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King Herla


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Traditional early British king whose story is told in the Latin text De Nugis Curialum by Walter Map (c.1140–c.1209). One day, while rising, King Herla meets a dwarfish king with goat's hooves who invites him-self to Herla's wedding and bids Herla come to his in one year from the day. When Herla goes underground through the mouth of a great cave to the king's realm, he is given a tiny bloodhound and told not to put it down until the dog leaps down of his own accord. Returning to his own kingdom, Herla asks an old shepherd about the welfare of his queen, but the old man cannot understand him. Two hundred years have passed, and the Saxon tongue has supplanted the British in the land of the Britons. The old shepherd, however, has heard of King Herla, who was thought to have disappeared long ago. Some of Herla's retainers leap to the ground to see what has happened, but they instantly vanish in a puff of dust. Herla and a small band are still thought to wander in England, waiting for the tiny dog to leave his hand. Although Herla's story is probably of Germanic origin (the Saxon-derived term Herlethingi denotes a phantom train of soldiers bearing sumptuous gifts across the countryside), it is often compared with the Irish adventures of Oisín in Tír na nÓg. International tale type: 766 (variant); folk motifs: C521; C927.2; C984; EE501.1.7.1; F241.1.0.1; F377; F378.1; F379.1.

See Walter Map De Nugis Curialum, ed. F. Tupper and M. B. Ogle (London, 1924).

Subjects: Religion.


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