robbers


robbers
   Local oral history often preserved reasonably accurate memories of the crimes of robbers, *smugglers, and *highwaymen for several generations, especially if the inns they frequented and the *gallows and gibbets where they died were still standing. Yet there was always a tendency for tales to grow in the telling. Sometimes the rogue is recalled as a hero for his physical strength, sometimes for his clever tricks to outwit the law: stolen sheep hidden in a cider barrel, horses shod backwards, smuggled goods carried in coffins, etc. The opposite tendency was to see the robber as a villain who met an appropriate fate, as in the story of the *Hangman's Stone.
   There are several tales from Victorian times, presented as true, in which a robber gains entry to a house in disguise, or hidden in a box or bundle left there by an accomplice, or by using a *Hand of Glory; a young servant-girl, alone in the house, contrives to wound him, put him to flight, or even kill him by pouring boiling fat down his throat as he sleeps, or applying a red-hot poker (Briggs, 1970-1: A. i. 307; B. i. 171-2, 183-4; Charles Dickens, 'The Holly Tree' (1855)).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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