The Devil and St Dunstan
Many monks and hermits over the course of history have been visited by Satan or his minions, whose mission is to tempt them into sin (see The Devil and the Nun, above). What makes the story of The Devil appearing to St Dunstan so interesting is the tale itself, and the popularity of it in folklore. St Dunstan (c.909-988) eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury, but as a youngster was more inclined towards living independently of the world as a hermit. It was in this eremitical guise that he met The Devil, and went down in secular legend.
Dunstan lived as a hermit in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. As well as prayer and contemplation, Dunstan also filled the lonely hours with metalwork, making implements for the Abbey to use. One day, as dusk approached, an old man appeared at the window of his cell, and asked Dunstan to make him a chalice. He agreed to the request, but as he got to work, he noticed that his visitor kept changing shape, from an old man to a young boy to a sexy lady. Dunstan realised that the chalice-seeker was The Devil, taking many forms rather too literally.
Undaunted, Dunstan silently heated up his iron tongs in the fire. When they were red hot, he rounded on the figure at the window, seizing his nose between the jaws of the tongs. The Devil writhed and cried out in agony, but Dunstan did not let him go until he felt he had learned his lesson. When he finally escaped, poor Beelzebub ran through the town crying âWoe is me! What has that bald devil done to me? Look at me, a poor wretch, look how he has tortured me!’ The humorous event became a long-standing staple of folklore.