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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Cloven Country

The Devil and the English Landscape

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Cloven Country

The Devil and the English Landscape

Now in paperback, an exploration of the myths of England’s deceptively bucolic rolling hills and country lanes believed to be created and shaped by the Dark Lord himself.
According to legend, the English landscape—so calm on the surface—is really the Devil’s work. Cloven Country tells of rocks hurled into place and valleys carved out by infernal labor. The Devil’s hideous strength laid down great roads in one night and left scars everywhere as the hard stone melted like wax under those burning feet. With roots in medieval folklore of giants and spirits, this is not the Satan of prayer, but a clumsy ogre, easily fooled by humankind. When a smart cobbler or cunning young wife outwitted him, they struck a blow for the underdog. Only the wicked squire and grasping merchant were beyond redemption, carried off by a black huntsman in the storm. Cloven Country offers a fascinating panorama of these decidedly sinister English tales.

296 pages | 25 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2022

History: British and Irish History, Environmental History

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"Harte--a curator at Bourne Hall Museum in Surrey--has an encyclopedic knowledge of the diverse sources of England’s traditional tales and proves himself to be an authoritative guide . . . From the demon who appears as a fearsome figure hurling stones, gouging out valleys and heaping up hills, or as a sinister black-clad huntsman with his fiery-eyed hounds howling across Bodmin Moor, to ideas about how a woman’s wit is better than a man’s when it comes to besting the lord of darkness, Harte takes his reader on a devilishly entertaining tour of England and its richly storied landscape."

The Guardian

"From a perusal of any detailed map of England, you would think we were a people satanically obsessed. Place names include the Devil’s Highway, the Devil’s Punchbowl, the Devil’s Thumb, the Devil’s Frying Pan… Even midnight is 'the Devil’s dancing hour' and the dragonfly is 'the Devil’s darning needle'... Fear not, says Jeremy Harte in this fascinating study, Britain is not as terrifying as these names make it appear."

The Times

"With so much folklore resting on oral tradition, in which old cycles of storytelling disappear with the breath used to speak them, to be lost beyond recall, it is heartening to have authorities like Jeremy Harte tethering them to the record with books like this. Especially when it makes for such a wickedly good read."

Literary Review

"Come for the telling of folktales; stay for the workings of folklore. Cloven Country is testament to Harte's deep personal and learned knowledge of the folklore of England. He’s seemingly read everything and been everywhere – and given the book is illustrated from his collection, clearly also bought the postcard. His writing style is wry and frequently aphoristic. Harte is one of Britain's most eminent folklorists."

Fortean Times

"This is a damnably good book, thanks largely to Harte's wit and erudition and ability to take folk tales at more than face value, and tease out inferences that would be opaque in a less insightful writer's hands."

Northern Earth

"Cloven Country is an extensive and well-rounded exploration of the image of the Devil as reflected in the English landscape and folklore record, penned in Harte's inimitable clever and witty style. Although rigorously academic, you always feel like you have sat down for a pint with Jeremy, probably in a pub named after one of the Devil's exploits, whilst being regaled with tales. Pull a chair up to the fire, get yourself a drink and a copy of Cloven Country . . . You will not be disappointed."

Folklore Podcast

"Harte has woven together a rich and wildly entertaining romp through the Devil-pocked English landscape. It is hard not to feel more than a little sympathy, given the amount of times the Devil seems to have been outwitted by all and sundry, but then he must be content in the knowledge that his efforts to disrupt have led to him being memorialized across the UK, in the form of dykes, tors, bridges, cauldrons and punch bowls."

Simon Costin, director of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and founder of the Museum of British Folklore

"This is my favourite book of the year so far. It is immaculately researched, superbly written and – like all Jeremy Harte’s work – genuinely breaks new ground in folklore studies. Only somebody with his breadth of knowledge, not only of the lore but of related fields of history, myth and literature, could have done as well."

Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol

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