Witch, a Hand of Glory and a Gallows

Episode 10: The Hand of Glory

Now open, lock! To the Dead Man’s knock!

Featuring the pug!

A shorter than usual episode telling a spooky tale. Originally released as a Halloween bonus episode, this story from Kent is not strictly about Halloween but does feature a host of seasonal favourites: Black magic, dismembered body parts, murder and a pug.

Wherever you are in the world and whatever time of year it is I’d still like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Halloween! It’s always Halloween somewhere. Even if that’s just in our hearts.

And there they stand, That murderous band, Lit by the light of the GLORIOUS HAND,

The Ingoldsby Legends, Thomas Ingoldsby
Story in summary (Warning – contains spoilers!)

The story in brief, without the detail or discussion – not a transcript.

If you’ve already listened and just want a refresh, only want the bare bones of the story, or really don’t care about spoilers then please do click below to read on…

The Hand of Glory

The Ingoldsby legends

Hand of Glory
Hands of Glory are a popular figure for illustration

As discussed in the Episode the source of these is the Ingoldsby legends (1840) – a collection of comic pastiches of folkloric tales and Saints stories mostly told in a doggerel rhyme and with an effected pomposity: using grandiloquent language full of classical allusions and biblical references.

This combination makes them both intensely silly and down right stupid at times, and yet also kind of high brow.

They were supposedly written by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, a kind of nom-de-plume, or perhaps more accurately just a character, à la lemony snicket, with the real author being Richard Harris Barham.

On a much more serious note I do need to point out, as is also briefly discussed in the episode, there are certainly some sections of the book that are plain offensive – particularly noticeably is anti-Semitism in the retelling of a medieval story. Does this mean we shouldn’t enjoy the rest of the stories today?

I think an argument could certainly be made for it, though it’s hardly unique for the time. Obviously I’ve decided to tell this story despite this. I might be wrong to do so, and I might change my mind on this in time. It is a bit of a beam in the eye when it comes to this overwise amusing book.

Hand of Glory, Whitby museum. No Candles.
An actual hand of glory at Whitby museum

Now the Inglodsby legends were wildly popular. Really incredibly so. For decades. Now that I know of their existence I can’t help but notice that seemingly every second book shop in the land has at least one, but usually multiple, copies. And I do kind of get the appeal.

Given their fame and their fantastic themes they were a popular topic for illustrators so lots of weird and wonderful images exist floating around the internet, by some of the biggest names in illustration: Arthur Rackham (of every fairy tale book ever fame) and Sir John Tenniel (of Alice in Wonderland fame) amongst them.

There are reams and Rheims (read it to get the pun) that could be written about the legends. And indeed have been by people far wiser than I, so I’ll stop there and just leave you with perhaps my favourite ridiculously-stretching-all-credulity-genuinely-just-awful set of rhymes from the entire book. No context needed:

“Now David Pryce
Had one darling vice;
Remarkably partial to anything nice,
Nought that was good to him came amiss,
Whether to eat, or to drink, or to kiss!
Especially ale —
If it was not too stale
I really believe he’d have emptied a pail;
Not that in Wales
They talk of their Ales;
To pronounce the word they make use of might trouble you,
Being spelt with a C, two Rs, and a W.”

Just a few illustrations from various editions of the Ingoldsby legends

Halloween Pug

When I wrote the original brief description of this episode I included a ‘joke’, if that, indicating that pugs, though featuring in this story, were not very halloween like. But because of the internet I subsequently found out that happily I was very very wrong.

Enjoy this Halloweeny pug, at least the first sketch of it dressed as a ghost, which rather tickled me.

Selected Sources

  • The Ingoldsby Legends – This is it for this one. I didn’t do a lot of reading around this, or look at other detailed sources

Musical credits for Episode 10: The Hand of Glory

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