Weaving the Midlands Myths

The story of Teon is woven around two myths involving the seventh century King Wulfhere of Mercia. The main one concerns the murder of two little boys, Ruffin and Wulfhad. The legend says that these were the sons of Wulfhere who brought them up as pagans. They liked to hunt and one day they were pursuing a white hart when one of the boys had his hand steadied by Saint Chad. Chad taught them the ways of Christianity during secret daily visits, unbeknown to their father, Wulfhere.

Meanwhile, Wulfhere’s military leader, Werbode, had asked to marry Werburgh, Wulfhere’s daughter, but she had turned him down. As an act of revenge, Werbode followed Ruffin and Wulfhad and reported back to their father. He also claimed that the boys were planning to overthrow him.

Wulfhere, famous for his temper, immediately killed both boys. Ermenilda buried the children and covered their bodies with stones, giving the name ‘Stone’ to the town in Staffordshire where they were buried. The king regretted his actions and became Christian. He also killed Werbode for his trouble-making.

There is no evidence that Wulfhere had two sons of this name, let alone him murdering them. The idea of him being pagan is also not supported by evidence, especially considering how many Christian monasteries he patronised. If he had been a pagan, Bede would have relished the story of him killing his boys and documented it in his book The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. There are several explanations of this legend and I made up this one for Teon.

The second myth has only appeared once, on the back of a cigarette card in the Churchman Legends of Britain series, produced in the early twentieth century in the USA. The card reads that Wulfhere took Redwald the Bold captive during the invasion of the Isle of Wight. Edith of Stenbury begged Wulfhere to save his life, which he did. This act gave him the title of Wulfhere the Kind Hearted. The sheer lack of any other record of this makes it probably untrue, but it is a pleasant tale nonetheless.

  Teon is available in digital and print formats from Amazon. *From 16-18 March the ebook is reduced to £0.99 (Amazon UK)

© 2017 A.J. Sefton. All rights reserved.

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