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December 2017: A West Country Christmas – Dorset in December

Thomas Hardy’s celebration of Christmas in Dorset in his early novel Under the Greenwood Tree is perhaps second only to A Christmas Carol (a version ...More
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Yallery Brown, Lincolnshire

This fairy story from the watery fenlands of Lincolnshire is of the type that would fascinate children round the evening’s fire, but keep them from sleep later.
A lazy farmhand, Tom, was crossing a wet field at night when he heard childlike sobbing. Investigating he found nothing till the cries directed him to lift a large flat stone, beneath which he discovered an extraordinary creature: no larger than a baby, but horribly wrinkled where he could see flesh, brown face and feet and strangely clothed body nearly hidden by a yellow beard wrapped round and round the thing.
As reward for freeing it the creature - calling itself Yallery Brown - offered Tom a beautiful wife, or gold, or any such wish. Lazy Tom opted for having his work done for him. The creature promised this, at which Tom started to thank it, but Yallery Brown angrily said never to do so.
Thenceforth Tom’s horses were cleaned for him; ploughing did itself; buckets filled and wood chopped. His workmates eventually resented and feared him as a warlock, and Tom was sent packing. Calling up his supposed benefactor Tom made the mistake of saying he would thank him to interfere no more. Yallery Brown agreed, but cursed him for the thanks, and till his death Tom had nothing but bad luck, poverty and struggle.

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