Postfest V, Part II: Burning Bartle
Date: Tue, August 09, 2005
Topic: Peoples & Culture
In rural Keoland, a rough justice is meted out to criminals. There are no jails or prisons, for none are needed. Burning Bartle celebrates the spectacular end one notorious criminal.
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Date: 16th Harvester
Location: Regin, Keoland
An odd local custom, Burning Bartle is an example of “country justice” and an annual setting of the example for would-be thieves. It celebrates the pursuit and spectacular end made of a notorious livestock thief, one Bartle.
Well over a hundred years ago, the area around northwestern Keoland, and over the border into Sterich, was plagued by a particularly clever and daring livestock thief, one Bartle. Sauntering into town on market days, Bartle would carefully lookover the livestock, either pretending to be a buyer for some lord or being just the interested sort who likes nothing more than talking cattle, pigs, goats, horses or chickens over a pint, which he would always buy, loosening tongues at the same time his potential victims became inebriated. Later, Bartle and his confederates would make off with prize livestock under the cover of darkness. Not merely victimizing his marks, Bartle infuriated them with his brazen tactics and seeming ability to get away with the same tricks over and over again.
After almost a decade of plaguing the land, Bartle’s luck finally ran out. In Regin, he was caught in the act of pig stealing. A drunken chase, his pursuers having been drinking with the disguised thief just that afternoon, ensued. Winding through the town, the chase ended just beyond in the surrounding foothills. Bartle did not go down easily but, deserted by his henchmen, he was eventually stabbed to death by the irrate farmers and burned, some say still alive.
Burning Bartle reenacts the thief’s end. A procession winds through Regin, stopping at each inn and tavern along the way, where everyone must down a pint while chanting between quaffs:
That Bartle he, that Bartle he,
Upon the crags, he tore his rags,
That Bartle he, that Bartle he,
Upon the lea, he brok his knee
That Bartle he, that Bartle he
At the end, he could not fend
And whether wend, we made his end
Shout, boys, shout!
The procession follows the path of Bartle’s flight to the hill where he met his end, where a great bonfire is built and more drinking ensues.
A darker side to this ritual celebration of the demise of a pig thief occurs when any sort of criminal has been caught near the 16th of Harvester. Their ankles and wrists shackled, they are dressed in heavy, oil soaked rags and paraded through Regin with the increasingly drunken revelers. Along the way, they are subject to every sort of abuse and humiliation short of death. When the procession ends, they are repeatedly stabbed before having their rags set afire. Bartle’s demise is replayed. While not frequent, such living reenactments do occur every few years or so. Local authorities tend to look the other way as crime of nearly all sorts tends to all but vanish after Burning Bartle, and even moreso when a Bartle stand-in is actually burned alive. In rural Keoland, justice is roughly served.