ON a visit to the annual Silverton Street Market, north Devon, on a glorious August day, I was happily mooching round the rickety stalls when a book titled Tales of the Peculiar caught my eye. What drew me to it I am not sure. Perhaps it was the dark-green hardback cover embossed with gold foliage and ornate birds, or the imaginative black-and-white illustrations accompanying each short story. Perhaps it was because I now identify as ‘peculiar’ since, in the last two and a half years, I have been shocked to learn the extent to which I see, hear and think very differently from my family, friends and neighbours: people with whom I once thought I had a lot in common. Anyway, I digress. Let’s start with a brief introduction of the peculiar characters in the peculiar tale of the Splendid Cannibals.
The story, like the others, is derived from folklore retold over eons. It tells the tale of two sets of peculiar people; the first residing in the village of Swampmuck, a small rural community living a hard, simple life but who ‘were healthy and joyful and wanted for little’. They toiled relentlessly in their swamps, harvesting swamp weed to be sold at the market town of Chipping Whippet, a full five days’ ride away on a reluctant donkey. Swampmuckers were friendly, empathetic people who rarely fell out about anything. So, why were they peculiar? Well, ‘when the peculiars of Swampmuck lost their limbs, they grew them back again’.
The second set of peculiars were the cannibals. In contrast to the Swampmuckers, they were extremely wealthy, wore exquisite silk and rode Arabian horses. Unable to eat anything other than human flesh, and being law-abiding, they existed on accidentally severed limbs and the corpses of hanged criminals. This source of sustenance was at best unreliable and at worst non-existent for weeks at a time so ‘they were doomed to live in perpetual undernourishment, forever tormented by an appetite they could rarely satisfy’.
One day three weary, hungry cannibals arrived in the village of Swampmuck. Luckily, depending on your point of view, just before their arrival there had been an accident in which a neighbour accidentally scythed off the leg of a farmer named Hayworth. After the starving cannibals explained to villagers why, as cannibals, they could not eat the swampweed soup kindly offered to them, Farmer Hayworth, who had completely forgiven his clumsy neighbour, offered his severed leg, explaining that it was only a matter of time before a new one took its place. The cannibals gratefully accepted and paid the farmer with more money than he had ever seen in his life.
Well, good news travels fast in cannibal circles and it wasn’t long before more cannibals started regular visits to the peculiars of Swampmuck. Soon the villagers, apart from Farmer Hayworth to whom they no longer spoke, had given up their hard toil in the swamps, preferring to earn a living by selling their limbs. Unfortunately, the cannibals’ appetite for fresh human flesh could never be assuaged and, lured by even more riches, the villagers started to sell two legs at a time instead of one, and then two legs and two arms at once so they had to be carried around by servants until new ones grew back which were immediately hacked off and sold. In fact, this way of life became the norm and the only person in Swampmuck with two arms and legs was Farmer Hayworth, who had now become an outcast for his peculiar views!
The cannibals were so happy with this continuous source of food that their cookery books soon included recipes not just for arms and legs, but noses, ears and tongues, the latter being the most expensive and which did not grow back. Now, being limbless and mute doesn’t put one in a very good position to defend what is yours, and it wasn’t long before the cannibals had moved into the villagers’ houses, taken all their money and tied them to posts in the back gardens. They were fed and watered twice a day so that their new limbs grew back nicely. The normal village scene now was fat cannibals and their ever-growing families living happily ever after.
So what happened to Farmer Hayworth? Well, he continued to live in his modest house and work in his swamp. His new neighbours now owned everything else, but they didn’t bother him or he them.
Readers of TCW will need no further explanation in following my lines of thought here. If the Great Reset of our world continues, orchestrated by the Elites, I won’t need to change my pronouns, just my surname to Hayworth. I just hope I’m not the only Hayworth in the village!
Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs is published by Syndrigast Publications.