The Rollright Stones are associated with a rich variety of folklore traditions, some over 400 years old.

These tales include a petrifaction and witchcraft legend, the stones being uncountable, various stones going down the hill to drink, fortune telling, and a number of bad luck stories. Other stories include the Stones being sources of fertility and acting as oracles.

Petrifaction Legend

The witch and the king (image courtesy of Andy Norfolk)

The Stones take their names from a legend about a king and his army who were marching over the Cotswolds when they met a witch who challenged the king saying, “Seven long strides shalt thou take and if Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be”.  On his seventh stride a mound rose up obscuring the view, and the witch turned them all to stone:  the king became the King Stone;  his army the King’s Men;  and his knights the Whispering Knights (plotting treachery).  The witch became an elder tree, supposedly still in the hedge:  if it is cut the spell is broken the Stones will come back to life.

Uncountable stones

Legend has it that it is impossible to count the King’s Men. It is said that the man will never live who shall count the stones three times and find the number the same each time. It is also said that anyone who thrice counts the same number will have their heart’s desire fulfilled. (It is harder than you might expect!) A baker swore he could count them and, to prove it, he baked a number of loaves and placed one on each of the stones. But each time he tried to collect them up some of the loaves were missing, spirited away either by the Devil or by fairies.

The dangers of removing stones

A local farmer supposedly took one of the largest stones to make a bridge over a stream. It took 24 horses to drag the stone down the hill and a man was killed on the way.  Eventually they got the stone across the stream, but by the morning it had flipped over onto the bank!  This happened each time they replaced it;  then the crops failed, so they decided to put the stone back.  It only took one horse to drag it up the hill! 

Taking pieces of the Stones

As with some Welsh standing stones, any passing carrier who chips bits off the King Stone will find the wheels of his cart become irrevocably locked!  

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