|Produced for:||Fantomen 2-3/2012|
|# of pgs:||32|
In Chapman's Cove, a small port village in Cornwall, England, the local Christian priest, Joshua Grieves, is rallying his flock against the local pagan traditions, in particular the Druid coven that exists within the village.
Chris, son of the the 12th Phantom is staying at Chapman's Cove with his friend Billy, who is Grieves' nephew. One night, after a sermon, Grieves is attacked by a mysterious, hooded figure. The figure drags Grieves away to a secret location where he is locked in a steel cage.
The next day a visitor arrives in Chapman's Cove, a Marcus Marksley who is claiming to be a historian interested in the local pagan customs. At the same time in South London, the Phantom is tracking down a villain who has stolen some diamonds. Upon capturing the villain the Phantom decides to visit Chris, as Chapman's Cove is not far from where he is.
That night, the captured Joshua Grieves is released from his cell by the same hooded figure who attacked him (although it is unknown to Grieves that it is the same man). Knocked out once again when released from the cage, Grieves awakes to find himself enclosed inside a 'wicker man,' a giant statue made of wicker that alleged Druids used for human sacrifice.
The hooded figure lights the wicker man which erupts in flames, burning Grieves alive. As the towns people watch on, talk begins and people are quick to blame the Druids.
The next day a group of soldiers arrive in the village to investigate the murder. Marksley is quick to point out the similarities between the murder and supposed Druid sacrifice rites. Later on, Chris and Billy spot Marksley going through Joshua's desk and stealing some documents.
At that moment the Phantom arrives in Chapman's Cove and goes to see Chris. Before he can knock on the door of Billy's house, Marksley bursts out, obviously in a hurry. Seeing the Phantom arrive, Chris and Billy tell him what they saw Marksley doing in Joshua's study.
The next day, Chris and Billy spot two of the villagers having a quiet conversation and passing something between them. Curious, the boys investigate and discover the object is a stone with the Druid symbol of awen carved into it. The awen, (according to the story,) means 'secret knowledge.' That night the boys follow one of the villagers into the inland fields where they witness a Druidic rite. Unknown to them, Marksley is also watching.
The next day the Phantom begins to investigate the murder of Joshua, speaking with both Marksley and various villagers. It is here that Marksley shows the Phantom the awen stone. While the Phantom investigates there is another murder, one of the local villagers burnt alive in another wicker man.
As the Phantom continues his investigation he learns that the local Druid coven does not accept responsibility for the murders and claim to have been framed. Meanwhile, Chris and Billy try to take back the documents Marksley stole, but are captured by him instead. Learning that Marksley has taken the boys the Phantom goes after him.
With the help of one of the local Druids, the Phantom discovers the secret cave to which Marksley took Joshua and now Chris and Billy. While trying to rescue the boys the Phantom is also captured. Here Marksley reveals that he is in fact Joshua Grieves' son and murdered his father to gain his fortune, framing the Druids in the process to keep the law away from himself.
Marksley then takes the Phantom to a third wicker man, intending him to be his final victim. However, Chris and Billy have escaped their cage thanks to the Phantom dropping them his knife as he walked past. Distracting Marksley, the boys enable the Phantom to escape the wicker man by toppling it over and breaking it to create an opening. The Phantom finds Marksley attacking the boys and defends them. However the Phantom's hands are tied and Marksley runs off into the dense fog that has arisen.
Due to the fog Marksley looses his way and wanders into a stone circle that was built by the Druids. Suddenly, a group of hooded figures surrounds Marksely. He is visibly scared of them and threatens to shoot.
Back in the fog filled lands surrounding the stone circle the Phantom hears a gunshot. Following the sound, he comes across Marksley who has fainted. It is unknown what happened to Marksley, nor is it revealed if the figures he saw were the local Druids, ghosts or simply in his imagination.
Circling the fainted Marksley with torches the Phantom waits until the soldiers find him, taking him away to answer for his crimes.
- Marcus Marksley
- Joshua Grives, Billy's uncle
- Will, farm hand
- Mr Sexton
- Mr Strand, lawyer
- Clegg, coachman
- Chapman's Cove
- Smuggler's Cave
- Portcullen (mentioned only)
- Chapman's Cove
Behind the scenes
While the story of course uses some creative licence, it is rather accurate when discussing the known facts about the ancient Druid beliefs and practices. It is known that Druids would create stone circles in which to worship and perform their rites. Also, the awen is a Druidic symbol, however in actual fact it means 'inspiration' rather than 'secret knowledge' as claimed by Marksley. The symbol would have traditionally been worn by musicians, artists, poets, soothsayers and other creative people.
When the story was published in Australia, Jim Shepherd wrote in his editorial that there is "little reason" to doubt the claims is Roman historians and Irish. However, historians believe that the accounts given by these parties are uncertain at best. Most of the Roman accounts of Druids were written by Julius Caesar himself and the Irish accounts were given by Christian Irish converts. Both parties had an interest to discredit and build public opinion against the native religion and costumes of Druidry. It is also unknown if Druids actually did use a "wicker man" in any of their rites, sacrificial or not. Only Caesar and Roman Strabo mention the wicker man. There is no actual archaeological evidence to suggest that they were ever used.
When the story was published in Sweden and Norway, it was accompanied by an article written by Claes Reimerthi which details the myths and historical facts which inspired the story.
This story has been published in the following publications:
- "Burnt Offering", The Phantom #1622 (2012)
- "Polttouhrit", Mustanaamio Spesiaali 5/2013
- "Brennoffer", Fantomet 1-2/2012
- "Brännoffer", Fantomen 2-3/2012