Violent waves pounded the feeble boat in the blustery sea off the English coast. Ol' Mick struggled to grab the fishing net with his gnarled hands and helped hoist the heavy catch onto the deck. “Look at this, mates,” he shouted.
"Mother of…” one of the others exclaimed, “it be a merman!”
Sure enough, when Ol' Mick opened the net and pushed away the fish, there be a man, naked as the day he come into the world, ‘cept for hair coverin’ his entire body, and wi’ a beard down to his chest.
The wild man fought the net. He scowled and squirmed whilst they tried to speak to him.
“He must be a foreigner,” Ol' Mick guessed.
“Maybe he’s a spy,” said the captain. “Tie ‘im up.”
Once on shore, Ol' Mick could see the wild man’s prospects were not good. Bartholomew de Gladville, the rough-handed castle custodian, questioned who he was, but only got savage grunts. He drug the man away and imprisoned him in the Orford castle jail.
“They got the wild man hangin’ upside down in the cell,” Ol' Mick’s son said as the old seaman trudged home from the port months later. Ol' Mick shook his head at the jailer’s “hospitality.”
Next week, Bartholomew de Gladville come down to the port. He ordered nets be strung across the mouth of the inlet, then threw the merman into the water to see what he would do. Ol' Mick watched the merman bob up and down with the waves, then dive under the water.
“He’s makin’ for the nets,” Mick pointed. The merman escaped under the nets into the open sea, then threw his body through the air like a marlin. As mysteriously as he had come to Orford, the merman disappeared and was never seen again.
One might think this a purely fictional story, however the event was documented in the "Chronicon Anglicanum," a history of England written by the meticulous medieval chronicler, Ralph of Coggeshall.
Travel around Orford, England, and you are bound to run into references to the Merman of Orford, especially in the Orford Castle, where inside you will find a statue of this Man of the Sea, covered in hair with his long shaggy beard.
Read more about Orford, the castle, and the merman.
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