Bladud’s City – Part 1

This week the legend from Sarah-Ann is the first of 2 parts. No pictures yet, so that you can try to work out where in Britain it relates to.

Here are some clues: – It is not in Wales. It is a city today.

Prince Bladud was in a sorry way.

Oh, he had started out in life well enough. He was a Prince of Britain, the apple of his father’s eye and the darling of the court. So, nothing but the best for the heir-apparent. His father sent him to Athens to finish his education, and to let him see more of the world, before he had to settle down and rule the kingdom.

He loved his time in Athens. It was a bit hot at first, but there were such sights! First, the city was so big! And there were so many different plants. And the houses looked so different with columns and beautiful stonework, compared to the rough mud and stick woven dwellings back home.

He settled down among the cream of wealthy upper-class young men, learning off the greatest of white-robed philosophers. And then…he became sick.

Not with any ordinary disease. With an illness that made the flesh turn white and wrinkled.

Yes, he had leprosy.

Bladud tried everything Athens could offer him for a cure. Nothing worked, and when his time there was up, he returned home, dragging every step.

Not surprisingly, when he got back to his father’s court, he was greeted not with open arms but with cries of horror. Mothers turned their children’s faces away; grown men hid their eyes. And even his father instinctively shrank back in his chair.

Bladud could not be his father’s heir now, because the king had to be unblemished, and he did not want to remain anyway. Humiliation and shame weighing him down, he left under cover of night, on foot.

The next few months were the hardest of all. No-one recognised their once celebrated prince. He wandered all over the south of Britain, sleeping in hedgerows, taking whatever scraps people would toss to him from a distance.

Until one autumn day, he arrived at a small hamlet in a narrow, steep-sided valley covered with pine trees, near the mouth of the Severn. There, a kindly farmer found him and gave him a job – keeping pigs.

Bladud had been there ever since. It was a great change, but better than the open road. Now he had a roof – even though it was the barn, with straw to sleep on. And he had food – even if it was just bread with a little porridge. His boss never made fun of him or beat him – even when it appeared that Bladud infected some of the pigs with leprosy.

This particular day, not long after the pigs became ill, he had driven them further up the valley to keep them separate from the ones that were well, and they were peacefully drinking from a shallow hot spring that bubbled out of the ground at Bladud’s feet.

A bird flew down and landed at the spring to drink. A magnificent bird it was, all glossy brown, with a keen eye. A buzzard.

Not for the first time did Bladud wish he was like that bird. It was free; it could go where it chose, uninhibited. Yes, in a way, he could do that. But he was forever condemned to be at least ten feet away from every normal person for the rest of his life.

“Yes, that’s it,” his soul cried out, “I don’t even wish for my princedom back. I just want to be normal.”

As the cold wind whipped his face and neck, he looked back down at his charges. He rubbed his eyes. In front of him were normal pigs. While he was daydreaming the others must have wandered off.

He jumped up, running across the meadow and peering down the steep bank to the river. No pigs in sight. He glanced back, unsure whether to abandon the pigs that were there or keep searching. It’s strange, pigs don’t usually wander just like that…

The story will conclude next Wednesday. Meanwhile can you guess the city?