The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Sacred Hill


[The previous poem's description] of the Duergar corresponds exactly with the following Northumbrian legend, with which i was lately favoured by my learned and kind friend, Mr. Surtees of Mainsforth, who has bestowed indefatigable labour upon the antiquities of the English Border counties. The subject is in itself so curious, that the length of the note will, I hope, be pardoned.

"I have only one record to offer of the appearance of our Northumbrian Duergar. My narratrix is Elizabeth Cockburn, an old wife of Offerton, in this county, whose credit, in a case of this kind, will not, I hope, be much impeached, when I add, that she is, by her dull neighbours, supposed to be occasionally insane, but, by herself, to be at those times endowed with a faculty of seeing visions, and spectral appearances, which shun the common ken.

"In the year before the great rebellion, two young men from Newcastle were sporting on the high moors above Elsdon, and after pursuing their game several hours, sat down to dine in a green glen, near one of the mountain streams. After their repast, the younger lad ran to the brook for water, and after stooping to drink, was surprised, on lifting his head again, by the appearance of a brown dwarf, who stood on a crag covered with brackens, across the burn.

This extraordinary personage did not appear to be above half the stature of a common man, but was uncommonly stout and broad-built, having the appearance of vast strength. His dress was entirely brown, the colour of the brackens, and his head covered with frizzled red hair. His countenance was expressive of the most savage ferocity, and his eyes glared like a bull.

It seems he addressed the young man first, threatening him with his vengeance, for having trespassed on his demesnes, and asking him if he knew in whose presence he stood? The youth replied, that he now supposed him to be the lord of the moors; that he offended through ignorance; and offered to bring him the game he had killed. The dwarf was a little mollified by this submission, but remarked, that nothing could be more offensive to him than such an offer, as he considered the wild animals as his subjects, and never failed to avenge their destruction. He condescended further to inform him, that he was, like himself, mortal, though of years far exceeding the lot of common humanity; and (what I should not have had an idea of) that he hoped for salvation. He never, he added, fed on anything that had life, but lived, in the summer, on whortle-berries, and in winter, on nuts and apples, of which he had great store in the woods.

Finally, he invited his new acquaintance to accompany him home, and partake his hospitality; an offer which the youth was on the point of accepting, and was just going to spring across the brook, (Which if he had done, says Elizabeth, the dwarf would certainly have torn him in pieces,) when his foot was arrested by the voice of his companion, who thought he had tarried long: and on looking round again, 'the wee brown man was fled.' The story adds, that he was imprudent enough to slight the admonition, and to sport over the moors on his way homewards: but soon after his return, he fell into a lingering disorder, and died within the year."
This is from one of the appendices in ' The Lady of the Lake in Six Cantos' by Walter Scott (1835) but I believe it's also told in volume 4 of Surtees' History of Durham.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
5th November 2012ce
Edited 5th November 2012ce

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