From Colossus Inklings No.121

We published reader Peter Robinson‘s letter about the King Canute story in Colossus 121’s Puzzle Postbox. Here are three legends of British kings, which may be true or not.

King Canute sat on the beach and ordered the waves to turn back and leave his feet dry. As Canute knew would happen, the waves kept coming and he and his courtiers had to retreat. The real meaning of this was probably an attempt by Canute to teach his flattering courtiers that even a king’s power was limited by nature and God.

When King Alfred the Great fled to the Somerset Levels, he was sheltered by a peasant woman who, unaware of his identity, left him to watch some cakes cooking on the fire. Preoccupied with the problems of his kingdom, Alfred accidentally let the cakes burn and was taken to task by the woman. Upon realising his identity, she apologised profusely, but Alfred insisted that he was the one who needed to apologise.

King Robert I of Scotland, according to legend, was on the run and hid himself in a cave where he observed a spider trying to spin a web. Each time the spider failed, it simply started all over again until it succeeded. Inspired by this, Bruce returned to inflict a series of defeats on the English, thus winning him more supporters and eventual victory.