THE WONDERFUL COBBLER OF WELLINGTON.
THERE is a considerable family likeness between the Tinker in this Cornish tale of the Giants, and the Wonderful Cobbler of Wellington, in Shropshire, as related by Mr. Thomas Wright in his interesting paper "On the Local Legends of Shropshire." As this story will interest many readers, I quote it, as the original paper is not easily obtained:--
"Now, according to the legend, there hived at this time, somewhere, I believe, in the neighbourhood of Wellington, a wonderful cobbler, who was so skilful in his art that he monopolised he mending of shoes of the inhabitants of Shrewsbury, and he used to come at certain times with sacks to carry home with him the shoes which were in need of his handiwork. Well, the giant set out on his journey, carrying an immense spadeful of earth, which he intended to throw over the devoted town, and bury all its inhabitants alive; but it happened that he had never seen Shrewsbury, and was not well informed as to the road; and he had arrived near Wellington when, whom should he overtake but the clever cobbler labouring along under the burden of two great sacks full of worn shoes he was carrying home. The giant entered into conversation with him, told him where he was going, and let out rather indiscreetly the object of his journey, but confessed his ignorance of the road and the distance. The cobbler had a natural sympathy with the town of Shrewsbury, first, because he was on good terms with the inhabitants; and, secondly, because, if the town were destroyed, his own occupation would be ruined; so he resolved to outwit the giant. He told him, therefore, that he knew Shrewsbury very well--in fact, that he was then returning from it, and that he, the giant, was in the right track, but added, with a look of discouragement, that it was very far off. The giant, who had already had a long walk, and imagined he must have reached the object of his search, inquired with some surprise how many days more it would take to walk thither. The cobbler said he had not counted the days, but emptying his two sacks on the ground, declared that he had worn out all those shoes on the journey; upon which the giant, with a movement of disappointment and disgust, threw the earth from his spade on the spot where it now forms the Wrekin; and seeing that some mould still adhered to the spade, he pushed it off with his foot, and it formed Ercald Hill, which still adjoins its loftier neighbour."
It is curious to trace in every incident of those stories the lesson taught, that trained skill can at all times overcome mere brute force. These stories belong to a very early age, and they have been the winter-evening amusements of a primitive people, down to a very recent period. Jack the Tinker figures in many similar stories; he is invariably covered with his wonderful coat (similar to the coat of darkness in several of our nursery tales), and not unfrequently he has the shoes of swiftness.