Blackberry Round

Light over the sea off Rame Head

Do you go out walking at nightfall?

Taking your dog for its evening stroll, coming home from a club or the pub, or a late visit to family or friends? Do you ever walk through the woods at night between Anthony and St John? If you do and you hear an eerie howling it may well be a large black dog scents your direction. HOWL.

This is the dog’s tale (not his tail- that’s another story). Miller Mathews worked a very successful mill near St John. By late afternoon each day he had always stacked a pile of fine flour within neatly woven sacks. When he was done, the Miller lifted the long iron bar across the big wooden doors of the Mill. He shook his thick grey specked hair from beneath his dusty cap and wandered into the family kitchen. Miller Mathew’s Maid still ran to embrace him every night and his children gathered about his chair. They were a bright warm family, enjoying a simple life as the wild coastal winds and solemn cliffs rose all about them.

It happened on three consecutive full moons. Three old women changed themselves into toads. They made off with a substantial amount of Miller Mathew’s flour. Three full bags the first full moon, six full bags the second full moon, and nine full bags the third full moon.

The Miller couldn’t work out how they could have carried such a large amount of flour, an amount he really couldn’t afford to lose.

On the second full moon, Miller Mathews hid amongst a thicket growing close to the Mill. A lone cloud passed by the steel white moon. Sure enough, three old ladies with close dark curls arrived in the yard without even bothering to check for observers. They winked at one another, changed to dark mottled toads and waddled under a jagged edge beneath the Mill door. The three toads emerged with an inconceivable amount of flour. The tiny toads balanced huge sacks of flour on their backs, one atop the other. Mathews was about to accost them, when an eerie howling was heard – HOWL- all about him and three black dogs with fiery eyes leapt in front of the Mill and chased the toads away, taking the flour sacks with them. Mathews was too shocked to do anything other than follow the hounds. They retreated through the thicket and into the night. Under cover of darkness the three black dogs raced through the woods to Blackberry Round and disappeared into the midst of it.

It’s easy for a black dog to disappear on a dark night. Miller sheepishly returned to his bed. As he fell asleep an eerie howling filled his dreams. HOWL

On the third full moon Miller Mathews felt prepared. After all he was threatened by nothing more than a gaggle of old maids and some scraggly hounds. Leaving his family armed with well filled guns, Miller followed the hounds. They raced hungry, repressed and expectant. Howling a lament HOWL they paused to salute the moon, before disappearing into the round. Long arms of sharp black bramble wove a wet formidable wall.

The Miller followed, plunging head first into Blackberry Round to investigate. Miller Mathews returned home feeling puffed but exhilarated by his purposeful exertions. He tried to leap into his Maid’s waiting arms but a round of bullets hit him first and he fell a heap of ragged black fur with dying fiery eyes.

That blackberry round was magic, and a dive into its tangles on a full moon had turned the Miller into a black wolf, black as flour weevils, black as blackberries. So I’d steer clear of the blackberry round on a full moon if I was you. HOWL

 

 retold by Anna Chorlton

Adapted from Robert Keys, Memory, Place and Identity

  • Rame Peninsula