The Legend Of The Friar's Heel

The devil, so the story runs, determined one day to undertake some

great and stupendous work, for the like of which he is famous

throughout the world. In this devil we can still discern the

Scandinavian giant legend, which in later Christian times became

devil legends. The work had to be great, puzzling, and amazing to

all beholders, for as the Wiltshire story-teller adds, he had let an

exciseman slip through his finge
s. In the course of his wanderings

up and down the earth, he had noticed some huge stones in the garden

of an old crone in Ireland; and he determined, therefore, to transport

them to the stoneless waste of Salisbury Plain as being the most

unlikely spot in which to find such things. There yet remained the old

woman's permission to be obtained before he could commence his labour.

His request was at first met with a flat negative, but eventually the

devil so played upon her cupidity, by the assurance that she could

have as much money as she could count and add up while he was engaged

in the work of removal, that she readily gave her consent. As usual

the devil had the best of the bargain, for he, knowing her powers of

arithmetic to be but scanty, handed her a number of pieces of money,

whose value was fourpence halfpenny, and twopence three-farthings.

The dame had barely managed to add the first two coins together, when

the devil called upon her to stop, and looking round she saw the

stones were all removed, and had been tied with a withe band into a

neat bundle which was slung upon his shoulder. Away flew the devil

towards Salisbury Plain, but as he sped onwards the withe cut deep

into his shoulder, so heavy were the stones. He endured it as long as

he could, but just towards the end of his journey, while passing over

the valley of the Avon, he winced, and re-adjusted his burden; in so

doing one of the stones fell down and plunged into the river at

Bulford, where it remains at the present day, as witness to the

veracity of this legend. Right glad to be rid of his burden when he

reached the Plain, the devil made haste to set up the stones, and so

delighted was he with the result of his first efforts, and with the

progress he was making, that he cried aloud with glee, Now I'll

puzzle all men, for no one knows, nor ever will know, how these stones

have come here. Unluckily this bold boast was overheard by a holy

friar walking near, who straightway replied in right Wiltshire

fashion, That's more than thee can tell; and then realising who the

builder was, turned and fled for his life. Enraged at his discovery by

the friar, and perceiving that his scheme had failed, the devil, who

had just taken up a stone to poise it upon its two uprights, hurled

it at the holy man, and struck him on the uplifted heel as he made

haste to run. The friar's sanctity was evidently greater than his

personal courage, for it was the stone and not the friar which

suffered most from the impact. Even to-day the huge impress of the

Friar's heel is to be seen upon the stone. At this juncture the sun

rose, and the devil had perforce to relinquish his task. This accounts

for the present scattered appearance of the stones.

Turning from fancy to fact, the word Hele, from which the stone takes

its name, is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb helan = to

conceal, and is so applied to the stone because it conceals the sun

at rising on the day of the Summer Solstice.