Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Elfi The Dwarf — The Story Told at Ye Sign of the Fox & Hounds, Urra

The notion of transcribing these ancient folk tales of Richard Blakeborough, thought to be a splendid idea at first, an idea born during the Covid lockdown, now gnaws at my conscience with growing unease. Recent reports detailing the modification of Roald Dahl’s cherished works, altering words deemed offensive and rewriting character descriptions in an attempt to conform to modern sensibilities, have prompted profound reflection on the righteousness of my little project.

Blakeborough, in his writings, weaves an intricate tapestry with the grandeur of Victorian prose, artfully capturing the essence of the tales he imparts. Yet, within that tapestry, lay words that might sting with offense in modern times. Indeed, certain terms, within the title itself, and others peppered throughout, may be perceived as sexist, ageist, or otherwise objectionable. And therein lies a scene in ‘Elfi the Dwarf,’ a scene fraught with the definite presence of an antisemitic trope—a lamentable fact for which I extend my sincerest and unreserved apologies should it offend.

Nevertheless, my commitment to authenticity has driven me to transcribe these stories unadulterated. This story spanned over a fortnight in the esteemed Northern Weekly Gazette during the summer days of August in the year 1901—a true epic of its time1‘Elfi The Dwarf. The Story Told at Ye Sign of the Fox & Hounds, Urra. | Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 10 August 1901 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003075/19010810/097/0012?browse=true> [accessed 23 September 2022]2Elf! The Dwarf. Part 2. | Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 17 August 1901 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0003075/19010817/128/0015> [accessed 23 September 2022]. A real epic of over 10,000 words. The conflict is clear: keeping these tales untouched preserves their history, but risks offending today’s readers. If I change them, does the original meaning get lost? It’s a delicate balance, and the choice of how to proceed is mine alone.

A further reason for the hesitation in sharing this tale stems from the absence of a singular spot to tether a photograph. The narrative roams the moors, traversing Urra, Castleton, Lastingham and Farndale. Therefore, I’ll showcase the image above of Roseberry Topping, taken on a damp, overcast, and windy morning.

Click here to read Blakeborough’s story of Eli the Drawf.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *