Wild Edric

Wild Edric Medieval fighter of England said to haunt the mines of the borderlands near Wales with his Fairy wife and band of warriors.

Wild Edric rose to fame during the Norman Conquest of Britain in the 11th century. Within a century of his death, his life and exploits were legend.

According to the Domesday Book, Wild Edric was a landowner in Shropshire and Herefordshire. He was a nephew of Edric of Streona, Ealdorman of Mercia, who betrayed King Edmund at the Battle of Ashingdon. King Canute ordered that his corpse be thrown over the London Wall as a result.

In the summer of 1067, Wild Edric led an uprising against the Norman invaders in the Welsh Marches. He overran Herefordshire and threatened the Norman garrison in Hereford. For two years, he and his men rebelled against the conquerors, ravaging the countryside. In 1069, they sacked Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Wild Edric was never beaten nor captured, yet for reasons unknown, he gave up his fight in 1070.

He made his peace with William the Conqueror, who received him with honors at court, according to legend. And in 1072, Wild Edric joined the Normans in a fight against the Scottish. No surviving records tell of his fate after that, or when, where and how he died.

In legend, Wild Edric was not permitted to die because he joined the Normans; instead, he was condemned to haunt the lead lines of his native lands forever. He lives below the earth with Lady Godda, his fairy wife, and a band of followers. Miners call them the “Old Men” and say that the sounds of their tapping are clues to the locations of rich lodes (see Knocker).

The story of how Wild Edric met his fairy wife was legend by the 12th century and is the earliest fairy bride tale on record. According to the story, Wild Edric was out hunting in the forest of Clun one day. He lost his way and wandered about until nightfall, accompanied only by a young page. Finally he saw the lights of a large house, and went to it.

Inside, a group of noble ladies were dancing in a circle. They were taller and fairer than human women, and they were dressed in elegant linen clothes. As they danced gracefully, they sang a song, the words of which Wild Edric could not understand.

One of the women was a maid so beautiful that Wild Edric instantly fell in love with her. He rushed in and snatched her up. The other women fought with teeth and  nails, but he and his page held them off and escaped with their prize.

For three days, the maid refused to speak. On the fourth day, she admonished him never to reproach her on account of her sisters, lest he lose both his bride and his good fortune, and pine away and die an early death. Wild Edric pledged he would not, and he would remain forever faithful and constant to her.

They were married in the presence of all the nobles far and wide. King William the Conqueror, hearing of the fairy bride, Lady Godda, invited them to court in London. And though others accompanied the newlyweds to attest to her superhuman origin, her great beauty was enough to convince the king.

For many years, Wild Edric and Lady Godda lived happily at his estates in the West Shropshire hills. One evening he returned late from hunting and could not find his wife. When she at last appeared, he snapped at her and wondered that her sisters had detained her. Instantly Lady Godda vanished, for Wild Edric had broken his pledge. He was overcome with grief, and searched for her where he had first found her in the forest of Clun, to no avail. He cried and wailed for her day and night, but she never answered and never appeared. Soon he pined away and died.

This version, however, is supplanted by the prevailing legend that Wild Edric lives on in the Shropshire lead mines, where he has been restored to his wife and a band of warriors, who share his fate. Whenever England is threatened with war, Wild Edric and his troop are said to ride out from the lead mines and gallop over the hills to battle the enemy. They ride in the direction of the enemy’s country. Their very appearance means that the war will be serious. The band was spotted at the start of the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th century. Just before the start of the Crimean War (1853–56), Wild Edric was again reported riding out on his white horse, blasting his horn, dressed in green with a white feather in his cap and a short sword hanging from a golden belt. He had short, dark and curly hair and bright black eyes. He was accompanied by Lady Godda, who had waist-long, wavy blonde hair and also was dressed in green. Around her forehead was a white band of linen with a gold ornament. She carried a dagger at her waist.

Similar legends about the rescue of England in times of dire need center on other famous figures, such as Sir FRANCIS DRAKE and King Arthur.

Further Reading:

  • Briggs, Katherine. An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins – Brownies – Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976.
  • Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. London: Reader’s Digest Assoc., 1977.
  • Hole, Christina. Haunted England. London: B. T. Batsford, 1940.

The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley  – September 1, 2007

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