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Devil's Dyke


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St Dunstan (c. 909—988) archbishop of Canterbury

 

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A deep gash in the north slopes of the Downs near Hove, East Sussex, is said to have been dug by the Devil, who wanted to let the sea through to drown low-lying villages with many churches. He had to finish the work in one night, but was tricked into thinking dawn had come, and flew off. The first recorded account, a humorous poem, says an old woman deceived him by letting a candle shine through a sieve like the rising sun, and making her cockerel crow (William Hamper, Gentleman's Magazine 80 (1810), 513–14); later literary variants give the credit to St Cuthman or St Dunstan, but in oral tellings the old woman is the usual heroine. The tale is typical of the international theme of the Devil being duped, often by weak or marginalized humans, and danger narrowly averted (Simpson, 1983).


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