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Wild Edric - An Anglo-Saxon Legend

Updated on May 3, 2015
Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna writes about folklore, magic, history and legends, focussing on British, Irish, Germanic, and Celtic cultures.

The Heath atop the Long Mynd, Shropshire
The Heath atop the Long Mynd, Shropshire | Source

Folklore in the British Isles tells of an Anglo-Saxon leader named Wild Edric, or Edric the Wild. He lived in the Borderlands between Wales and England in an area referred to as The Welsh Marches. When the Normans invaded in 1066, seizing the crown from King Harold who was slain in battle, Edric joined forces with his former enemies, the Welsh, and rebelled against their would-be overlords.

Not only did he make a remarkable stand against the Normans, he took an Elf bride from the Forest of Clun; the beautiful Godda.

History and folklore come together to weave a fantastic British fairytale.

Carding Mill Valley
Carding Mill Valley | Source

The Shropshire Hills

Long Mynd, meaning "Long Mountain", is found in the Shropshire Hills which are classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Nestled between the Stipperstone Hills and Wenlock Edge, this striking peak is at its tallest point 1,693 ft (516m) high. Whilst not technically a mountain by today's terms, the views from the top are stunning.

The picturesque town of Church Stretton tucks itself into one of the valleys at the base of the Long Mynd. If is from here that many visitors choose to make their base at the Carding Mill Valley where the National Trust has visitor facilities [1]. The Shropshire Hills are managed by the National Trust who use careful grazing management to preserve the flora and fauna of the moorlands.

The area has countless tumuli, circular enclosures, dykes and barrows, with remains of habitation from the Bronze Age. Evidence of the ever shifting border between Wales and England is represented by the nearby Offa's Dyke to the west, and Ludlow Castle to the south.

A map of the Long Mynd region, located west of Church Stretton, Shropshire.
A map of the Long Mynd region, located west of Church Stretton, Shropshire. | Source
Clun as viewed from the ruins of the Norman castle.
Clun as viewed from the ruins of the Norman castle. | Source

Edric, the Saxon Thane

Edric the Wild or Eadric Cild (meaning "Eadric the Child") was a Saxon thane of the kingdom of Mercia who held huge tracts of land in Shropshire and parts of Staffordshire. Places like Lydham, Clun, Hodnet, and Dorrington were in his domain [2].

Edric was reputed to like nothing better than to hunt. He was known to some as Edric Sylvaticus, or Edric the Forester, and doubtless the income from all his manors afforded him ample time and opportunity to indulge in his passion for the chase.

Life was not peaceful at these times. The Anglo-Saxons held a tenuous truce with the Welsh on the other side of the Dyke, with scuffles and raids along the borders of the Marches keeping the Anglo-Saxons busy. Things were about to get a lot more unpleasant for Edric.

1066 brought the Normans to Englands shores, and after the defeat of Harold Godwinson (King Harold II) at the battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror was eager to bring the Anglo-Saxon lands under his dominion. He crowned himself King of England in 1066 on Christmas Day, then returned to Normandy in 1067, believing the Anglo-Saxons to be subdued. But not all went down without a fight.

Resistance came from the North, and determined to make a stand, Edric swore not to submit to these invaders. He made allies with the Welsh, and joined forces with Princes Bleddyn of Gwynedd and Rhiwallon of Powys. Prior to the Norman Conquest, these Princes had sided with Harold Godwinson and allowed Welsh warriors to meet with his troops to help defeat the Norse led by King Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire.

Edric and his allies started riding out into Herefordshire, raiding and destroying anything Norman that they could find. The rebellion was problematic to William's forces as the King was losing men and gold to these rebels. Their efforts came to a head during the great rising of 1069 which saw Shrewsbury put to the torch by Edric's forces [3].

History tells us that in 1070 Edric made peace with William [2], and was among his supporters in 1072 in his campaign against the Scottish. After this, all records of Edric disappear. It is at this point that history turns to legend.

Bridge across the River Clun, leading to Clun Castle
Bridge across the River Clun, leading to Clun Castle | Source

The Legend of Wild Edric

Edric had been out hunting alone, when he found himself in an unfamiliar part of the Clun Forest. Whilst wandering through the tracks in a bid to find his way once more, he came across a glade with a large and ancient dwelling. Welcoming lights shone from the windows and the melodious sounds of singing and laughter could be heard. He dismounted and made his way closer, where peering through a window, he saw six beautiful maidens dancing in a circle around a seventh who was loveliest of all. Pale of skin with long golden hair, she was tall and fair, and Edric's heart was lost. He had to claim her as his bride.

