We tell you about six British legends that will help you improve your vocabulary, your listening skills and, we hope, also entertain you.
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From Nottingham, England
Robbed the rich to give to the poor.
“Robehod” or “Rabunhod” has been found in historical records from the 13th century. Academics can’t agree on whether the reference points to a real-life Robin Hood or a fictional character.
Band of merry men: Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Alan-a-Dale (a wandering minstrel)
Enemies: King John (brother of Richard the Lionheart), Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Love interest: Maid Marion
Robin Hood’s legend has been very successful at the box office
Errol Flynn – 1938
Sean Connery – 1976
Kevin Costner – 1991
Russell Crowe – 2010
(in total, there have been over 70 adaptations to film and TV)
You can visit the Sherwood Forest in England’s Nottinghamshire County as well as Robin Hood’s Well, the Church of St. Mary and the Major Oak (believed to have been used by the Merry Men as a hiding spot). https://www.visitsherwood.co.uk/
Defended the country against Saxon invaders in the 5th and early 6th centuries
Arthur’s court was in Camelot.
The Knights of the Round Table (Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, Sir Galahad, Sir Bedivere and many more). 150 knights are said to have sat at the round table.
The table’s round to avoid arguments about who is the most important.
The magician Merlin placed a sword (Excalibur) in a stone and whoever was able to pull it out would be king. Only Arthur could do it.
Among the most famous tales is Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail – the cup that contained the blood of Christ. (Nobody knows for sure where the Holy Grail might be now, if it exists. There are many claimants saying it’s in their city. Near the top of the list of serious claimants is Valencia, Spain: https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20180528-is-this-the-home-of-the-holy-grail
You can take a tour and visit King Arthur’s Labyrinth and Snowdonia National Park in Wales as well as King Arthur’s Great Halls in Tintagel, England where he was supposed to have been conceived. You can also have your wedding there!
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Lady Godiva hated the oppressive taxes her husband Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, forced on the people of Coventry, a town in central England.
Fed up, Lady Godiva begged Leofric to get rid of the taxes, but he refused, allegedly saying she’d have to ride a horse through the streets of Coventry naked before he’d consider changing his mind.
Leofric underestimated his wife, who indeed rode through the cobbled streets of Coventry with no clothes on. But not before she warned everyone to stay inside and not look at her. But one man did (a peeping Tom). He was blinded.
St. George and the dragon
The English flag – a red cross on white – is the flag of St George.
The tale dates back to the tenth century.
St George slew a dragon that was terrorising a town in Libya.
The dragon was infected with the plague and ate two sheep a day – until the sheep ran out, and the townspeople had to give it to their children instead, chosen by lottery.
When the King’s daughter was chosen, and the King failed to persuade the people to spare her, St George captured the dragon and promised to kill it if the people converted to Christianity. The story is about the West versus the East, and the triumph of Christianity over other religions.
The Loch Ness Monster (Nessie)
Scotland’s deepest and longest loch (England/Wales: lake, Ireland lough):
‘Nessie’ is a long-necked creature best described as a plesiosaur – a dinosaur that became extinct 66 million years ago.
Reports of Nessie are recorded as early as the 7th century, in an account of the life of an Irish monk already a century old when it was being written about.
According to this, the monk had witnessed a local burial ceremony taking place on the River Ness, of a man who had been swimming when a “water beast” came up and dragged the man under, killing him.
People who have seen Nessie, describe the monster as a humped creature with a long neck, small head and large body. One man said it was ‘a cross between a seal and a plesiosaur’. Since then, there have been many alleged sightings of a monster in the loch, and it brings loads of tourists to the shores of the loch each year.
Could it really be true that a dinosaur species escaped extinction and is alive and well and living in Scotland?
Some people say there is a channel linking Loch Ness with the sea, which the monster could be escaping the loch through – this could explain why Nessie hasn’t yet been found.
Loch Ness Visitor’s Centre
Finn MacCool, The Irish Giant
The Giant’s Causeway (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is in County Antrim, (Reza’s county of birth) on the north coast of Northern Ireland.
Made up of some 40,000 mostly hexagonal (six-sided) basalt columns, though there are some square, pentagonal (five-sided), heptagonal (seven-sided) and octagonal (eight-sided) columns.
Causeway = paved road, carretera elevada.
Legend has it that Northern Ireland’s iconic causeway was built by Irish giant Fionn man Curnhaill (Finn MacCool) when challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonne.
In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another version, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his enemy is much bigger than he is.
Fionn’s wife, Sadhbh, disguises Fionn as a baby and hides him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the “baby”, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a really huge giant.
Afraid, he runs back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to follow him.
Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa. Perhaps this legend could be true!
The slightly less legendary explanation is that they’re the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Whether you believe the legend or not, it is an absolute must-see site for anyone interested in Geology, as the mostly hexagonal basalt columns, protruding out of the sea, can’t be found anywhere else in the world (except Fingal’s Cave). The Giant’s Causeway has a fantastic Visitors Centre.
Practise your English. What’s your favourite legend?
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