The Real History Stories
When it comes to writing time-travel stories, you have to know your history, but for this first book in the ‘Magic Horsebox’ series, I’ve chosen two events that reveal history can be about more than just the facts. For more horses in history, check out the facebook page here: Magic Horsebox
Tom Faggus existed; he was a highwayman, probably a blacksmith. There are many different versions of his tale, all entertaining and with many common features, the famous jump off a bridge being one of them. But historians are still arguing whether he existed in the sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth century – nobody seems to know for sure. He was supposed to have been hanged, but no-one has yet found the record, so maybe Josh and Megan saved him after all.
For the purpose of this story, I’ve placed Tom Faggus in the 1650s, at the end of a turbulent time known as the English Civil War. After Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads defeated King Charles I, times were hard for most people. War takes its toll and without men to farm the land, many of the surviving families lived on charity. Soldiers who survived often roamed the roads, living rough and stealing what they could. Horses were rare and very valuable. If Tom had really lived in that age, stealing from the rich and giving to the desperate poor, then he would have been quite the local hero.
So Tom and Winnie existed, as did Tom’s sweetheart, Betsy Paramore. Tom’s nemesis was Sheriff Bampfylde but all and any resemblance to the real Bampfylde family must be ignored – with apologies to any of his descendents. The real Bampfylde of the time wasn’t a popular man, but he wasn’t the evil guy I’ve depicted. William Rowe, John Bunker and Charlotte Johnson are all made up too, though there were escaped slaves in England at the time and many ran their own successful businesses. One of my favourites is George Africanus who ran an employment agency in Nottingham, and there’s more about him and others here.
My source for ‘Tom Faggus’ stories is Gerald Norris’s book “West Country Rogues and Outlaws” published by Devon Books in 1986. Mr Norris gives a great account of Tom Faggus and other great stories. If you want to read another version of Tom Faggus, try “Lorna Doone” by Richard Doddridge Blackmore, first published in 1869. Mr Blackmore’s wonderful characters include Tom Faggus, and the story is set in the 1660s, in the reign of King Charles II, so Tom is portrayed quite differently to the stereotypical highwayman we think of today. “Lorna Doone” is easy to find online now, and it’s a great read. The writing seems a little old-fashioned today but Mr Blackmore’s descriptions are wonderful, particularly his account of his young hero John Ridd’s first attempt at riding Tom’s spirited horse Winnie.
The stories of King Arthur and his knights have been told over and over again since about 600AD and over the centuries, the stories have changed, as each storyteller embellishes the tales with their own ideas. In the later Medieval times between about 1200AD and 1500AD, the stories of King Arthur and his court were so popular that they were re-told as though they lived in Medieval times. Medieval storytellers did the same with all their popular stories – ancient Greek heroes were drawn in Medieval clothes, St George became a knight in shining armour etc. And so we inherited images of King Arthur and his knights in shiny plated armour and Queen Guinevere and the ladies in tall pointed hats.
So when did King Arthur really exist? Well many historians thought that Arthur never existed, that someone just made him up, or maybe got him confused with other Kings or war-lords. However, there’s recently been a change of heart by some historians and they have found more evidence so it seems Arthur did exist, perhaps not as a King, but certainly an important figure in the British Isles, and likely living around 400AD, after the Romans left Britain. Now the problem is that they aren’t sure where he lived. Arthur’s ‘Camelot’ may have been in the West Country or it may have been amongst the Welsh-speaking tribes who once lived on the borders between England and Scotland. There’s still a lot more to discover about Arthur and for me that makes his stories even more interesting.
For King Arthur in ‘Spirit and the Magic Horse Box’ I’ve used the research from an historian called Alistair Moffat. I was delighted to discover in his book “Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms” that King Arthur may have been the leader of a tribe of ‘horse warriors’, his ancient Welsh-speaking tribes fighting the ferocious Pict tribes from the North and the Angles and Saxons invading from the south. By the way, the language Lancelot and others speak in the book is completely fictitious, roughly based on Welsh, simply because no-one really knows what they actually sounded like when they spoke.
In Moffat’s account, Arthur’s Camelot was surrounded by vast meadows of horses, ready to defend their lands. When Mr Moffat describes the extensive horse fort that was Arthur’s camp, I instantly thought ‘This is the exactly King Arthur I’m looking for the Magic Horsebox!’ But there are many other theories about King Arthur worth reading. The best histories are all about debate and re-discoveries.
The story of the old hag is inspired by Rosalind Kerven’s re-telling of an ancient legend in “English Fairy Tales and Legends”, published by the National Trust in 2008. Ms Kerven has produced a delightful book full of great pictures, and I was instantly drawn to her re-telling of ‘King Arthur and the Hideous Hag’ – I love any fairy tale with an old hag in it! I’ve read a great many stories about King Arthur over the years and this was one I’d never heard before, so dark and mysterious....