Have you ever wanted to wander off of the map into that bit at the edge that says ‘Here Be Dragons’? Well I did that by mistake on my holiday. Setting off into Norfolk with the idea of forgetting about Candle Man, monsters and stories for a while, I immediately stumbled across a rain-spattered information board in the hitherto unheard of (by me) village of Ludham.
What surprised me was that Ludham had a real bona fide DRAGON LEGEND. You might think this unsurprising, but there aren’t that many actual dragon legends around that tie a sighting to a real place. I mean WHERE did St George actually kill HIS dragon? I don’t remember ever being told.
The Ludham legend says that a dragon used to come out of his hole – between the church yard and the high street – and annoy the locals with his monstrous antics. They attempted to prevent this by blocking up his hole with any old rubbish while he was asleep. It never worked! After a while they gave up – possibly the dragon put up a sign saying: ‘Entrance in constant use – do not obstruct.’
But then one day, while the dragon was out flying around, one brave, powerful man found a big stone and rolled it over the dragon’s hole. Old fiery-breath came back, and was unable to remove the stone. He left in a flap, smashing his mighty tail into the local abbey on the way – leaving it in ruin!
The evidence for this myth is very convincing.
1. There IS a ruined abbey nearby.
2. The dragon has definitely left Ludham.
The thing I like about this legend is its (dare I say it) typical East Anglian humility, no great hero here who slew a dragon with a sword and married a princess. Rather the more modest, almost comical aim of blocking up the dragon’s doorway while he’s out, in the hope that this will annoy the fire-breathing, supernatural menace enough to make him go away.
And it worked!
Even at the start of the story, the idea of killing the dragon is never suggested, as if such a thing was unthinkable to the villagers. I like that. Man knowing his place in the great scheme. No courtly glitter has been added to this piece of folklore, which makes it all the more enjoyable.
I think I was about a thousand years late to spot the dragon, so instead I took this picture of the ruins he created (with some bloke standing right in front of them).