Everyone who has read anything of Welsh history—though not of the sort that is written by English folks—knows also that Cornwall is, in soul, a…
Before the Romans, first, and the Saxons, next, invaded Britain, the Cymric people lived all over the island, south of Scotland.
They were the British people, and nobody ever heard the German name, “Wales,” which means a foreign land; or the word “Welsh,” which refers to foreigners, until men who were themselves outsiders came into Britain.
Since that time, it has been much the same, as when a British Jack Tar, when rambling in Portugal, or China, calls the natives “foreigners,” and tells them to “get out of the way.”
Ages ago, when the Cymric men, with their wives and little ones rowed over in their coracles, from Gallia, or the Summer Land, to Britain, the Honey Land, they came first to the promontory which we know as Cornwall; that is, the Cornu Galliae, or Walliae, which means Horn or Cape of the new country now called England. Here was a new region, rich in every kind of minerals. Ages before, the Phoenicians had named it Britain or the Land of Tin. Within the memory of men now living, Cornishmen, that is, the miners of Cornwall, on going to California, discovered gold.
In Cornwall, as part of the Cymric realm, King Arthur found and married Guinevere, his queen. It was in Cornwall, also, that Merlin was hidden. Hear the rhyme:
Marvelous Merlin is wasted away
By a wicked woman, who may she be?
For she hath pent him in a crag
On Cornwall coast.
So it happens that thousands of “English” people in Cornwall are Welsh, by both name or descent, or have translated their names into English form, even while keeping the Welsh meaning. They are also Welsh in traits of character. Just as tens of thousands of Welsh folks, among the first settlers of New England and the American colonies are described in our histories as “English” people.
Now in early Cornwall there were many giants. Some were good but others were bad. One of these, a right fine fellow, was named Tom, and the other, a bad one, Blubb. This giant had had twenty wives, and was awfully cruel. Nobody ever knew what became of the twenty maidens he had married.
Sometimes people called the big fellow, that lived in a castle, Giant Blunderbuss, but Blubb was his name for short. He was much taller than the highest hop pole in Kent. He was made up mostly of head and stomach, for his chief idea in living was to eat. His skull was as big as a hogshead, or a push-ball, or a market wagon loaded with carrots. Indeed, it was strongly suspected by most people that the big bone box set on his shoulders was as hollow inside as a pumpkin, but that a cocoanut would hold all the brains he had. At any rate, during one of his fights with another giant, he had been given an awful thwack from the other giant’s club. Then the sound made, which was heard a long distance away, was exactly like that when one pounds on an empty barrel.
Now this Giant Blubb had built a mighty castle between a big hill and a river. Under it were vaults of vast size, filled with treasures of all sorts, gold, silver, jewels and gems. There were cells, in which he kept his wives, after he had married them. It was the opinion of his neighbors, that in every case, soon after the honeymoon was over, he ate them up.
Yet, if even the devil ought to have his due; one should be fair to this human monster, and we are bound to say that Giant Blubb denied these stories as pure gossip. It is certain that such crimes as murder and cannibalism never could be proved against him.
To guard his underground treasures, he had two huge and fierce dogs, supposed to be named Catchem and Tearem. What they were really called by their master was a secret. Yet anyone who had a piece of meat ready to throw to them, and knew their names, which were pass words, could first quiet them. Then he could walk by them and get the treasure.
Besides these dogs, the only living thing left in the castle when the giant went out, was the latest Mrs. Blubb. Yet she was in constant fear of her life, lest her big husband should sometime make a meal of her. For even she had heard the story that Blubb was a cannibal and looked at all plump women simply as delicacies, exactly as a boy peers into the window of a candy shop.
What made all the country round hate this cruel giant was not wholly on account of his awful appetite. It was because he had ruined the King’s High Road. Ever since the time of King Lud, whose name we read in Ludgate Hill, in London, where His Cymric Majesty had lived, this highway had been free to all. It ran all the way through Cornwall, from Penzance, and thence eastward to London and beyond.
When Giant Blubb wished to enlarge his castle, he had the walls and towers built down to the river’s edge. This closed up the big road, so that people had to go far around and up over the hill, or by boat along the river. Such a roundabout way took much time and toil, and was too much trouble for all.
Everybody had to submit to this extortion, until there came along Giant Tom, of whom we shall now tell. His real name was Rolling Stone, for he never stuck long in one place at a job, and cared not a cucumber for money, or fine clothes.
This jolly fellow was very good-natured and popular, but often very lazy. His mother talked with him many times, urging him to learn a trade, or in some way make an honest living. She found it very hard to keep anything in her larder, barn, pantry, or cellar, when he was at home. He measured four feet across his shoulders and at every meal he ate what would feed three big men. But as he could do six men’s work, when he had a mind to—as often he did—he was always welcome. In fact, he was too popular for his own good.
