In last week’s episode we left Prince Bladud looking for his pigs.
As he stood there deliberating, a fat sow, which was still unwell, came idling down from the top of the meadow.
They’re over there! Now he remembered, there was a copse of trees up there, where the pigs liked to sleep.
Bladud ran to the copse, and pushed open the branches. No pigs in sight.
He headed back down to the main flock. There was that sow, just joining the others in the spring. She inserted her trotters into the water and lowered her head, drinking the fresh, pure liquid. Liking the taste, she headed further in. And…what? Before Bladud’s owl-like eyes, the leprosy vanished from all the parts that touched the water.
He suddenly started out of his stupor, and dashed towards the water like a wild animal, flinging off his clothes as he went. He plunged in, pushing the sow out of the way so hard she fell over, scooping up the water and rubbing it all over himself. Yes, yes! He was cured!
Joy welled up in him. He fell to his knees, crying like a baby, thanking everyone he could think of for this magic water.
At sunset, Bladud returned home with all the pigs, now all cured, and gave his notice to the farmer. When his term of employment was up, he returned to his family and home, where he was reinstated as his father’s heir. Not long after he returned, his father died, and Bladud became king. He ordered the beginnings of a city at the point where the healing spring issued from the hillside, so that others could benefit from its powers.
Bladud ruled for twenty years, and never before had a king been so humble or so in touch with his subjects. He would often think of his time as a leper and swineherd, and be grateful that his life had gone the way it did, for it made him see that he was not a jot above the common people. He could see that rich people had no reason to puff themselves up. For anyone’s fortunes could change completely, in the blink of an eye.
This city we now call Bath, and the city was actually started by the Romans in the first century A.D. when a temple and Roman baths were built there. The waters are only good for you in that it is mineral water, with good minerals such as calcium and iron, but for many years it was fashionable to go to Bath and, “take the waters,” in the hope of a cure. The hot springs are still there to be seen today, although you have to pay £15.50 to go in.