Monday, 10 September 2007

I'm a legend, and it's official!

During my research in Cornwall I discovered something rather wonderful. It was after I had given a talk in the Looe Library, and we were sitting about having a cup of tea and a chat, that one of my guests told me about the legend of Tamara. Well, you could have knocked me down with a ferret - I was a legend - or at least named after one. But Tamara is a Russian name, or so I thought. How on earth could the legend be Cornish? Unfortunately my informant didn't know very much about the story or how it had come to be, so being an author, and very nosey, I decided to investigate.
It took me a year to unearth a book that actually told the legend of Tamara, and here is the story.
The lovely nymph - yes, nymph - Tamara, was the daughter of earth spirit gnomes. Born in a cave, she loved the light of day. They chided her for visiting the upper world and warned her against the consequences of ignoring their advice. The giants of the moors were fearsome, and they wanted to protect their child from them.
Tamara was beautiful, young and heedless (just like the author of course) and never lost an opportunity to look at the sun. But Tavy and Tawrage, the sons of Dartmoor giants had seen the fair maid and longed to possess her. Tamara led them a right dance, over mountains and moor in playful chase, she teased them mercilessly.
She was hiding under a bush one day when Tavy and Tawrage decided it was time to make her choose between them. They used every persuasion, though what they were is unclear, but I suspect they flattered her - it usually works.
Now Tamara's parents realised she was missing from the cave and went in search of her. They found her seated between the sons of the giants whom they hated. Her father cast a spell on the two young men and they fell asleep. Then he tried to persuade Tamara to return to the cave.
Tamara, being stubborn, refused.
With a terrible curse, her father cast another spell. Tamara dissolved in tears, which became a beautiful crystal stream that flowed to the ocean.
Tavy eventually woke from the spell. Tamara was gone, and he fled to his father to tell him what had happened. The giant, wanting to ease his son's torment, transformed him into a steam. That stream rushed over rocks, ran through morasses and glided along valleys. Tavy still goes seeking for his lost love Tamara - his only joy being that he runs by her side, mingling their waters as they head to the eternal sea.
Tawrage also woke, and realised what had happened. He went to an enchantress, and he too was changed into a stream. But he mistook the way Tamara had gone, and onward, ever sorrowing, he flows away from her forever. Thus originated the Tamar, the Tavy, and the Taw.
I hope you enjoyed that little story, and if anyone knows the origins of the tale, or how the name Tamara seems to have travelled from Cornwall to Russia, I would be most interested.