Tom Hickathrift

Last updated
1894 illustration of Tom Hickathrift battling the Wisbech Giant Page 42 illustration in More English Fairy Tales (cropped).png
1894 illustration of Tom Hickathrift battling the Wisbech Giant

Tom Hickathrift (or sometimes Jack Hickathrift) is a legendary figure of East Anglian English folklore a character similar to Jack the Giant Killer. [1] He famously battled a giant, and is sometimes said to be a giant himself, though normally he is just represented as possessing giant-like strength. [2]

Contents

Life and adventures

Various stories of his exploits have grown up. In one version he is fabled to have been a simple labourer at the time of the Norman Conquest and to have killed a giant in the marsh at Tilney, Norfolk armed only with an axle-tree stuck into a cartwheel. When his makeshift weapon broke he grabbed a "lusty rawboned miller" and used him as a weapon instead. This exploit earned him the governorship of Thanet. [3] At the church in Walpole St Peter there is a depression in the ground, where it is said a cannonball landed after he threw it to scare away the devil (in this version Tom is a giant). [4]

In the fairy tale as told by Joseph Jacobs, Tom lived in marsh of the Isle of Ely and although initially lazy and gluttonous, he was prodigiously tall and it soon became apparent that he had the strength of twenty men. Various proofs of his strength are given: he carried twenty hundredweight of straw and a tree as if they weighed nothing, kicked a football so far that nobody could find it and turned the tables on four men who tried to rob him. He eventually got a job carting beer in Wisbech, but the long journey tired him, so one day he cut across the land of the Wisbech Giant. The giant took this badly and fetched his club to beat Tom, but at this point Tom took the axletree and cartwheel and fought the giant. After a furious battle the giant was killed. Tom took his land and was from then on held in esteem by the people of the area. [5]

Jacobs cites his source as the chapbook in the Pepysian Library from around 1660, edited by G. L. Gomme. Gomme's introduction states that there was evidence that an axle-tree and cartwheel had figured on a stone tomb in Tilney churchyard and local accounts associated these with a man named Hickifric who had withstood the tyranny of the lord of the manor. [5]

Origins

It has been suggested that he echoes the Norse god Thor (Anglo-Saxon: Þunor): they were both known for fighting giants, ate prodigiously and used a hammer-like weapon (there is even a suggestion that the "miller" and Thor's hammer Mjolnir come from the same source). [6]

Cultural legacy

He is mentioned in Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Lavengro by George Borrow, although Borrow places his exploits as far north as Lincolnshire.

The elaborate moulded plasterwork (pargeting) decorating the Old Sun Inn in Saffron Walden, Essex features his battle against the Wisbech Giant. There are still references to Hickathrift in the Wisbech area: Hickathrift Farm, Hickathrift House and Hickathrift Corner exist. The large indentation known as Hickathrift's Washbasin has however been built over. A large stone cross remains in Tilney All Saints churchyard, thought to be the last of three that were collectively known as Hickathrift's Candlesticks. [7]

A character named Hiccafrith, based on Tom, appears in Marcus Pitcaithly's Hereward trilogy.

In the Wisbech area naughty children were told "Old Tom Hickathrift'll get you" and an old rhyme was still well known in the 1920s.

He ate a cow and a calf,
An ox and a half,
The church and the steeple,
And then all the people,
And still had not enough. [8]

From time to time the story of Tom is reenacted, as occurred in Wisbech in 2016 as part of a HLF funded project. [9]

The folktale features in the Enid Porter project. [10]

The Hickathrift website contains a children's play, poem and other material drawing on the legend. [11]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nursery rhyme</span> Traditional song or poem for children

A nursery rhyme is a traditional poem or song for children in Britain and many other countries, but usage of the term dates only from the late 18th/early 19th century. The term Mother Goose rhymes is interchangeable with nursery rhymes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Three Little Pigs</span> Fairy tale

"The Three Little Pigs" is a fable about three pigs who build their houses of different materials. A Big Bad Wolf blows down the first two pigs' houses which are made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig's house that is made of bricks. The printed versions of this fable date back to the 1840s, but the story is thought to be much older. The earliest version takes place in Dartmoor with three pixies and a fox before its best known version appears in English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs in 1890, with Jacobs crediting James Halliwell-Phillipps as the source. In 1886, Halliwell-Phillipps had published his version of the story, in the fifth edition of his Nursery Rhymes of England, and it included, for the first time in print, the now-standard phrases "not by the hair of my chiny chin chin" and "I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Thumb</span> Character in English folklore

Tom Thumb is a character of English folklore. The History of Tom Thumb was published in 1621 and was the first fairy tale printed in English. Tom is no bigger than his father's thumb, and his adventures include being swallowed by a cow, tangling with giants, and becoming a favourite of King Arthur. The earliest allusions to Tom occur in various 16th-century works such as Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft (1584), where Tom is cited as one of the supernatural folk employed by servant maids to frighten children. Tattershall in Lincolnshire, England, reputedly has the home and grave of Tom Thumb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack the Giant Killer</span> Cornish fairy tale and legend

"Jack the Giant Killer" is a Cornish fairy tale and legend about a young adult who slays a number of bad giants during King Arthur's reign. The tale is characterised by violence, gore and blood-letting. Giants are prominent in Cornish folklore, Breton mythology and Welsh Bardic lore. Some parallels to elements and incidents in Norse mythology have been detected in the tale, and the trappings of Jack's last adventure with the Giant Galigantus suggest parallels with French and Breton fairy tales such as Bluebeard. Jack's belt is similar to the belt in "The Valiant Little Tailor", and his magical sword, shoes, cap, and cloak are similar to those owned by Tom Thumb or those found in Welsh and Norse mythology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arthur Rackham</span> English book illustrator

