2018 releases

Hell's Bell
Scent of the Jaguar
His Outback Nanny
The Queen's Game
366 Days of Flash Fiction
On the Horizon: Simple worlds of speculative adventure
Lusting the Enemy

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Magic Thursday - Mythical Creatures, beasts from Hell.

[Image courtesy: Fanpop]
With eyes that reflected the very fires of Hell, it came. Slavering, wild and inestimably cruel. It sunk on its haunches, muscles bunching beneath glistening ebony fur. Four strong paws, tipped with obsidian claws clicked against icy pavement. I gave a cry and turned away. There was no kindness in those crimson eyes, no gentle heart beat beneath that muscled chest. There would be no mercy from this beast. I knew it, so I ran. 

So what are these beasts and where did they originate?

Today I'm talking about the Hellhound, a mythical beast that appears in mythologies all around the world. The Hellhound in its various forms has been found in Greek, English, Welsh, German, Catalan, Central American mythology to name but a few.

Firstly, I'm going to talk about "Black Dogs", a name now synonymous with depression and misery. Throughout Europe, legendary  black dogs of enormous size have appeared to haunt particular places and prey on humans.

Phantom Black Dogs
[image courtesy: Brenda Rosen, Mythical Creatures bible]
In almost every county throughout England (and Belgium as it happens) there are Phantom Black Dogs. There are of course regional variations, but most are described as being as large as a calf, red eyes a big as saucers and a shaggy coat. They haunt ancient paths, crossroads, churchyards and old gallows sites - all places associated with bad luck, superstition or unexplainable events.
Legend has it than on Sunday 4th August 1577, in a town in Suffolk, a terrible thunderstorm took place. Suddenly, a huge black dog, known in the area as "Black Shuck", lit by lightening, appeared in the church attacked the congregation. Most believed that that the beast was a Hellhound, sent by the devil. The beast is credited with killing two people and injuring several more.
The dog was later believed to have visited the Cathedral of the Marshes in Blythburgh (Holy Trinity Church) during the same thunderstorm - within an hour of its earlier appearance. In this appearance the hound, after charging down the aisle, fled through the North door of the church. Large black scorched gouges can still be seen on the door. (Which I think is pretty nifty!)

In other places throughout England, the black dogs are believed to be portents of death. One, apparently commonly sighted in Yorkshire, is called the Barghest. It is believed that anyone who sights this creature will die shortly after. It is my opinion that the Grim in Harry Potter is probably closely linked to this one. Similarly there is a similar beastcalled the Mauthe Dog, who guards the ancient castle of Peel, on the Isle of Man.

As I mentioned Belgium earlier, I feel I should also mention the Kludde. This is a black dog, who can also appear rather randomly as a cat, frog, bat or horse. In all its forms, the Kludde can be identified by the sounds of rattling chains, as well as blue flame that flickers around its head. The Kluddes modus operandi is jumping onto the backs of lone travellers and mauling them... nice.

I couldn't write about Hellhounds without mentioning Cerberus, whom it is said is the mythic ancestor of all other Hellhounds.
Cerberus is the terrifying hellhound that guards the gates of Hades (the Underworld in Greek Mythology). Cerberus' job is to ensure that no living person can enter the underworld, and likewise, no spirit escape.
Cerberus is described in several ancient works chiefly Homer and Hesiod, in the 8th Century BC.  Cerberus is uniformly described as immensely huge and fierce, and originally was described as the offspring of Echidna and had fifty heads. Later texts describe him as having three heads, and the tail of a serpent and mane of snakes. You may also remember "Fluffy" from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone... a giant dog with rather noticible Cerberean characteristics!

The Beast of Gevaudan
My last Hellhound to mention is called the Beast of Gevaudan. There is a lot of information on this beast as it walks the line between mythological beast and cryptid. This means that there are eye witness accounts of the creature and although the beast cannot be proven to have existed, it hasn't been proven to not to have existed either.
[Image courtesy: abovetopsecret]
The Beast of Gevaudan hanted the area of south-central France during 1764 - 1767. The beast  allegedly killed between 60 and 100 people, namely women and children. The creature was said to be as large as cow, with wide chest, long tail, pointed ears and a mouth with protruding teeth. There was mass hysteria obviously about this creature, so King Louis XV ordered his huntsmen to kill it. Although King Louis sent his finest huntsman, it appears they were unsucessful and it was eventually brought down by a man named Jean Chastel, who claimed to have prayed on the bible before hunting it. There are naturally many hypothesis about what exactly the Beast of Gevaudan was. Some say a human mass murder, others suggest some remnant population of ancient wolf. None the less, a fascinating beast to be sure.

Well I hope this post has been fodder for your muse, and you've discovered something you didn't know about the magical world of myths and mythology.

Enjoy your Thursday!


  1. Wow - scary stuff! I was told by a friend a long time ago about driving along the road late one night and she looked out beside her (think she was the passenger) and seeing a big black dog keeping pace. Didn't ask too much more about it at the time but wish I had!

  2. Ooooh, that's exciting. You should have asked if it had red eyes! My husband and I were driving home years ago down a fairly main road in semi-rural area and we saw this thing standing by the side of the road. It was grey, and really shaggy, it was just standing on all fours staring at us as we drove by. For a few seconds we didn't say anything then I said "did you see that?" and he said yes, "what the hell was it?". No, we didn't go back and check! Years we couldn't think what it may have been. Only recently, we were told that there are actually stray goats in the area, so maybe that's what it was... didn't look much like a goat though, maybe a very big, non horned goat...:P

  3. Nicola, once again thanks for your mythological creatures post - I love reading them. Definitely fodder for the muse. I must admit though having owned black dogs (a Staffy X, and a Rottweiler), I don't find black dogs so terrifying. But I suppose I would if they looked like the above! Though Fluffy is cute when he's sleeping. :)

  4. LOL I've got a black dog too, he's more of a zombie now though rather than a Hellhound. At sixteen he smells like roadkill, and looks nearly as good! Poor old thing.