Thursday 31 October 2019

Talk to the hand

Each week Prof Bromfield and Dr Clattercut roll up their sleeves and plunge into the mail sacks that have arrived at the Royal Mythological Society's offices. (Dame Sepia wisely stays out of it.)

Dear gents

I’m not one for fancy words so I’ll come right to point. I’m the gamekeeper for the Earl of Derby at his Whitley estate. Few days back, there were a right exodus from the woods up by his coverts. Squirrels and birds and mice and frogs, insects too, all come pouring out. You’d think whole forest were aflame. And dead quiet after. I went on me own to take a look, none of the beaters would stir an inch, and you’ve never heard the like of that silence. Right in the heart of wood all the trees were down like skittles, and in the midst were a great gigantic hand, knuckles like boulders and each nail as big as a coal cellar door. Hairs on it like barbed wire. The old dog would have nowt to do with it, no fool him.

It’s just the hand, like, no blood or bone showing. You’d mark it clay but for the plain fact it’s warm flesh. And it lies there, cupped with the palm down, but not limp like a dead ‘un. More like your own hand if it were resting on the arm of a chair, now and then moving just a bit, a twitch or a scratch.

Well, there’s no shooting to be done while it’s there. No wildlife will come within a mile of it, you see, except for adders. And I can’t think what it’d take to move the thing. Any notions?

Yours, Ben Gummer, Great Heck, Yorkshire

Dr Clattercut replies: This is a curiosity indeed. From the scale of the extremity, I think we can surmise it belongs to a giant, god or titan. It is unfortunate, Mr Gummer, that you omit to say whether it is a right or left hand. The god Tyr, of course, famously had his right hand bitten off by the Fenris wolf, whereby the Old Norse word for the wrist was “wolf-joint”.

Prof BromfieldIt would be a bit chewed up in that case, wouldn’t it? Not to mention that Fenris swallowed the hand, so you’d expect to see industrial quantities of wolf poo around. As Mr Gummer specifically says the wrist is clean of blood, I take it to be more in the nature of a supernatural dismemberment. Didn’t the Egyptian god Set use magic to sunder Osiris’s body into fourteen parts?

Dr ClattercutBut none of those parts, I think, would logically turn up now in a wood in Yorkshire. More likely, I feel, the hand is a fragment of one of the giants Gog and Magog, who were disjected by Brutus of Troy when he founded Britain. This could also explain why snakes, which owe their allegiance to older gods, are comfortable in the hand’s presence.

Prof BromfieldAs to the practicalities: it’s obviously too big to get on a cart, even if Mr Gummer could induce the horses to approach it. So what about tickling it with a feather. It’d take a bit of patience, but that way it should be possible to get the hand to twitch and convulse enough to drag itself out of the woods.

Dr ClattercutAnd, always assuming it didn’t flick its tormentor away, unless you would take the trouble to tickle it all the way to the sea that would still only result in a giant hand blocking the road. Personally I’d advise putting a fence around the woods and moving the coverts elsewhere. No doubt it’s a bother, but it’s the lesser of two bothers.