One day, when ten common fellows were trying their utmost to lift a big long log on a cart, and were unable to do it, Tom came along and told them to stand back. Then he hoisted the tree on to the wain, roped it into place, and told the cartman to drive on. Then they all cheered him, and one of them lifted his Monmouth cap and cried out, “Hurrah for Giant Tom. He’s the fellow to whip Giant Blubb.”
“He is! He is!” they all cried in chorus.
“Who is this Giant Blubb? Where does he live?” asked Tom, rolling up his sleeves, for he was just spoiling for a row with a fellow of his size.
Then they told the story of how the big bully had ruined the King’s Highway, by building a great wall and tower across the road, to shut it up, to the grief of many honest men.
“Never mind, boys. I’ll attend to his bacon,” said Tom. “Leave the matter with me, and don’t bother to tell the King about it.”
Tom went the next day into town and hired himself out to a beer brewer to drive the wagon. Perhaps he hoped, also, while in this occupation, to keep down his thirst.
He asked the boss to give him the route that led past Giant Blubb’s castle, over the old King’s Highway.
The master of the brewery saw through Tom’s purpose. He winked, and only said:
“Go ahead, my boy. I’ll pay you double wages, if you will open that road again; but see that Giant Blubb does not get my load of kegs, or that your carcass doesn’t count with those of the twenty wives in his vaults and make twenty-one.”
Again he winked his eye knowingly to his workmen. Tom drove off. He occupied all the room on the seat of the cart, which two men usually filled and left plenty of room on either side.
Cracking his whip, the new driver kept the four horses on a galloping pace, until very soon he called out “whoa,” before the frowning high gateway of Giant Blubb.
Tom shouted from the depth of his lungs:
“Open the gate and let me drive through. This is the King’s Highway.”
The only reply, for a minute, was the barking of the curs. Then a rattling of bolts was heard, and the great gates swung wide open.
“Who are you, you impudent fellow? Go round over the hill, or I’ll thrash you,” blustered Giant Blubb, in a rage.
“Better save your breath to cool your porridge, you big boaster, and come out and fight,” said Tom.
“Fight? You pigmy. I’ll just get a switch and whip you, as I would a bad boy.”
Thereupon Giant Blubb stepped aside into the grove nearby, keeping all the while an eye on his gate, guarded by his two monstrous dogs. He selected an elm tree twenty feet high, tore it up by the roots, pulled off the branches, and peeled it for a whip. This he jerked up and down to make ready for his task of thrashing “the pigmy.”
Meanwhile Giant Tom upset the wain, drew out the tongue and took off one of the wheels. Then, as if armed with spear and shield, he advanced to meet Giant Blubb. He whistled like a boy, as he went forward.
In a passion of rage, Giant Blubb lifted his elm switch to strike, but Tom warded off the blow with his wheel shield. Then he punched him in the stomach, with the wagon tongue, so hard that the big fellow slipped and rolled over in the mud:
Picking himself up, Giant Blubb, now half blind with rage, rushed against Tom, who, this time, made a lunge which planted the cart tongue inside Blubb’s bowels, and knocked him over.
But Tom was not a cruel fellow, and had no desire to kill anyone. So he threw down his war tools, and tearing up a yard or two of grassy sod rolled it together, and made a plug of it, as big around as a milk churn. With this, he stopped up the big hole in Giant Blubb’s huge body.
But instead of thanking Tom, Giant Blubb rushed at him again. He was in too much of a rage to see anything clearly, while Tom, perfectly cool, gave the angry monster such a kick, in the place where he kept his dinner, that he rolled over, and Tom gave him another kick. Then the plug of sod fell out of his wound.
As he was bleeding to death, Giant Blubb beckoned to Tom to come up close, for he could only whisper.
“You’ve beaten me on the square, and I like you. Don’t think I killed my twenty wives. They all died naturally. But call the dogs by name, and they will let you pass. Then, in my vaults, you’ll find gold, silver, and copper. Make these your own and bury me decently. This is all I ask.”
Tom made himself owner of the castle and all its treasures. He opened the King’s Highway again. He took care of his aged mother, married the twenty-first wife of Giant Blubb, now a widow, and was always kind to the sick and poor.
To-day in Cornwall, they still tell stories of the big fellow who abolished Giant Blubb’s toll gate.
Centuries afterward, when Christ’s gospel came into the land, they restored Giant Tom’s tomb and on it were chiseled these words:
THE RESTORER OF PATHS TO DWELL IN.
Welsh Fairy Tales
By WILLIAM ELLIOT GRIFFIS