Dragons in folklore are is well known throughout the world, with similar legends being heard from Britain and Europe to China and America. Likewise, their history can be traced from Mesopotamia several Millenia ago but, despite the differences in the individual accounts, one thing is common, the comparison of Dragons with some sort of Lizard or Snake, perhaps representing the untamed forces of nature as they are often found in places where people cannot or darenot venture.
In memory of one of them (but, above all, its slayer) is the Slayer’s Slab, a medieval gravestone that, though lacking an inscription detailing the tomb’s occupant, is attributed to a local dragonslayer who rid the village of the fearsome dragon, the so-called Knucker of Lyminster.
Originally found in the graveyard of St. Mary Magdalene church in the sleepy village of Lyminster, West Sussex, England, the slab was now moved inside the church so as to prevent other weathering.
The Knucker, named for the Saxon nicor, or water monster, that can be found also in the poem Beowulf, is an aquatic dragon-like creature, said to have its lair in the nearby pool, not by chance named the Knucker Hole.
Thought to be bottomless, this hole swallowed a cord of six of the church’s bell ropes that had been tied together, and still its bottom was not found (actually it is around 9 meters deep, as discovered by divers).
It is now on private land and inaccessible throughout most of the year, in the past however the water from its pool was said to cure all ills- if one was brave enough to get so close to the Knucker’s abode, that is.
And the water is not only famed for its medicinal value, but also for the fact it never freezes, with some that say this is because of the fact it is fed by a fast-moving underground spring, shielded from freezing air, while others believed this was due to the warmth of the creature’s fiery breath.
In any case, the church seems to embrace its link to this piece of local folklore.
Beside the slab, in fact, visitors can see a stained-glass depiction of the unusual slaying of the Knucker: in fact, in this ornate illustration, a figure is shown handing a small pie to a dragon-like beast.
This is a snapshot from the story of Jim (Pulk, Puttock, or other names depending the story you heard) and his cunning culinary plan.
The Dragon was a rampaging beast, killing livestock and humans (though some say only fair damsels), much to the annoyance of the locals.
Though a water monster, it is said that the beast could fly and terrorised the countryside for miles around. The beast aggravated the King of Sussex himself to such an extent that he offered the hand of his daughter to anyone who could kill the monster.
As a result, renowned knights and noblemen came from around the country to try, but all ultimately failed.
That is, until a local farmer by the name of Jim, stepped up. Although not as skilled in swordsmanship as those who had come before him, he had the power of wits.
Gathering a great number of poison berries, he baked a pie fit for a dragon, placing the fatal fruits within its center, and carting the cunning creation to the Knucker Hole.
As the aroma of the pie wafted into the deep hole, the Knucker’s hunger grew, until he rose from its depths and ate the entire display, pie, cart, and horses included.
However, quickly affected by the toxic treat, the Knucker breathed its last fiery breath and Jim removed its head with his farming scythe.
Triumphant, he made his way to the local Six Bells Inn with Knucker’s head in hand.
Met with cheers and praise, he was amply supplied with drinks by the thankful locals before suddenly keeling over and falling down dead.
As he had been drinking pint upon pint, Jim had wiped his grinning lips with hands coated in dragon blood and poison berry juice one too many times and so met the same fate as his recent adversary, as the Knucker’s disembodied head watched on.
Jim was later buried in the local church and, in honor and commemoration of his actions saving the town from the terrifying Knucker, it is said the town commissioned the Slayer’s Slab to lay over his tomb.
The Sompting Estate, who now owns the land on which the Knucker Hole is found, occasionally carry out tours, but unfortunately at any other time the Knucker Hole is inaccessible and fenced off for, though the Knucker is no more, due its depth and sheer walls that make it a danger.
Accessible to the public year-round however is The Six Bells, the pub in which Knuckerslayer Jim celebrated his triumph (but met his fate).
Images from web – Google Research