The Vision of Tundale
12th century, Latin, translations into 15th century Middle English: British Library, London; Bodleian Library, Oxford; National Library of Scotland.
Fiends were laying souls out upon the iron and these souls were consumed into the stinking heat and melted like wax in a pan then re-formed so that the process could begin all over again.
'The Vision of Tundale was first written in Latin during the latter half of the twelfth century,' read Miranda, 'during the span of decades that produced the writings of Chrétien de Troyes, Marie de France, Thomas of Britain and Hue de Rotelande. Its author was Marcus, an Irish Benedictine monk who moved to the Scots Monastery at Regensburg in Germany and was asked to write down this story that he had brought from Ireland. Immensely popular throughout the Middle Ages, it was translated into many languages.
When the angell had told his tale, throw an entré he lad Tundale, that was darke – when the angel had finished speaking he led Tundale through a dark passage. There was no light except for that which the angel himself emitted and soon they came into a gloomy valley. What Tundale saw there worried him greatly and he shook with anxiety as he studied the dismal landscape and smelt the stench that filled the air.
'The ground was an expanse of burning coals and over the hot coals was laid iron that was glowing red from the heat. Bars of metal rose to the height of a man and the flames passed through them as though designed to inflict the severest pain from the intense heat they gave to the iron and the acrid stench of carbon and sulphur. Nothing before had ever frightened Tundale so much as the sight of this, for fiends were laying souls out upon the iron and these souls were consumed by the stinking heat and melted like wax in a pan and the molten liquid would pass through the iron and the coals like oil through a cloth –
as hit wer wax throw a clothe – to be collected and re-formed and put back by the fiends onto the iron once more for the torment to begin afresh.
'Collected and re-formed?' said Quintin, quizically. 'An endless cycle of destruction and creation, death and birth – old ideas cast into a Christian Hell and made into a grotesque parody?'