There is a large volume of folklore surrounding the genesis of this festival, the central story of which being variously called ‘The King and the Faerie’, ‘Dunmonii’s Fruit’, and many other variations upon that theme. Whilst the scholars from Benetek and de Geers have a long-running argument over whether the Ethlebert or Homfrey version of the story came first, both have the same essential story at their heart:
King Dunmonii (one of the more tyrannical Buentoilliçan kings in his early reign, Dunmonii converted to the Chastise Church toward the end of his life, repenting his sins), was visited by a faerie in his bed chamber, early in the morning of the Seventh of January. It gave the King two small red berries, saying ‘One you shall eat and one you must bury, before the day is out, or a great trouble shall befall you.’ The King was a gluttonous and stubborn man; he ate the first berry, and then, finding it to be extremely delicious he proclaimed ‘I do not believe in faeries!’ and ate the second as well.
Later that day, the King went out hunting in the woods to the east of the City. There he was beset upon by a group of bandits and died in the snow along with his entourage. In the following days a great blizzard raged, and the Kings body was not found for many weeks. By the time the snows had melted, a small tree was found growing out of his stomach, from which his body could not be dislodged. The next year the whole city set out to honour his passing at the very same tree, and saw that it was covered in hundreds of the small red berries, like drops of blood. Each person took two berries, eating one and planting another before the day was out.
The modern festival proceeds from this myth. Today, hundreds of people will leave the City through The Traitor’s Gate and walk out into the countryside on a long and beautiful route to what is now called Dunmonii Wood, after the amount of Dunmonii trees therein. The route is littered with these trees, and from them each walker takes two berries, one which they eat there and then, and one which they bury. It is considered bad luck to take any more than this, but many do nonetheless, as the berries are exceptionally tasty.
The Dunmonii tree is a very short-lived tree, surviving only a few years before it withers and dies, yet it’s growth is prodigious, with many recorded specimens being well over ten foot tall, and stout as an ancient oak. As a result the tree has been the subject of sustained scientific attention for many years. The berries seem to appear overnight, and only last for one day; after this they turn brown, drop from the tree and become highly toxic. No successful methods of preservation have yet been found.
Other festivals happening today:
- Regent June’s Dunmonii Pie Eating Competition
- Flautists’ Circle Party Day