Entering the house, he introduced himself, but was ignored by the maidens who continued to dance and sing. Growing impatient, he burst through the circle, and swept the loveliest maiden up in his arms. Immediately, the six sisters flew into a rage and transformed themselves into wolves, and then bears. Edric fought his way through and escaped the sisters, with the maiden over his shoulder. He stepped outside, bloodied, his clothes in tatters, and ran for his horse. Turning back to the dwelling, he was surprised to see that the sisters had not followed. The maiden he carried had entered a faint, and so he threw her over his saddle, mounted his horse, and rode with haste away from the glade.

After a short while, he found familiar landmarks in the forest, and was able to make his way home. During her abduction and the headlong ride through the forest the young lady had awoken, yet she neither struggled nor made a sound. Edric now realised that she was from the faerie realm. When he took her into his mead hall she simply sat demure and silent and watchful of his every move. He brought her finest food and drink, but she would partake of neither. He spoke heartfelt endearments to her, but she answered not a word. And so it continued for a three whole days and three whole nights.

Finally, on the fourth day, the maiden spoke and broke her fast. Her name, she said, was Lady Godda, and she was an Elf Queen. In sweet and honeyed tones she told Edric that she would agree to become his faithful bride, and that his good health and good fortune would last for ever. Forever that is unless he should break one rule which was that he must never, speak to her harshly.

Of course, Edric agreed, and the pair were wed with much feasting and merrymaking. The two lived together with great prosperity and happiness. That is until, the Normans came.

Clun Castle, established by Norman Lord, Robert de Say.
Clun Castle, established by Norman Lord, Robert de Say. | Source

On October 14th in 1066, William the Conqueror defeated King Harold’s Saxon Army at Senlac Hill near Hastings. The era of the Normans had begun. Edric the Wild did not swear fealty to William the Conqueror, the proud Saxon instead made allies with local thanes, and even the Welsh who were his former enemies. They were a terrible thorn in the side to the Normans. Time and time again, Edric and his men fought them off, but finally they came in too strong numbers. His allies submitted to Norman rule one by one, the Welsh retreating to their lands to face off the invasion there. Edric was cornered. Fearing for the fate of his people, he finally surrendered his lands to the Norman invaders, but not without bitter consequence.

Returning to his mead hall, his spirit broken, he sought Godda's company for solace. But his Elven bride was nowhere to be found. She loved to wander the lands and frequent the forest from which she had come, and it seemed that she was on one such journey. Edric was angered that she was not at home, and when she finally returned, he flew into a rage and chided her for her absence.

A tear rolled down Godda's cheek, and she reminded him of his promise. She would now have to leave him and return to her sisters in the forest. Edric, realising what he had done, begged for forgiveness, begged her to stay, his love was true and he could not bear to be without her. But an oath is an oath, and Elves are magical creatures. She had to return to Clun Forest.

As his bride left, Edric made another promise; that his spirit would not rest until he found his bride. He swore that he was bound to the land, and that he would never leave it. Heartbroken, the thane pined away until he died of grief. Some say that his own people cursed him for surrendering to the Normans. Whatever happened, Edric and his men became tied to the lands and the caves and moors atop the Long Mynd.

Yet the tale of Wild Edric does not finish here. There are those who live now that will tell you that they have seen him. Dwelling in the underworld beneath Long Mynd, he and his men will knock on the walls of caves and mines to tell miners where the rich lodes of lead can be found.

Edric's hunt is seen riding across the hill whenever a war is about to break, riding in the direction of the conflict.

Edric Sylvaticus finally found his beloved Lady Godda. The two ride together at the head of their hunt across the Long Mynd, forever to be at each other's sides. But if you are ever wandering the moors and hear the horn of Edric and the sound of hooves upon the ground, stand still, and close your eyes. If you meet his gaze, you'll join the hunt yourself.

