Tom Campbell and the Devil: A Saga of a Wrestling Match and Whisky Galore
The wrestling between Tom and the devil lasted all evening and even as the Sun rises, they were holding each other's necks. Occasionally the combatants broke away to take nips from the bottle.
Image for representation. (Reuters)
The devil spoke.
"Tom, I hear you have been having a laugh at my expense! Now it is time to pay.” That booming voice from the very devil himself could curdle the blood of any human being on earth, but not of the Highlander, Tom Campbell.
"Ouch it's you," he said.
Well before we begin, would you mind taking a drink, Tom offered the fine bottle of whisky he was carrying. Why not? The devil might have asked himself. Poor beast, he had no idea what sort of drink a Highlander might be drinking in the evening. Before Tom could jump in, the devil had slurped into half the bottle.
"Hey, hold on, save some for me!" Tom cried and snatched the bottle away from the greedy devil who now began to stagger slightly. Hmm... Tom thought, the devil had never tasted good stuff like this, he looked at his bottle again.
"Cut the crap," the devil boomed, "it is time for the duel."
Tom took a swig from the bottle and asked: "on what condition?" The devil smiled cockily. "If I win the fight, I will take your damned soul forever."
"But what if I defeat you," Tom asked.
The devil guffawed, the ripples of his laughter ricocheted among the frigid mountains standing guard around them in the darkness. "You can ask whatever you want if you can pull out a victory over me!"
Tom had only one demand. If he wins, the devil should lift the plague off from his land. Fair, the devil said.
So the fight began. Between Tom Campbell the Highlander and the devil.
***. ****. ***
Whiskey runs deep in the homeland of Scotch, Scotland. Check the urban legends and folktales of the place and you'll learn how close people hold those bottles to their bosom. Perhaps the most popular folktale of Scotland is the one that tells us about the fight between a Highlander named Tom Campbell and the devil.
Many many centuries ago there lived a man Tom Campbell in Westcross. He became a sailor like many of his kinsmen during his time. In course of time, he fell in love with a girl and decided to say goodbye to the sea forever in order to settle down in his land. Like every other Highlander, he loved his 'usige beatha', 'water of life' aka whisky along with his family. It was hard work all day for poor Tom, and in the evening, he took to whisky to relieve himself of his tiredness. He was one of the few people yet untouched by the plague that was ravaging his country.
One evening after the work, Tom stopped at the local tavern and bought the finest whisky he could afford. Before he took the first nip, he offered a toast, well, a sort of: “The plague is devil’s work right enough! But he’ll not get the better of me!”
Bragging, you may call that or Dutch courage. Usually, such empty words emanating from a tavern in the evening, would hardly be given importance; instead, they dissolve into thin air, but on that fateful evening, they fell into the ears of the very devil himself who took offense. He was on the prowl to get a fresh soul.
When the sun had set, Tom Campbell was on his way home. Suddenly he stopped as he heard a burst of freakish laughter from his back. Tom turned and saw what he first thought to be a Highland coo. No, it is not. The devil took a step forward to the moonlight.
"Tom, I hear you have been having a laugh at my expense! Now it is time to pay,” the devil boomed.
The wrestling between Tom and the devil lasted all evening and even as the Sun rises, they were holding each other's necks. Occasionally the combatants broke away to take nips from the bottle. While whisky helped Tom in his fight, it was systematically denting the surefootedness of the devil who was not used to this kind of stuff. So on one moment, when the Devil could take it no more, Tom threw him onto his back. The Highlander danced around in ecstasy (more from whisky than from victory), celebrating his achievement while the devil cursed himself and vanished.
Tom took another swig from his bottle and passed off. He was back to his senses after many hours, waken up by the local priest who had good news to share. "The plague has gone." Tom knew, not even his wife would believe his story. All the blame would be put squarely on the whisky he had drunk.
PS: How this secret he kept to himself became a folktale is a question we'll ponder some other day. Perhaps over a dram of Scotch.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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