Tag: Legends

Mermaids Sightings in the 19th Century

Illustration of a Mermaid, The Brown Fairy Book by H. J. Ford, 1904.

According to historians, tales of mermaids and mermen can be traced back to the Babylonian sea deities Oannes and Atargatis in 1000 BCE. Since then, mermaid folklore has appeared in every era and every culture, from ancient Greece to Victorian England. But mermaid lore was not limited to the realm of folklore and mythology. During the nineteenth century, mermaids appeared with some regularity in art, literature, and music. They also featured in the nineteenth century news, with both sailors and coastal residents reporting real life sightings of mermaids well into the Victorian era.[…]Continue Reading

The Last Ravens in 19th Century London

A Raven by T. A. Coward, 1919. (Image from The Birds of the British Isles.)
A Raven by T. A. Coward, 1919.
(Image from The Birds of the British Isles.)

In medieval London, ravens were a common sight.  By the late eighteenth century, however, they had been almost entirely eradicated.  According to nineteenth century ornithologist William Henry Hudson, the last pair of wild ravens in London resided in a large elm tree in Hyde Park.  This pair bred annually up until 1826 when one of the park keepers pulled down their nest, which at that time contained two of their young offspring.  Deprived of their home and their young, the pair of old ravens quit the park and were never seen again.[…]Continue Reading

Jane Eyre and the Legendary Gytrash

Snarling dog from Darwin's Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)
Snarling dog from Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.
(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)

According to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, a Gytrash is a goblin or spirit which takes the form of a horse, mule, or large dog.  Typically found in the North of England, the Gytrash “haunted solitary ways” and often surprised unwary travelers as they journeyed alone in the dusk.  Jane Eyre herself encounters what she believes to be a Gytrash one bleak, January evening as she is walking from Thornfield Hall to post a letter in the nearby village of Hay.  Alerted to its arrival by a loud, clattering noise, Jane observes:[…]Continue Reading

The Origins of the Unicorn

The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.
The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.

According to historians, the legend of the unicorn first emerged in 398 BC courtesy of the Greek physician Ctesias.  Ctesias wrote an account of India, titled Indica.  In it, he attests that all recorded within his account are things that he has witnessed himself or that he has had related to him by credible witnesses.  This account of India, though largely lost, has been preserved in a fragmentary abstract made in the 9th century by Photios I of Constantinople.  In the twenty-fifth fragment, Ctesias writes of the unicorn, stating:[…]Continue Reading

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