Newlyn Tolcarne (Cornwall)

Pin It

tolcarne old map


Tolcarne is ‘a natural outcropping of greenstone on a commanding hill just above the vicarage in Newlyn’. Evans-Wentz has an interesting story about what he calls the Tolcarne Troll. Troll is a very strange word for a fairy in Cornwall, perhaps it is simply a case of alliteration? It would be interesting to establish whether the story and the name goes back far into the nineteenth century.

The fairy of the Newlyn Tolcarne was in some ways like the Puck of the English Midlands. But this fairy, or troll, was supposed to date back to the time of the Phoenicians. He was described as a little old pleasant-faced man dressed in a tight-fitting leathern jerkin, with a hood on his head, who lived invisible in the rock. Whenever he chose to do so he could make himself visible. When I was a boy it was said that he spent his time voyaging from here to Tyre on the galleys which carried the tin; and, also, that he assisted in the building of Solomon’s Temple. Sometimes he was called ‘the Wandering One’, or ‘Odin the Wanderer’. My old nurse, Betty Grancan, used to say that you could call up the troll at the Tolcarne if while there you held in your hand three dried leaves, one of the ash, one of the oak, and one of the thorn, and pronounced an incantation or charm. Betty would never tell me the words of the charm, because she said I was too much of a sceptic. The words of such a Cornish charm had to pass from one believer to another, through a woman to a man, and from a man to a woman, and thus alternately (Evans-Wentz, 1911, 176).

This passage is often quoted but a further description from Evans-Wentz, 391 is forgotten. Evans-Wentz is quoting his local informant.

Belief in reincarnation was very common among the old Cornish peoples. For example, it was believed when an incantation had been pronounced in the proper way at the Newlyn Tolcarne, that the Troll who inhabited it could embody the person who called him up in any state in which that person had existed during a former age. You had only to name the age or period, and you could live your past life therein over again. My nurse, Betty Grancan, and an old miner named William Edwards, both believed in re-birth, and told me about it. I have heard them relate stories to one another to the effect that a person can go back into the memory of past lives.

See also a modern take on this in a, to the best of our knowledge, unpublished book.



Pin It