Recently I’ve been managing a small project… a discussion board in a discord server that I am active in daily. After much thought I’ve decided that I want to start sharing that discussion here.
This week’s topic was Mythical Creatures.
“What are your favorite mythical creatures and why? What creatures do you want to learn more about?”
You are walking home alone through the countryside at night, and from across the field you hear an otherworldly howl. You feel the howl in your bones and a chill comes over you, and you tell yourself, it’s just a dog. But you can’t help walking a little faster. The howl rises again and you tremble, and begun to run. After a time you realize that you can no longer hear the howl. You stop, and look around, and realize that you’ve lost your way. You look behind you, thinking you could find your way back, but afraid to discover the creature that made that horrible sound. When you again face forward you are looking into the red eyes of an enormous black dog. You realize that he stands nearly as tall as you as his hot breath bathes your face. You try to step back but are frozen. You open your mouth to cry out, and from your throat comes a horrendous scream that echoes through the night.
A traveler alone save for the horses pulling his cart hears an otherworldly howl rend the quiet night. Before long he comes across a seemingly still body on the road. On the ground around it are scorch marks in the shape of paw prints. He lifts your lifeless body onto his cart and urges his horses towards the cottage visible just on the next rise. The inhabitants recognize your corpse, and as they mourn they thank him for bringing their loved one home.
My favorite creature, without a doubt, is the Hellhound. When most people heard the word “hellhound” they conjure an image of a beastly black dog covered in flames. But what is a Hellhound? The term is used to describe a variety of supernatural canines ranging from ghostly to legendary. Stories about these otherworldly creatures are told all over the world. While no one agrees 100% on their origins, they do agree that they are terrifying.
The next stories illustrate why I love these creatures. They transcend what we think we know by tickling the darkest part of our minds and casting light on our fears, but also exemplifying the traits that make us love and adore our four legged counterparts.
The Cwn Annwn and the Wild Hunt
These ghostly hounds were said to have red ears and white coats. They accompanied the Wild Hunt and chased down criminals so they could be taken to the underworld. They are frightening in their appearance, but in legend they served a vital role that transcended the realms of the living and the dead by opening the door between them.
“The Wild Hunt” copyright Roger Garland.
The Black Shuck
“He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound.”
– Highways and Byways in East Anglia, by William Alfred Duitt, copyright Macmillian and Co. Limited 1901, pg. 216
One of the many devil dogs of England, The Black Shuck, was said to be a large black dog with red eyes that killed unwary people. The most well documented case of the Black Shuck comes from the early 1500’s. According to the author of the tale a large black dog interrupted services of a village church in England and killed two parishioners. The only evidence of his presence was scorch marks on the door of the church where he had broken in. (Rev. Abraham Fleming: A Straunge and Terrible Wunder, 1577)
This is but one of many tales of Black Dogs told in England, but possibly the most well known.
The Church Grim
The story of the Church Grim is one of both folk tale and metaphor. It was believed that the first person buried in a cemetery would be trapped there, and so in many places once the ground of the church yard was consecrated they would bury a black dog. The spirit of this dog was said to become the guardian of the grounds and those buried there. He became a beast both holy in his duty to protect and demonic in his pursuit of those who would harm the place he existed to protect. This story is deeply symbolic of the roles that dogs have played in the lives of humans. They are unconditionally loyal and we trust them to protect us and our families. In life and in death.
Thanks to modern entertainment we have shows like Supernatural and The Ancient Magus Bride that feature black dogs as key characters. The teams that make these and other media have put Hellhounds in the public eye and now these fascinating animals are represented in beautiful artwork on sites like Artstation and Deviantart.
In SUPERNATURAL hellhounds are vicious creatures that serve demons and drag souls off to hell, usually with great violence. But in The Ancient Magus Bride we see a completely different side of the black dogs in Ruth, a protective Church Grim who loyally serves and aids the main character Chise.
The first image belongs to Mori Art on Artstation.
The second image is from the TV series Supernatural.
The third image is of the character Ruth, a Church Grim from the manga/anime The Ancient Magus Bride by Kore Yamazaki *I found this on pinterest and am still searching for the original artist. Any help would be appreciated.*
Because the weekly discussion topics update on Fridays, I will be posting the corresponding article here on Sundays.