The Doomed of Brangwen

  • The Doomed of Brangwen – Judy: #904 (07 May 1977) – #913 (09 July 1977)
  • Artist: Oliver Passingham

Plot

When Kathie’s mother has to go to hospital, she tells Kathie to go with her two younger brothers to her home village Brangwen,and that she will be looked after there. Unfortunately the village is cursed with ghostly apparitions of smugglers haunting the streets each night. After seeing these ghosts go by Kathie finds her brothers missing. She asks around the village for help looking for her brothers, but everyone denies their existence telling her she arrived alone. That night she sees her brothers with the ghosts.

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When the villagers find out who her mother is they are more open with her as she is one of them.  They bring her to her grandmother who lives in a big house up on the cliffs. Her grandmother, Manfraya, explains that centuries ago, villagers of Brangwen, lured ships onto the rocks and plundered the goods. One night Jamie Trevellyan (an ancestor of theirs) joined the smugglers and got shot by Excisemen, his companions left him to die. His grieving mother, Roberta Trevellyan,  in turn cursed the whole village. The smugglers soon died and were condemned to walk the streets for eternity. Along with them some of the living villagers are chosen to walk with them at night, continuing the smuggling trade. Those who are not chosen to walk with them cannot see where the ghosts reside or they will be taken. This happened a boy by the name of Young Willie years ago and he was never seen again. Later Kathie meets Young Willie but he warns her away from the path she is taking. That night Some of the villagers decide to take Kathie to the dead as they believe that she is making the dead uneasy since she arrived. Although Kathie argues that even if they got rid of her they will still be cursed.

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Kathie is saved by the appearance of the ghost of Roberta, who for some reason doesn’t want the Dead to get Kathie. Soon after that a stranger turns up in the village, he turns out to be Kathie’s uncle, Roger. Manfraya faked his death as a baby and sent him away as she was afraid the dead would have taken him. Helped by Young Willie’s mother Beth Hewitt, Kathie and Roger try to find the place of the dead. Roger hurts his leg, but Kathie carries on and she finds the cave but an evil apparition tells her she will never leave. Roberta comes to rescue her rescue again. Later some village men decide to defy the dead, and not walk with them. As long as they stay at the Trevellyan house, with Kathie they will be safe. But Kathie is tricked into seeing her brothers and runs to them leaving the men unprotected.

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Beth tells her she is the only one able to break the curse, as she is under Roberta’s protection. She has to go to the Dead’s secret place while they are still roaming the streets. Kathie finds her brothers, who are no worse for wear after their adventures. Manfraya,  Beth and Roger round up the villagers to get them to defy the dead.  Kathie encouraged by the help of the villagers, manages to convince Roberta to let go of the past, the dead disappear and the curse is lifted.

Thoughts

Oliver Passingham is one of my favourite artists, he could portray a variety of stuff from comedy/slapstick to horror. He did seem to draw a lot of supernatural stories, such as Skeleton Corner stories and was very good at creating shadowy and creepy atmospheres. Throughout this story the ghosts are very eerie, as is the cave where they reside. There is some great detailed scene shots that make the environment look threatening and creepy. I like the panel where the villagers bring Kathie to her grandmother’s house. Even though its during the day, so a bit less creepy, there is a sense of isolation about the house, and potential danger of the cliffs.

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The flashback to the original curse is also great, first the image of the wrecked ships and the people left to drown.  Then when Roberta finds her son and curses the village, you never see her face, its always in shadow. Apparently a grieving mother’s curse is one of the most powerful things in the world. Although I would argue that Jamie, hardly deserves such wrath. The smugglers were despicable people, wrecking ships off the cliff and of course they left Jamie to die, but Jamie chose to go with them, so that doesn’t say much for his character.

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The curse itself seems needlessly complicated and doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways.

  1. The smugglers die and are forced to spend their afterlife walking the streets of Brangwen. This seems fitting for Roberta’s revenge.
  2. The Dead then chose living people to walk with them and keep smuggling, apparently they can have the living under their control as well. This makes less sense, why would Roberta want to keep smuggling activities going, but I suppose it could be that as she has cursed the whole village and this will make even the innocent doomed and continue the curse.
  3. If anyone not chosen to walk with the Dead, looks upon them and sees where they are going, then they are taken. When Kathie looked they apparently don’t take her because she fainted and didn’t see where they went. Young Willie is kept with them by a combination of  both the Dead and the living. He also has to guard the path to their cave. Apparently the Dead’s cave is a secret, yet all the villagers know to avoid that area and when some of the villagers try to give Kathie to the Dead they go up near the cliff path.
  4. The curse is sustained only as long as Trevellyans stay in the village. When Kathie’s mother, Emily left, the ghosts became more uneasy and troublesome. This is why some of the villagers don’t like Kathie. Also the Dead don’t take Roger apparently because they need him to live on in the village to keep the curse going. This makes the least amount of sense. If all it takes to break the curse was the Trevellyans to move away, then why don’t they leave? I know it would be hard to leave their big house and maybe money had something to do with it, but still the entire village is cursed!

Also it seems odd that Emily would send her children to Brangwen, sure their only living relative is there, but there had to be some better option then sending them to a cursed village.  Also its unclear why Roberta decides to save and listen to Kathie, maybe its because she is the only ancestor that actually tried to do something about the curse.

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Despite these logical flaws and unnecessary complications, I do like the story. This is in most part because of the amazing art, but there is a lot to like in the story as well.  I like that the villagers are nearly as antagonistic as the ghosts themselves. They get rid of all evidence of the boys so Kathie has no way to prove to the police that her brothers are missing. The villagers are motivated by fear, but there is a sense of community with them and they look after their own. They do try to comfort Kathie when she discovers her brothers with the Dead.

I like Beth Hewitt’s character, she is a wise woman, but also quite broken hearted about her son. She is the one who really riles the villagers up to make a stand, telling them Willie was better off with the Dead then been raised with a bunch of cowards. Manfraya has some parallels to Beth, she lost her son as well, but through choice she sent him away in attempt to save him, but similarly she has been quite heartbroken about it. Kathie is our typical hero, strong, right-minded and determined, but she can be rash at times. After promising to stay with the village men she nearly dooms them by running after what she thinks are her brothers. Overall it is a nice creepy story with some good characters.

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