Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Monday ~ Tales of Tunnels, Fables of Fiddles

Tunnels, connecting the earth to the 'underworld' or 'Hades', can be found in Greek, Roman, and earlier myths. Passing through a cave or tunnel and arriving in a different land exist in German and Eastern European folktales. In modern times, in science fiction, we read of holes in space - space tunnels which lead to other dimensions or other galaxies, other universes.

In Britain, myths about a musician's tunnel survive in various locations around the country. In these stories a musician enters an underground passage and is followed, above ground, by people listening to his music, which suddenly stops. The musician usually has a dog with him. The man is never seen again, the dog leaves the tunnel seeming frightened. Such myths are sometimes connected to a 'barrow' (underground burial place). One such a story is linked to Binham, a working Benedictine Priory between 1091 and 1539 in Norfolk.

Information from Myths and Legends.
The Fiddler, the Alchemist and the Black Monk

Secret places hold a special fascination. History, and legend, have stories involving secret tunnels connecting different places in this world, and in other worlds.

Binham Priory was built in the 12th century in North Norfolk, it has a mysterious past, with rumours of a secret underground passage from the Priory to Little Walsingham. The tunnel is said to be the place of a haunting and a strange disappearance.

At Binham, some of the monks sold off the Priory's silver. William de Somerton, who lived in the 13th century, was one of the worst offenders. He was an alchemist , alchemy was an early form of chemistry, then considered as sorcery or magic . In his efforts to find the secret of turning base metal into gold William needed money to fund experiment. He sold off much of the Priory's gold and silver artifacts, leaving the Priory with what was, back then, a huge debt.
Concurrent to William's misdeeds and experiments, another monk, Alexander de Langley lost his mind - went mad through too much study. He was flogged, chained and imprisoned alone in a cell until he died, then buried in his chains. Shortly after this, rumours circulated describing a black monk, said to walk over ground, following the route of an underground tunnel on moonless nights. It was thought the ghost might be that of the mad prior or the alchemist sorcerer.

The tale continues:
"One day a fiddler and his dog came to the village of Walsingham and offered to explore the tunnel, solve the mystery and put to rest once and for all tales of ghostly happenings. He was a smart fellow and explained that, as he moved along the tunnel, he would play his fiddle so that the gathered crowd could hear him as he made his way along.

The fiddler entered the tunnel and for a while the villagers were able to hear the distant strains of his music and followed happily above ground. However, when the fiddler reached the site of an ancient bronze-age barrow, suddenly the music stopped. The villagers stood around, puzzled. What had happened to him? Had he fallen foul of the alchemist's evil magic? Or had he, perhaps, met the unhappy ghost of the black monk, still wrapped in his chains?

The villagers were far too scared to enter the tunnel but waited at the entrance for his return. Some hours later, out of the tunnel came the fiddler's little dog shivering, whining and clearly terrified with its tail firmly between its legs. The fiddler never reappeared.

That night, a violent storm broke out and the following morning the villagers woke to find the passage entrance had been destroyed. The little dog had vanished. Nobody knew if it had returned to the tunnel to look for its master before the storm took hold or simply run away. The brave fiddler was never heard of again. Exactly what had caused his disappearance remains a mystery, for no one ventured that way again."

The fiddle music would have sounded something like this...


Ancient dance tunes played by Barry Hall on the vielle. The vielle is a medieval fiddle, an ancestor of the modern violin. Vielles are more primitive in design than violins - they use plain gut strings and have a flat soundboard and back, rather than the arched top and back used on more modern instruments. When these instruments were popular, there was very little standardization of size, shape, number of strings, or tuning. This particular instrument has five strings, is similar in size to a viola, and was made by Ethan James (RIP) the renowned hurdy-gurdy player. More of Barry's music here.

3 comments:

mike said...

Yes, many tunnels, most without violins. The Gaza smuggling tunnels are in the news right now. My favorite tunnel as a child was the "Alice in Wonderland" rabbit hole tunnel, though it all frightened me back then, as most tunnel did...fear of the dark and unknown. I've never been through a tunnel of LOVE. I'm sure to enjoy the Wisteria Tunnel, if I'm in Japan:
http://inthralld.com/2012/12/whimsical-wisteria-gardens-and-tunnel-in-japan/

mike (again) said...

P.S. - I have been in the tunnel of LOVE, more properly known as tunnel vision.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Oh! The Wisteria Tunnel is fabulous! :-)

I'm never comfortable while passing through long tunnels when travelling by train - it just seems so unnatural. I certainly wouldn't enjoy, and would avoid at all costs, the journey from England to France via the "Chunnel" - across/under the English Channel. I'd rather risk a bit of the old seasickness, even with my horror of deep water, and travel atop the water on a ferry - which I did try once upon a time, before the Chunnel existed.

Lol...tunnel visions of love, yes been there done that too, on occasion....almost as bad as deep water :-)