Strange to think that New York City acquired it’s nomenclature from a small Nottinghamshire village less than ten miles from where I live and work. Just how is revealed in the pdf at the foot of this page, but the legend of the Wise Men of Gotham is one that has fascinated me for decades, mostly because the original ‘Merrie Tales’ is little more than a record of unrelated pranks, none of which mention any participants by name.
Over the centuries the stories have been strung together, padded out and located in the reign of bad King John by writers who, in my humble opinion, have missed the whole point of the tales. The Covid lockdowns seemed as good a time as any to correct this; for somebody to retell the story giving due credit to the simple village folk who confronted the crippling iniquities of the State, its harsh programme of austerity, and sent its agents packing.
In my version, this is a nonviolent yet hilarious peasant uprising employing the one weapon certain to scare the living daylights out of the King’s emissaries, a weapon that comes to be employed successfully in other parts of the world where the oppressed had simply had a belly full of continually being screwed. All the original pranks are woven into the narrative, plus a few bizarre extras. Many have become stand-alone famous as ‘rural myths’, but it is the stories of Eustace the reed-cutter, Ada the seamstress, Arnold the miner and all the other villagers who stake everything on fending off King John’s taxmen that gives credibility to what could otherwise be interpreted as just an outbreak of collective madness.
How Gotham village became the Gotham City of Batman and Robin fame. Download Document
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Mad Day at Gotham Village
263 pages. Colour cover. Maps. Five Acts, 20 Chapters. £6.99. £2.80 p&p in UK. Free postage in Nottingham.(WARNING: This is not a comic book, though it is comic and a book.)
Over a decade of crippling austerity has pushed the residents of Gotham to the very brink. Alerted that yet another unwarranted tax swoop is imminent, they resolve to make a stand and resist the Crown’s agents. But how can reed cutters, woodworkers, seamstresses, ordinary village folk confront the swords of the Sheriff’s men without inviting a bloodbath?
Their elected strategy is hairbrained, as it would be coming from Tom de Moonstruck, the self-proclaimed neighbourhood noodler. But it is also cunningly baffling, artfully ludicrous, totally non-violent yet threatening in the extreme, and might just work. Their master plan is to bombard the Nottingham Castle Guard with fusillades of ‘steaming madness’.
Based on The Merrie Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham, this is the untold story (possibly) of that legendary rebellion, of the men, women and children who, by daring to challenge the iniquities of the State, put Gotham village on the world map. It is England’s Seven Samurai, except the brigands serve the King and the peasants do it for themselves, without the gore and subtitles, in English (sort of) and with a lot more jokes.
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