Sowdley Wood, part of the once great Clun Forest and domain of Elf Queen, Godda.
Sowdley Wood, part of the once great Clun Forest and domain of Elf Queen, Godda. | Source
Snowbound on the Long Mynd
Snowbound on the Long Mynd | Source

Wild Edric's Hunt

Legends of a wild hunt appear all over European mythology. Many originate with old beliefs in the gathering of wayward souls by a divine hunting host, whilst more recent adaptations tell of the devil himself out hunting for those trying to flee his clutches.

The story of Wild Edric is a variation to this theme. However, instead of the gathering of spirits, Edric's hunt is a portent of confict. When Edric rides, war is coming.

The top of the Long Mynd is vast and remote. One could wander the tracks through the heather and grass for hours without seeing another person. The wind blows steadily across the hilltops, making the weather changeable, and many have got lost traversing the heath when low cloud or fog rolls in. In bad weather, it is advisable not to cross the Mynd at all, with tales abound of people getting cut off up there for days after finding themselves in a sudden snowstorm.

There is only one master of this heath, and he is Edric the Wild.

Folklore tells us that his hunt rides with when war is about to come. This apparition comes with a catch though. Any who witness it are said to disappear, to be bound with the riders forever in this ghostly procession. But not all have fallen to such a fate.

One story from the middle of the nineteenth century described how a miner and his daughter from Rorrington were making their way across the Long Mynd. Suddenly from nowhere, came the blast of a hunting horn. The girl's father knew the stories, and turned away, telling his daughter to close her eyes and stand still until the spectral hunt had passed. But she disobeyed and was able to recount how she had seen Wild Edric and Godda riding overhead as the dread apparition streamed across the Shropshire skies. She described how Edric had short dark hair in which he wore a green and white feather. Green were his coat and cloak, and a horn and sword hung from his belt. To his side rode the Lady Godda, her long golden tresses falling to her waist. Her dress was green and around her forehead she wore a band of white linen. There was a short dagger at her waist. Despite seeing the hunt, the miner's daughter suffered no ill effects from witnessing Edric’s wild ride. This apparition had been witnessed only a few short months before the outbreak of the Crimean War.

Reports of the hunt riding across the Long Mynd were made before both the Great War of 1914 broke out, and in 1939 a few weeks before World War II began. More recently, Edric's horn has also been heard prior to The Gulf War and the Falklands conflict.

So dear reader, if ever you should find yourself traversing the Long Mynd, pray you never hear the horn of Edric heralding a coming war.

A representation of The Wild Hunt: "Die Wilde Jagd" by Johann Wilhelm Cordes
A representation of The Wild Hunt: "Die Wilde Jagd" by Johann Wilhelm Cordes

Sources

[1] Carding Mill Valley and the Shropshire Hills, National Trust Site

[2] Ann Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest - ISDN 978-0851157085

[3] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - ISDN 978-0415921299

© 2014 Pollyanna Jones

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    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 2 years ago

      You're on a roll, toots! As always, shared to my HP feed :-) and this is one I've never heard of before, thanks! I'm a sucker for a good Anglo-Saxon tale

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
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      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks Carolyn! I love this story, and this part of Shropshire is so beautiful. I just had to share it.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

      What a cool story. Would love to hear him sound his horn.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      It's a great tale. And I love how it blurs with historical events. Thanks for reading!

    • NisseVisser profile image

      Nisse Visser 24 months ago from On the Edge

      A great hub and I liked reading about Lady Godda. Will share this on my author page.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 24 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed the read.

    • profile image

      Laura T 22 months ago

      I came across this tale in Kathleen Herbert's Looking for the Lost Gods of England. I always liked the bit about Eadric and his men putting in an appearance when England is threatened by war, reunited with his elf woman and riding in whatever direction the enemy country is. It reminds me somewhat of the MR James story about the three crowns of East Anglia. King Herla too.

      Did English thegns favour short hair at the time of the Conquest? Maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick, but I was under the impression that long hair and long moustaches were the fashion amongst the English men of that period, contrasting with the short haired and shaven Normans.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 22 months ago from United Kingdom

      I really don't know about hair styles of that era, Laura. Thanks for dropping by and your well-written comment though! I very much enjoyed M. R. James' "A Warning to the Curious" - one of his later and more grim stories. You might enjoy my story about The Lost Sword of Tyrn Gorthad. I based it on that tale as a tribute to him and Tolkien.

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