Jack Spriggins, Villain
by P. S. Nolf
The weekly BBC program Celebrity Secrets interviews Mrs. Blunderbore, the wife of a large and legendary figure in British literature.
BBC: Welcome, viewers, to Celebrity Secrets. We are here today with a larger than life figure once well known in our country. So tell us, Mrs. Blunderbore, how do you find yourself residing in this lovely, seaside retirement condo along the Costa del Sol in Spain? You are British, correct?
Mrs. Blunderbore: Born and bred in Cornwall, though the Mebyon Kernow or Sons of Cornwall still argue we are Cornish and not British. And the European Union has granted our people — who are called Geons in Cornwall or Geants in the rest of Britain — protected minority status. Not many of us left these days ’cause of the persecutions.
We Geon families, the Ordulphs, Cormorans, Trebiggans, and Blunderbores, prefer living in the high, wild, isolated places of Cornwall. Our hearts call for those lonely promontories and gorges covered in mosses, heather, and furze. I swear our folks have lived there since the Stone Age.
As to how I ended up in Spain, that’s a tale. ’Tis the fault of that vile villain Jack Spriggins.
BBC: Perhaps you can share your personal story with our viewers.
Mrs. Blunderbore: Well...Mr. Blunderbore and me, we were still newlyweds. We had been married for fifty years. That still counts as newly wedded bliss for Geons. We lived at Fernacre Cottage along the slopes of Rough Tor. We had a fine, big, granite house with a slate roof, not one of those flimsy, thatched affairs common along the Cornish coast. I was still struggling with how best to arrange the household. My ma had gone for a long visit to relatives in Iceland and couldna give me advice.
One day, this bedraggled boy, name of Jack Spriggins, showed up on my doorstep. He and his poor, widowed mother were starving. I didna like the looks of him. His eyes had a lazy, dishonest shift about ’em.
BBC: Why did you hire Jack if he looked like such a bad sprout?
Mrs. Blunderbore: Mr. Blunderbore always had such a soft heart. We hired Jack as a page to shine boots, clean silver, and do other household chores.
The work was easy enough. But Jack was always hiding away for a nap. Once I even caught him sleeping in the stew pot, I did. Even so, Mr. Blunderbore insisted we let him eat with us, not the usual arrangement for servants, let me say. I also had to send Jack home every day with a nice, cooked meal for his ma.
One day our harp called out: “Master, Master, I am being stolen.” Jack said he was just taking it to the doorway where the light was better for cleaning. I wanted to let him go then and there.
BBC: Why would you continue to employ such a lying servant?
Mrs. Blunderbore: Mr. Blunderbore, such a naive soul, believed Jack. As a measure of trust, Mr. Blunderbore decided to show off his greatest prize to Jack. He asked me to bring our sweet, little brown hen into the kitchen. “Lay,” he said, and the hen laid a golden egg. “Lay,” and another golden egg appeared. Mr. Blunderbore was easily amused. You should have seen the size of Jack’s eyes when he saw those golden eggs.
Of course, Jack ran off to the local village. He claimed he was the son of an ambushed knight. A bloodthirsty giant had killed his dad, so he said, and chased Jack and his mother out of their castle. Those bumpkins really got worked up when Jack swore that my husband was a people-eater. The ignorant always mix us giants up with ogres. We don’t eat people. It takes too long to dress out those fine little bones in the hands and feet. Or so I’ve been told.
And you certainly didna need a magical bean stalk growing into the sky to get to our cottage. Jack led the mob armed with pitchforks, scythes, and torches right to our front door. The villagers were more than a wee bit drunk, but they should have suspected something when they didna see a castle.
Mr. Blunderbore tried to calm them. They wouldna listen. My poor husband dodged a pitchfork while trying to avoid stepping on his dear little brown hen. He tripped, fell down the granite stairs, and broke his neck, so he did.
BBC: You must have been terrified. How did you survive?
Mrs. Blunderbore: Folks started fighting over our treasures. I grabbed a few of my personal possessions stored in a handy basket, and the harp. I sailed off to the American colonies right before the ingrates revolted against good ole King George. I still miss Mr. Blunderbore. We giants mourn even longer than we court.
Years ago, folks in Cornwall used to know the story just as I told you. But in 1807 that moralizing Benjamin Tabart made Spriggins into the hero and my husband into the evil one in his book of tales. Couldna have Jack be a murderer and brigand and still be a hero of the story, could we? And that Andrew Lang was a bigger thief with his colorful fairy tale books in good Queen Victoria’s days. “Fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man” was written by that Shakespeare fellow. Appears in Hamlet, it does. No, that’s King Lear. Everybody wants to think giants are always the monsters, but writers are even bigger malefactors.
BBC: And what happened to Jack?
Mrs. Blunderbore: He and his mother lived happily ever after. But his descendants didna do so well. Those Sprigginses were always trading cows for beans. After World War II, the British government nationalized the Cornish and Welsh mines and took the Spriggens’ little brown hen also. The last of them are now living in government-subsidized council flats in Cardiff. My condo here is a palace designed by Gaudi compared to those dumps.
BBC: How did you afford one of these lovely condos?
Mrs. Blunderbore: I took my talking harp to the American Road Show a few years ago. Right good episode, that was. I sold the harp at a Sotheby’s auction. Didna get as much for it as I expected. Not much use for a talking harp these days, what with talking phones and chatterbox houses.
But I still had a few keepsakes from the basket I brought from Cornwall when I decided to join my fellow Brits in Spain. All told, I could afford this condo and with lots left for furbelows and fripperies. And working as a realtor brings in a nice income, so it does.
BBC: Such a sad story but with a happy ending! Any advice for our viewers who might want to purchase one of these lovely condo units right on the Spanish coastline?
Mrs. Blunderbore: Our fellow Brits are welcome to join us here in Spain. But with Brexit in the news, don’t complain about immigrants, y’hear?
Copyright © 2019 by P. S. Nolf