I was supposed have written and posted this for Hallowe’en, but then life got in the way. Hey-ho.
I found an excellent old story that goes right back to Anglo-Saxon times and I thought would recount it for you.
Gather round for…
The Tale of The Dragon of Knucker Hole
The Knucker – a type of water-dragon – sat in its bottomless pool in Lyminster, Sussex. It had been terrorising the village for weeks by eating its cattle, men and fair maidens. The townspeople were terrified of the beast and they hardly dared leave their homes.
Lyminster, Sussex (westsussex.info)
King of Sussex one day declared, “Whoever can rid us of this Knucker, shall be greatly rewarded.”
The only person brave – or perhaps foolish – enough to take the King up on his offer was one Jim Pattock who, one day, made the biggest Sussex pudding you have ever seen. It was so huge that he had to heave it into his cart so his horse could pull it the dragon’s pool.
The Knucker was snoozing, heard a distant rumbling sound and opened one eye only to see some idiot walking right into his lair. He rose.
“What you got there?” boomed the Knucker.
A rather cute looking Knucker for the Dragonology book Series
“Pudden”, said Jim.
The Knucker looked over the pudding, gave it a sniff and promptly devoured the pudding, cart and horse in one single bite!
“Bring me more!” demanded the Knucker.
Off home he trotted; he knew the dragon would ask for more Sussex pudding because it is so delicious. He made another pudding just as big as the last one and dragged it over to the Knucker hole.
The dragon licked his lips and devoured it, but then the dragon suddenly came over with the collywobbles.
“I don’t feel so good”, the Knucker grumbled and slumped forward.
Jim Pattock rushed in as though he was going to help the terrible creature, but that is not what he was doing it all. Instead, he pulled out his axe from behind his back and cleaved the water dragon’s head clean from its body.
Jim returned to the town of Lyminster triumphantly holding the Knucker’s head high and was hailed a hero by the townspeople and richly rewarded by the King.
Now you know what to do should you live near a pool should a Knucker make its home there.
So there you go: I would tread carefully if you live near a lake or pond because it might be a Knucker hole too! The moral, I suppose, is beware that second helping of pud.
In another version of this story, Jim laces the second pudding (or pie in some versions) with poison, killing the dragon. When he gets back to the town, he is bought a huge flagon of ale, but has some of the poison on his hands and dies! Poor old Jim.
The word knucker, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word nicor, which means water dragon, and there were many similar stories told around the country. In Yorkshire for example, the dragon is fed by Billy Bite when the dragon steals his delicious parkin. The Knucker demands more and his rather belligerent wife is so angry with him she brings the parkin to the dragon who promptly eats both gingerbread and wife.
The parkin is very sticky and gets it all over his teeth “clinging so lovely like ivy-bine”, the Knucker is distracted and is quickly done away with by some of the townspeople.
The moral here is beware of sticky gingerbread, I suppose.
I quite like this version as it subverts the usual tale of the hero saving the townspeople; poor old hen-pecked Billy is completely passive in the story, yet is responsible – albeit indirectly – for the riddance of the foul beast.
Folklore of Yorkshire, Kai Roberts, 2013
Knucker Hole, the Home of An Ancient Sussex Dragon, 2019, Odd Days Out website, https://odddaysout.co.uk/knuckerhole
Supernatural Stories: 9 amazing British Folktales, 2016, History Extra