Arthur Rackham was an English book illustrator. He is recognised as one of the leading figures during the Golden Age of British book illustration. His work is noted for its robust pen and ink drawings, which were combined with the use of watercolour, a technique he developed due to his background as a journalistic illustrator.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blunderbore</span> Giant of Cornish folklore

Blunderbore is a giant of Cornish and English folklore. A number of folk and fairy tales include a giant named Blunderbore, most notably "Jack the Giant Killer". The stories usually associate him with the area of Penwith.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asgard (comics)</span> Fictional realm in the Marvel Comics universe

Asgard is a fictional realm and its capital city appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, the realm first appeared in Journey into Mystery #85. Based on the realm of the same name from Germanic mythology, Asgard is home to the Asgardians and other beings adapted from Norse mythology. It features prominently in stories that follow the Marvel Comics superhero Thor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ring a Ring o' Roses</span> Folk song

"Ring a Ring o' Roses", "Ring a Ring o' Rosie", or "Ring Around the Rosie", is a nursery rhyme, folk song and playground singing game. Descriptions first emerge in the mid-19th century, but are reported as dating from decades before, and similar rhymes are known from across Europe. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7925.

<i>Phantastes</i> 1858 fantasy novel by George MacDonald

Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women is a fantasy novel by Scottish writer George MacDonald published in London in 1858.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">This Is the House That Jack Built</span> British nursery rhyme and cumulative tale

"This Is the House That Jack Built" is a popular English nursery rhyme and cumulative tale. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20854. It is Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index type 2035.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ulik</span> Fictional character appearing in Marvel comics

Ulik is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He usually appears as an adversary of Thor. Ulik was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appears in Thor #137.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Jacobs</span> Australian folklorist, historian and writer (1854–1916)

Joseph Jacobs was a New South Welsh-born British-Jewish folklorist, translator, literary critic, social scientist, historian and writer of English literature who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Brave Little Tailor</span> German fairy tale

"The Brave Little Tailor" or "The Valiant Little Tailor" or "The Gallant Tailor" is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. "The Brave Little Tailor" is a story of Aarne–Thompson Type 1640, with individual episodes classified in other story types.

The Folklore Society (FLS) is a registered charity under English law based in London, England for the study of folklore. It shares premises with the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fee-fi-fo-fum</span> Historical quatrain

"Fee-fi-fo-fum" is the first line of a historical quatrain famous for its use in the classic English fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk". The poem, as given in Joseph Jacobs' 1890 rendition, is as follows:

This is a list of 762 books by Enid Blyton (1897–1968), an English children's writer who also wrote under the pseudonym of Mary Pollock. She was one of the most successful children's storytellers of the 20th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Otesánek</span> 19th C. Czech fairy tale

Otesánek is a Czech fairy tale created by Karel Jaromír Erben in the 19th century which tells the story of a fearsome and constantly hungry, living log of wood. In the story there are elements of narrative that are similar to more famous fairy tales such as The Adventures of Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood; despite this, the themes present in Otesánek appear nonetheless to be quite different from most other European fairy tales, with a particularly ambiguous moral which leaves a lot of room to subjective interpretation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack and the Beanstalk</span> English fairy tale closely associated with the tale of "Jack the Giant Killer"

"Jack and the Beanstalk" is an English fairy tale. It appeared as "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean" in 1734 and as Benjamin Tabart's moralized "The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk" in 1807. Henry Cole, publishing under pen name Felix Summerly, popularized the tale in The Home Treasury (1845), and Joseph Jacobs rewrote it in English Fairy Tales (1890). Jacobs' version is most commonly reprinted today, and is believed to be closer to the oral versions than Tabart's because it lacks the moralizing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dorothy M. Wheeler</span>

Dorothy Muriel Wheeler (1891–1966) was an English Illustrator. She studied at the Blackheath School of Art, where her principal media were watercolour and ink. She designed children's book illustrations, postcards and comic strips.

Rene Mable Neighbor Cloke was a British illustrator and watercolorist best known for her prolific output of artwork for children's books and greeting cards. Her work often displayed a whimsical quality, with frequent subjects being flora and fauna, pixies, fairies, sprites, and elves.

References

  1. Halliwell, James Orchard. Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales. London: John Russell Smith. 1849. p. 81.
  2. Monger, Garry (2020). "Giants and Dwarves". The Fens: Wisbech & Surrounding. 23: 18.
  3. Brewer's Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Helicon Publishing. 1992. p. 499. ISBN   1-85986-286-1.
  4. Barbara Holmes (July 2006). "Fenland Family History Society: Walpole St. Peter Church" . Retrieved 30 October 2006.
  5. 1 2 Jacobs, Joseph, ed. (1894). More English Fairy Tales. New York: G. P Putnam's and Sons.
  6. Lina Eckenstein (1906). Comparative Studies In Nursery Rhymes. London: Duckworth and Co. p.  54.
  7. Peter Jeevar (1993). Thomas Hickathrift (Giant). Ketton Publishing. ISBN   1-898006-00-8.
  8. Enid Porter (1969). Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  9. "Pupils enjoy a giant". Wisbech Standard. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  10. "Tom Hickathrift". Enid Porter Project. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  11. "Hickathrift". Hickathrift. Retrieved 13 May 2022.

Bibliography