The Man with the Crop-Circle Hands

Firstly, some mildly saddening news. I will be away for the rest of the month – and unable, I’m afraid, to wander the dusty old ballrooms of the internet like a long-haired dog without a lead.

The good news is that, disaster notwithstanding, I will be returning a wiser man. Or to put it another way, a slightly more knowledgeable man. For yes: I am, once again, undertaking some research (older readers may recall my visit to Boston last September). This time my destination is Madrid, where I intend to get my wrinkled fingers around another stash of mysterious manuscripts relating to old European folk tales and their origins. Why Madrid? Why not?

Truth be told, I will not be looking at Spanish manuscripts; rather the papers of a Scottish man who once resided in Spain (after travelling through Eastern Europe on a donkey). That man’s name was Professor Seth Kinloch. More on him later.

Meanwhile, a little something on one of Kinloch’s favourite folktales: The Man with the Crop-Circle Hands. As usual, this story appears in many forms: some long, some short, some happy, some sad, some simple, some baffling. The vast majority of them, however, revolve around the same root. There is a man who wakes to find circles (much alike to crop-circles) on his hand. That’s the root. No more than that. Like the best folk tales, it is disarmingly simple: a jigsaw puzzle that looks, from the box, as though it should be easy to complete. Only fifty pieces? I’ll have that done in no time at all. Aha – but will you? Have you stopped to consider the shape of the pieces? Have you fully understood the nature of the completed picture?

Perhaps the most curious thing about The Man with the Crop-Circle Hands is the fact that it was written several centuries before crop-circles received any sort of popular recognition. Most scholars agree, in fact, that it predates crop-circles – and yet it clearly alludes to them, in a range of complex and bizarre ways. One of things I hope to find out is how and why this happens; how a thirteenth century Hungarian peasant was able to refer to a largely English phenomenon with origins in the seventeeth century. I also intend to discover why half the versions of this story feature a talking raven, and the other half don’t, and why one version contains a sub-plot involving a pig who sells his snout to the devil’s daughter.

Once I’ve done that, I may venture beyond the manuscript room and into the city of Madrid itself, perhaps to see this (about which my wife once dreamt).

My temporary absence from this blog will be, I’m sure, the source of much misery. On the other hand, it presents the noble reader (yes, I do mean you) with the perfect opportunity to engage in one of the world’s most dignified pastimes: re-reading. With that in mind, I have assembled a random gang of ancient articles, which you may or may not wish to cast a keen eye over.

From this blog: Jens Klofferson’s Short-shorts, a French folk-tale about bats, some divine mysteries for kids and a profound discussion of what happens when dog vomit meets Shakespeare.

And from the mothersite (Underneath the Bunker): my recollection of Tristan Sard and Robert Sevre, Michael Rosinith’s examination of Great Writers and Silly Obsessions, and Heidi Kohlenberg on the love-letters of George Forthwith-James.

For now, farewell. Feel more than free to leave comments wheresoever you wish. I will be happy to reply on my return.

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