Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy

Old Shuck

Must a fairy always resemble a human?

Certainly not! Nor must a fairy take on human characteristics. We are speaking of immortals here, and immortals are not bound to think, exist, or behave as mortals do. So why not assume the aspect of an animal? And why not an enormous Black Dog?

Old Shuck, Black Shuck, Old Shock, Snarleyow, the Dog Fiend . . . whatever his name, this fellow is a very famous fairy-beast of Old English lore. Throughout history, across the British Isles, stories have been told a malevolent black dog with flaming eyes (or, sometimes, green eyes) that stalks the coastline or countryside, often lingering near graveyards, dark forests, or sights of murder.

Most often, he is an omen of doom. Sometimes, however, he has served as a protector. Either way, he is a popular Anglican figure, so popular, in fact, and so often cited throughout the centuries, that he is listed as a cryptid: a creature whose existence has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus . . . and, truth be told, often regarded as highly unlikely.

Unlikely or otherwise, Old Shuck has a vital life in the world of lore and literature, and is this life any less vital than the reality in which we exist?

See this chilling account from back in 1577:

This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a mome[n]t where they kneeled, they stra[n]gely dyed.

A Straunge and Terrible Wunder by the Reverend Abraham Fleming

Possibly the most famous reimagining of this terrible beast was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant, Hound of the Baskervilles. The titular hound, oppressor of the Baskerville family, haunting presence on the wild moors, is the very likeness of Old Shuck . . . at least, as far as meets the eye!

Sherlock Holmes will come upon a different answer, given time.

I was pleased to recently rediscover this dreadful fairy in the children's book, The Beast of Noor, written most chillingly by Janet Lee Carey. Ms. Carey takes the myth in her own, interesting direction, but the core of the legend, the sense of strange, otherworldly reality, remains intact.

My own world features a pair of Black Dogs, sibling monsters that haunt the Paths of the Netherworld save when sent on various errands by the Death-in-Life himself. Once they are sent after their prey, the never stop until they run him down!

And have I mentioned that I live with my very own daily omen of doom?

Oh no! The Black Dog is pursuing!


Faith King said...

There's "Padfoot" from Harry Potter too. Who didn't turn out to be a death omen, but Harry sure thought he was for a while! :-)

Enjoying these folklore posts!

Celtic Traveler said...

Yeah, I was thinking of Harry Potter's "Grim" the whole time, too:)

Galadriel said...

Oh, very cool.

Jenna K. said...

Creeepy!! Reminds me of the big bad wolf! Very interesting though! =D

Clara said...

I started thinking of the Hound of Baskervilles right away and wondered if you were going to make a reference to it or not:)

You'd better watch out for that vicious dog of yours! ;)

Rachel6 said...

Oddly enough, I'd never heard of this particular fell beast before; the Holmes reference caught me by surprise! Now that you mention it, of course it makes perfect sense. :)

And the addition of your dog provided an absolutely perfect touch of levity to a chilling post. Kudos, Mrs. Stengl!

Taisia said...

Oooh! Creepy! I like the Sherlock Holmes reference. Like Clara, I was also wondering if you would mention The Hound of the Baskervilles. Your dog looks so cute! :)

Molly said...

I love dogs.
Just in case you didn't notice.

Clara said...

Last night, I was reading through all the parts in Heartless that had Gervais in them, (for my short story) and I came across the ballad that he sings to Una. The one that goes, "Oh, my love is like the blue, blue moon..." that one. Well, it reminded me of My Love is Like a Red Red Rose (one of my altime favorite ballads) so I played it on my guitar this morning, but sang your words. It actually worked PERFECTLY! I just thought that was really cool!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

You know, I can't believe I completely forgot about Padfoot/the Grim! It's been a while since I read Mr. Potter adventures . . . . But that was my favorite one! Isn't it fun seeing how famous authors as dissimilar as Conan Doyle and Rowling can use the same source of inspiration? :)

Speaking of inspiration: Clara, I was inspired to write Gervais' love song based off of "Red Red Rose." As a matter of fact, Rose Red's name in book 2 stemmed from my obsession with that song at the time! :) I'll bet it sounds really pretty on the guitar. You should record yourself singing Gervais' ballad sometime! I'd love to here it. :)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Heheh, that is, I'd love to HEAR it . . . this is why God gave me editors! ;)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

And thanks to everyone who liked my ferocious Black Dog! She is one lone and longsuffering beast among all my rescue kitties . . . and I wuv her. :)