The View From Your Window

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Somerset, England, 2 pm. Update from a reader:

I recognized the shot immediately. It’s Burrowbridge Mump. When I first went there, my English girlfriend and I took a room at the pub just next door after a long day of touring. Sandy asked the landlord, “Where are we, actually?” The landlord said, “Athelney is just down the road.”

“Where King Alfred burned the cakes!” said Sandy. “Where King Alfred burned the cakes,” agreed the landlord. I later asked Sandy what the point of the burnt cakes story was. “No point,” she explained, “It’s just that King Alfred burned the cakes in Athelney. Everyone knows it.”

I have marveled ever since that the English people have kept this tale going for century after century. The only history book I found it in was written for children in the Victorian era. And it was fun to read David Harspool’s 2006 book Why Alfred Burned the Cakes. It’s an examination of Alfred, the legends that attached to him, and how such legends are made and adapted over time.