it now?”
Knowing that Arthur would never believe such a silly story, Bredbeedle has drawn a picture of the monster he has tamed. Either the artistic talent was lacking or it was in fact just a written description because Arthur is not satisfied; he wants to see for himself the way the fiend was before he was transformed!

“Bother!” says The Green Knight, who is Bredbeedle.

He takes Arthur into the dorm, where the other Knights have given up all hope of a good night’s sleep, and he goes through the whole routine again with Burlow Beanie. The Shape-changer is only too happy to oblige. He prefers his extremely impressive monster-persona anyway. They re-enact the entire battle, with even more amazing special effects, and even more fire, until Burlow Beanie assumes his benign shape once more and prepares to grant all the knights their wishes. Sir Merrimiles gets the magic horse with the glistening eyes, Sir Bredbeedle gets magic powder, Sir Tristram gets a magic horn — in which he mixes the powder with warm milk to make it work –, and King Arthur gets a magic sword. The sword is used to cut off King Cornwall’s head, as he lies blissfully asleep in bed. The head is stuck on the point of the sword and then…………..

[6]

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a great jagged tear across the page, and the rest is missing

It is worth mentioning here, before we leave the Burlow Beanie, that there is a castle in the South of England called Burlow Castle. The name Bean occurs in Scottish and Irish folklore as a name for a supernatural being, as for example the Banshee – spelt Bean Si in Ireland and called Bean-Nighe in Scotland. Is Burlow Beanie just a name for the Faerie of Burlow Castle?

 

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HEY HO RAGGEDY-O:
A Study of the Billy Barlow Phenomenon
(written by Joy Hildebrand)

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Notes

[6] G Hildebrand ~ American-born musician and singer.