A storytelling and folklore podcast.
Telling some of the famous and not so famous British and Irish myths, legends and folktales, in no particular order.
Coming direct from South Yorkshire it is currently regularish, and will feature all of the above and whatever other miscellaneous snippets take my fancy.
Presented by Graeme. Website at http://www.TalesofBritainandIreland.com
This episode we take a look at the surprising mythical origins of Britain. Without giving too much away this turns out to feature Syria, giants, a host of badass princesses, a lot of murder and many other decidedly unexpected elements. It’s the history of Britain like you’ve never heard it before. Musical credits, sources and more at https://talesofbritainandireland.comepisode-7-origins-of-britain-1-albina/ #myth #mythology #folklore #legends
Justified Murder Princesses…..
.. and that’s just the start of it.
This episode we take a look at the surprising mythical origins of Britain. Without giving too much away this turns out to feature Syria, giants, a host of badass princesses, a lot of murder and many other decidedly unexpected and adult elements.
I know I should love all my stories equally but this is one of my absolute favourites. I distinctly recall reading it and going “what the f**k?” on multiple occasions.
It’s fair to say this story didn’t go where I was expecting it to. No hero’s journey here: but honestly if all stories followed a plot like this instead of the heroes journey. Well I think the world would be better for it.
Content Warning: adult themes.
“for-as-meche as myn name is Albyne, y wil þat þis land be called Albyon, after myn owne name”– The Brut, or the Chronicles of England
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 Origin of Britain and Albina
Thousands of years ago, at some remote time in history, a group of heavily armoured men are making their way inland in which they have recently arrived.
They are for the most part regular looking men. Except for one who towers above them all. Dressed in much the same shining armour as them but scaled up to cover his literally giant form. Tens of metres tall.
From the other direction emerging from the trees with great roars come a band of crude tool wielding misshapen horrors, towering above all the men and looking eye to eye with the giant. Humanoid, gargantuan and pissed off. As they run they pick up boulders and trees and fling them at the armoured men.
But this highly trained military force is not for being intimated. Their commander gives his own order to attack. soldiers charges arrows fly and the two very different forces come together in a great clash of arms.
And freeze-frame there.
There are two stories to tell of the origin of each side here. We’ll start with the monstrosities.
We plunge back even further into the mists of time, and shift focus to the cradle of civilisation: the middle east, Syria in particular, though a Syria of far greater extent than the modern nation.
Syria is really the only show on the road this far back in history and its ruler, Emperor Diocletian, has extended his power over all other inhabited lands. Which wasn’t too many.
While being the Emperor of the whole world definitely had its perks he was but one man, and he had to play the game of statecraft to ensure he remained in his position. Keep the right people beneath him happy and loyal, get rid of the rest without upsetting anyone.
But luckily the Emperor had what every provincial governor, duke and military commander through the ages needed – daughters of marriageable age. Please do feel appropriately repulsed dear reader.
The Emperor had been rather blessed in that department – apparently they were all the daughters of his one wife, but we can treat that claim with the scepticism it deserves. Particularly as all 33 of his daughters came of age at around the same time.
A large festival was organised with all the great and the good in attendance. Or at the least the wealthy bachelors. Bringing tribute for the Emperor and hoping to return with one of his daughter’s hands in marriage.
And so it went – after days of feasting Diocletian chose husbands for his daughters. Off they were sent from the palace with these strangers, there to live out the rest of their days.
For Diocletian it was business. For the Princesses… torn away from everything they knew.. It was a time of terrible trauma.
At that didn’t stop at the festival. Given there are thirty three of them let’s focus on one – the eldest, called Albina.
Separated from the sisters she had known for so long she grew both sad and angry in the home of her new husband. She despised the man. He wanted her to obey his every command, to play her role of good wife in his little fiefdom, but she was having none of it and at every turn asserted her own independence. He chastised her and when that failed he beat her. But still she did not give him the obedience and affection he thought was his right.
So he took the next logical step: he wrote a strongly worded letter to the Emperor about it. As if he was contacting customer services to complain about some defective goods he’d had delivered.
Unbeknownst to Albina or her husband a similar situation was playing out in every household a Princess had been forced to, and soon the Emperor found himself flooded with letters from disgruntled husbands.
If you think this might make him see the error of his ways then I admire your optimism but unfortunately I have some bad news for you.
The furious Emperor summoned all the daughters back to the Palace with their abductors/abusers/husbands. He treated the men to a fine banquet and entertainment and he gave his daughters a rage filled dressing down, and told them that from now on they would become slaves to their husbands… or face his wrath.
Later that day the sister’s found themselves together in the old rooms they had occupied during happier times in the palace. While the reunion was for the worst of reasons it was still a reunion, and having been wrenched apart for so long the Princesses were delighted to see each other again and for each to discover she had not been alone in her suffering.
That evening they gathered together for one final time to say tearful goodbyes away from their father and their husbands.
This was the only chance she’d have to change this.
Albina spoke up: “We are not slaves: we are free people, princesses and we should not stand for this!”
“But what can we do against them Sister? You heard father.”
There came a chorus of agreement.
