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Bisterne Dragon

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The Bisterne Dragon is a folkloric dragon-slaying tale from the New Forest area in South-West England. The story takes place across the villages of Bisterne, Burley and Lyndhurst.

The Legend Edit

First recorded in the margin of a pedigree roll written prior to 1618, and preserved at Berkeley Castle, numerous versions of the story exist, all agreeing on a basic plotline. A particularly dangerous "devouring dragon" had his den at Burley Beacon, just outside the New Forest village of Burley. Every day the dragon would fly to the nearby village of Bisterne, terrorising the area until it was given (variously) milk, mutton, or a maiden. The villagers called on their Lord of the Manor, Sir Maurice de Berkeley to slay the dragon; usually the knight fails on his first two attempts, succeeding on the third; usually the successful attack involves a hide (sometimes made from glass or mirrors) to catch the dragon by surprise, a pair of dogs to distract him (often mastiffs, always killed in the process), and birdlime and glass shards attached to his armour, to injure the monster when it tries to take hold of him. Usually, the knight is given the successful advice by a strange, hairy old man with a pair of ram's horns atop his head. When Sir Maurice finally gets the dragon into battle, the pair rage all around the forest, finally coming to a halt outside the village of Lyndhurst, where the dragon died and became a hill called Boltons Bench.

Notably, the story does not end with the death of the dragon. Sir Maurice was mentally broken by the battle, some have speculated PTSD, others rabies. The tradition goes that for 30 days and 30 nights he could not eat or sleep, haunted by strange whispers and waking dreams. Eventually he took himself up Boltons bench, where he had buried his dogs, and collapsed dead. From his body and those of his hounds, three yew trees grow, and there are still yew trees on Boltons Bench today, where his ghost with its dogs can still be seen.

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