Where WOULD an impoverished South Midlands agricultural worker get forty or so bells?

The process was, typically, as follows: Gather together a group of six stout men and/or women armed with sticks, one Fool armed with a pig’s bladder (or suitable substitute), one Hobby Horse, and as many musicians as can be awakened from their drunken stupor. Venture into a wood that is known to harbor wild trunkles (a small animal similar to a very large gerbil, with small metal protuberances growing from its back.) Use the Hobby Horse and musicians to herd the trunkles toward the place where the others are waiting.

As they get close, the trunkles will see the pig’s bladder and will become attracted to it. The Fool can then herd the trunkles to the place where the six stout stick-men and/or -women are waiting to bash them on their poor little heads. Great care must be taken not to damage the bells or the skin to which they are attached. Also, great care must be taken not damage the Fool who has wandered into harm's way (hence the name).

If the trunkles are skinned very carefully you can get a piece of leather that is the proper shape for attaching to one’s legs. All that remains to be done is to add buckles to the straps. Editor's note: it has been pointed out that if you skin a trunkle very carefully, leaving the claws, you can forego the buckles. The trunkles' legs will wrap around your leg and then you hook the claws together to keep them on.

There are variants to this process, of course. Some sides replace the hobby horse with a man dressed up in women’s clothing armed with a broom. Other groups argue that trunkle hunting can only be properly done by men (despite evidence to the contrary). There doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement as to which method works best but every group is convinced that their way is The One True Way.

Comments on the relationship between Rapper Sword and Trunkles

There is also another type of group that also hunts trunkles. It isn’t clear why, because they don’t seem to use the bells for anything. These groups don’t use sticks to hunt trunkles. Rather, they use springy steel blades with wooden handles on each end. These blades are called rapper swords because, when you bend one and then let go of one of the handles, the free end will fly out and “rap th’ trunkle on ‘is noggin”.

How the game of Cricket evolved from morris dancing.

Many have noted the uncanny resemblance between the white uniforms and caps worn by cricket players and the kit of several of the morris sides of the early part of the twentieth century. It turns out that this is a vestige of the origins of cricket as a means of practicing trunkle hunting skills. The connection can be seen quite clearly if one merely imagines the batsman waiting alongside a forest trail for the hapless trunkle to wander his way.

The thing that has confused so many researchers is that so many aspects of the game of cricket have very little to do with hunting trunkles. As it gained popularity, the game took on a life of its own and, as a result, it lost most of its original context.

The use of a ball was simply a convenient substitute for a trunkle. The bowler, of course, was merely a means of providing motive power to the substitute trunkle (actual trunkles, as one would expect, provided their own power.) The fieldsmen were added after people got tired of retrieving the substitute trunkles from hedges. The stumps were used to simulate the woodland conditions in which most trunkle hunting took place. The idea of adding bails to the stumps to make wickets, like the idea of scoring runs, was merely a late addition that occurred as the game evolved from its original purpose.

Comments on the theory that golf evolved from trunkle hunting.

Am I right that when hunted, trunkles sought to escape down their burrows? Is there a link between trunkle hunting and golf?

Actually, trunkles, like cricket balls, prefer to escape into the nearest thicket or hedgerow. The question of a cricket/trunkle hunting/golf connection is intriguing, but I suspect that there is no direct connection. Scotland is farther north than the known range of trunkles. To the best of my knowledge, the precursor to golf was just a method of clearing burrowing rodents from the few bits of arable land available in Scotland.

For further information on trunkles and trunkle hunting, please refer to:

  • A Field Guide to Western Trunkles

  • Mushrooms, Trunkles, and Wild Gnocchi

These works can be found at many of the finer bookstores.