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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

April A-Z: Black Shuck

The Black Shuck, a demonic dog, is my favourite bit of folklore from my East Anglian youth.

In the legend, the devil appeared in the form of an enormous, slathering black dog to the good people of Bungay, Suffolk, while they were in church.  This occurred during a storm on August 4, 1577.  The dog ran through the church, killed two people and caused the roof to collapse.  The claw marks he left on the church door can still be seen.  As the book cover to the left suggests, the fact that lightning was  also something that occurred that night may be relevant ...

This story is well-known locally and there are many 'black dog' pubs and other businesses in the area.  The legend of the Black Shuck continues to be told, and I clearly remember being told as a teenager in a Norfolk pub that anyone seeing the Shuck would die (I think within a year - you've got to have time to spread the word, haven't you...).

Of course, there are other similar stories worldwide, but I do find it interesting that in East Anglia there are several versions of this black demon dog tale, while other areas have their big cats and other phantom beasts. Shuck is said to come from the OE or Anglo-Saxon 'scucca' meaning demon.

Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay
The book cover at the top of this post is something I found in searching for a suitable image whose copyright I wouldn't be infringing (I usually assume authors want their covers seen).  I hadn't come across this book before, but was able to read the first chapter online and have now added it to my wishlist.  It's written jointly by a local historian and an anthropologist and has a blurb by no less than Ronald Hutton.  The book clearly explores the story as folklore, as myth, in terms of what it tells us about the area and its people, and seems like an interesting read.  So, I'm glad my husband suggested this topic or I wouldn't have come across this!

2 comments:

  1. This is a fascinating piece of folklore. I love learning new things like this :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoy folklore and hearing something like this I've not heard before. Good luck with the challenge!

    ReplyDelete

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