St Dunstan


St Dunstan
(909-88)
   Dunstan, Abbot of *Glastonbury Abbey and later Archbishop of Canterbury, played a major role in both Church and State matters, and when young was a fine craftsman in painting, embroidery, and metal-working. Within ten years of his death he was regarded as a national saint. In folklore, he is remembered for his conflict with the *Devil (a 12th-century story); this is sometimes said to have happened at Glaston-bury, sometimes at Mayfield (Sussex). The tale goes that one day when Dunstan was working at his forge making a chalice, a lovely girl arrived and began tempting him, whereupon he gripped her nose with red-hot tongs, and she turned back into a demon, whom the saint dragged round the smithy by his nose. A convent school at Mayfield still shows medieval tongs, alleged to be the very ones. Various modern elaborations include the idea that the Devil cooled his burnt nose in the springs at Tunbridge Wells (Kent) or the Roaring Spring near Mayfield; that he flew off with the tongs still in place, till they dropped off at Tong-dean (Sussex); and that he tried to destroy Mayfield, but was foiled by Dunstan's inventive new use for *horseshoes - i.e. fixing them to doors. Hilaire Belloc's The Four Men (1911) makes Dunstan the hero of the *Devil's Dyke legend.
   See Farmer, 1978: 136-9 for the facts; Westwood, 1985: 96-7, and Simpson, 1973: 63-4, for the legends.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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