Albina had an answer for this though:
“Tonight we are expected to go back to the rooms where are husbands lodge here. Well let us go back, to the beds where they expect us to be broken. Let us act this part, for a little while. Let them think our father’s words have destroyed our wills like their fists could not. Wait until they sleep.
We all know this Palace well, know where we can find a sharp knife. Let us wait until they sleep, produce that knife and then cut the throats of these men who would beat and rape us.”
There was a stunned silence in the room.
“We can act together – we can show everyone that we will not stand for this, and damn the consequences. It’s this or a life of pain and servitude. And I’d rather be dead than that.”
And as Albina spoke there was a sense of purpose slowly spreading through the women. Each sibling drawing strength from the assent of the others. A nodding began, a growing atmosphere of grim determination and resolve filled the room.
The women went to get knives.
And the plan went exactly as discussed. Knives slashed through throats throughout the palace. No sister deviated from the plan, no one failed.
That next morning blood spattered Princesses were found in their rooms looking down in shock and triumph at the bodies of their abusers. Thirty three noble bastards lay dead in the palace.
The exact turn of events next doesn’t need going in to in great detail. The Princesses were arrested, and went willingly. There was an uproar across the country. But exactly what should be done was in doubt: despite the awfulness of the crimes the Emperor executing his own daughters would also be seen to transgress against the moral code of the society.
A clever solution was hit upon: the women would not be killed. They’d just be exiled. Exiled by being put to sea in a boat with no oars or sails, and no food. But just exiled.
The sentence was carried out in quick time and soon the Princesses were cast adrift.
The shore of their homeland receded into the distance.
Their deaths seemed certain now but still Albina did not regret what she had done. They went together now to meet their quick doom. It would not be eked out over slow decades.
Hunger and thirst took a hold of them after days on the sea. One by one the women the women were overwhelmed, lay down and waited for the end to come.
But fate had other ideas.
At first fierce storms whipped up and huge waves crashed around the vessel pushing it further and further away from shore. But it did not capsize. And when the storm died down they were in waters unknown to them, or indeed anyone else. And gentle breezes pushed them onwards until the ship was fortuitously carried right up on to the shore of a far-distant land.
Gradually the sisters woke, to find to their astonishment that they were alive and that fresh water and food were in easy supply.
And after that things got rapidly better for the Princesses.
The land was an uninhabited island, and a virtual paradise for them. There were fruits, nuts and berries, rivers ran thick with fishes and animals that had never been hunted before made easy prey.
They wandered this bountiful country, amazed at how good the gods had been to them. And if it wasn’t clear enough where they were already Albina named it after herself (with agreement of course): And so it became known as Albion.
The Princesses built themselves a society. A free place far away from the horrors they’d experienced before. A contented, simple, utopia.
And it could have ended there. But for one thing. Lust.
For all alone apart from each other the women began to ache for the euphemistic “company of men”.
And quite by chance it turned out while Albion was free of human inhabitants it was populated by something else. Though they kept themselves invisible most the time the forests were thick with Incubi.
Whenever a woman was overcome with lust the Demons would appear to her in the guise of men, and offer to satisfy her wildest desires and fantasies. And the Princesses took to accepting these offers, with enthusiasm.
And if you are thinking: well this just makes it more like a paradise, you may well be correct. The Princesses certainly seemed to think so. It seemed their lives were now totally complete. But it turned out there were certain consequences to engaging in profane diabolical sex. And those consequences were the children produced of such unions.
For a while they appeared almost as normal human babies, no obvious trace of their unusual parentage, but this changed rapidly as they grew, and grew and grew, far beyond normal humans.
They became creatures of enormous sizes, and soon Albina and her sister’s found themselves living among their own gargantuan and increasingly hideous children.
And this is the last record we have for Albina and her sisters. They never went home and no one pursued them. Despite their strange children I don’t think it’s too unrealistic to imagine them happy.
But of the children there is a bit more to tell… for the line of giants they and the incubi had parented continued. For generations Albion was populated by these monstrous descendants of Albina.
But over time, due to their violent nature and possibly to the quite considerable levels of inbreeding the giant population had dwindled so that by the time of the prologue of the story today began there were only twenty four giants left, with the biggest and ugliest to lead them.
His name was Gogmagog. And it was he who was leading the charge against the invaders.
And to find out about those invaders check out the next story in this series – Brutus.
To be continued…
And listen to the conclusion:
The link between Troy and London revealed. All by way of a murder packed cruise around the Mediterranean with everyone’s favourite cuddly ‘hero’…
For such a promising theme: murder, weird sex, the whole kit and cabadoole, the pictures I found of Albina in medieval manuscripts were somewhat underwhelming to say the least.
And that is not because of the form! Medieval manuscripts do weird, wonderful and totally off the wall crazy very well indeed, but alas not in the case of this story.
To try and re-address the balance slightly a friend of mine did some art work inspired by this tale done for me and the podcast.
I hope you enjoy their interpretation of the story as much as I do.
And for comparison here are some manuscript images:
Musical credits for Episode 7: Albina
Intro and outro theme from the incredibly talented Alice Nicholls Music
Other music, used under various Creative Commons licenses:
Three kites circling
The One Who Spread the sadness
A Long Story
The hags spree
Early morning song (Finch duet)