The Fiddler, the Alchemist and the Black Monk - origins
Are there any similar stories?
Fiddler and dog
Myths about going into the earth through a tunnel, which takes you to another place, are common across the world.
Tunnels connecting the earth to the 'underworld' or 'Hades' can be found in Greek and Roman myths, as well as those of even earlier people.
The idea of passing through a cave or tunnel and arriving in a different land can also be found in German and Eastern European folktales. In Britain, myths about a musician's tunnel happen in quite a few counties, including Northamptonshire and Culross, Fife (a piper), and Richmond Castle (a drummer) as well as Norfolk.
In these tales, the musician enters a passage under the ground and is always followed above the ground by people listening to his music, which suddenly stops. It is very strange that he always has a dog with him. The very frightened dog gets out of the tunnel but the man is never seen again. The myth is sometimes connected to a 'barrow' (an underground burial place).
How did the myth become linked to Binham Priory?
Alchemist's Laboratory - Project Gutenberg
Binham Priory may have been the place for the myth, because of the burial mound or 'barrow' at Fiddler's Hill. Local people also thought that there was a secret passage between Binham Priory and the nearby Priory at Walsingham.
The Benedictine Binham Priory was opened about 1091 and closed in 1539. The village of Walsingham has been an important religious site since 1061. In 1153, an Augustinian Priory was opened in the centre of the village. It was destroyed in 1538, but the remains of the Priory and site of the first shrine can still be seen in the Abbey Grounds.
The tale may also have grown because of rumours about the bad behaviour of the dishonest priors. It was believed a black monk haunted the priory and it was thought the monks practised black magic at the site.
Are there other stories connected to the site?
The priory has long been linked with superstition and mystery. After the 'dissolution of the monasteries', the priory was going to be pulled down. Edward Paston, a well-known local man, started to use the stones to build himself a new manor house. However, a workman was killed while the place was being pulled down. This was thought to be a very bad 'omen' and work was stopped. The ruins were left in peace.
In more recent times, three skeletons were found near the northern edge of Fiddler's Hill, near the barrow - one skeleton was of a dog. This find has helped to keep the legend alive.