Cloven Country - The Devil and the English Landscape - Jeremy Harte

Reaktion Books


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Cloven Country: The Devil and the English Landscape by Jeremy Harte / ISBN 9781789148336 / 295-page paperback from Reaktion Books


An exploration of the myths of England’s deceptively bucolic rolling hills and country lanes believed to be created and shaped by the Dark Lord himself.

According to legend, the English landscape—so calm on the surface—is really the Devil’s work. Cloven Country tells of rocks hurled into place and valleys carved out by infernal labor. The Devil’s hideous strength laid down great roads in one night and left scars everywhere as the hard stone melted like wax under those burning feet. With roots in medieval folklore of giants and spirits, this is not the Satan of prayer, but a clumsy ogre, easily fooled by humankind. When a smart cobbler or cunning young wife outwitted him, they struck a blow for the underdog. Only the wicked squire and grasping merchant were beyond redemption, carried off by a black huntsman in the storm. Cloven Country offers a fascinating panorama of these decidedly sinister English tales.

"Harte--a curator at Bourne Hall Museum in Surrey--has an encyclopedic knowledge of the diverse sources of England’s traditional tales and proves himself to be an authoritative guide... From the demon who appears as a fearsome figure hurling stones, gouging out valleys and heaping up hills, or as a sinister black-clad huntsman with his fiery-eyed hounds howling across Bodmin Moor, to ideas about how a woman’s wit is better than a man’s when it comes to besting the lord of darkness, Harte takes his reader on a devilishly entertaining tour of England and its richly storied landscape." ― The Guardian

"From a perusal of any detailed map of England, you would think we were a people satanically obsessed. Place names include the Devil’s Highway, the Devil’s Punchbowl, the Devil’s Thumb, the Devil’s Frying Pan… Even midnight is 'the Devil’s dancing hour' and the dragonfly is 'the Devil’s darning needle'... Fear not, says Jeremy Harte in this fascinating study, Britain is not as terrifying as these names make it appear." ― The Times

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