Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet! Today it’s time to talk about a really special little book, The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings. Huge thank you to Head of Zeus for this early copy.
A chilling medieval ghost story, retold by bestselling historian Dan Jones. Published in a beautiful small-format hardback, perfect as a Halloween read or a Christmas gift.
One winter, in the dark days of King Richard II, a tailor was riding home on the road from Gilling to Ampleforth. It was dank, wet and gloomy; he couldn’t wait to get home and sit in front of a blazing fire.
Then, out of nowhere, the tailor is knocked off his horse by a raven, who then transforms into a hideous dog, his mouth writhing with its own innards. The dog issues the tailor with a warning: he must go to a priest and ask for absolution and return to the road, or else there will be consequences…
First recorded in the early fifteenth century by an unknown monk, The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings was transcribed from the Latin by the great medievalist M.R. James in 1922. Building on that tradition, now bestselling historian Dan Jones retells this medieval ghost story in crisp and creepy prose.
I’ve always loved history, and I’ve always loved ghost stories, so this was absolutely perfect for me. I treated myself to reading it one spooky night where I needed a good story, and I’m so glad I did.
I found myself reading with two things in mind: first, the scary story I was reading, and second, the historical wonder that it was. Latin has always interested me, but the majority of what we have recorded of more modern Latin is religious, so this is a particularly remarkable, and I was in utter awe of that as I was reading it. It amazed me that we have this little story, hundreds of years old, that is still creepy to read today.
Dan Jones gives a wonderful rendition of this story, making it readable and accessible for the year 2021, yet keeping the crisp reality of Medieval life, combined with their perseption of the supernatural, finished up with the original Latin at the back.
A special little book that has been released in perfect time for both Halloween and Christmas, this is a new addition to the “read it every year at this time of year” book pile to go along with Sleepy Hollow and A Christmas Carol. It’s a short little read, and it’s absolutely perfect.
Even if it doesn’t end up on my top reads of the year, it will certainly be one of the most memoriable for the sheer unique wonder that it is.
Thank you to Head of Zeus again, and be sure to check out the other bloggers and posters who will be talking about this throughout October.