A HISTORY OF THE FIRE-EYED DOG
(This image by Mary Grandpre.)
The Padfoot: Also known as 'Black Shuck', 'Grim', and 'Shuck Dog'. A fire-eyed spirit in the form of a great black dog, the size of a small calf. Known to protect lone travelers; or kill the unworthy. Sometimes, an omen of death. Invisible at will; at home in the fens, downs, and marshes of any world. The Padfoot is always completely silent....
The Padfoot has been a legend since the 1500's. The Padfoot was probably descended from the viking legends of Odin's black hounds and Thor's own dog, Shukr. At first the Padfoot was seen as an omen of death, and a messenger of the devil. More recently, the Padfoot's true, benevolent nature has been discovered. Reports and sightings show a protector of travelers, and an understanding of humans. The Padfoot's form conflicts with his nature, however-- a gigantic, firey-eyed black dog appearing at midnight in a fen would scare the living daylights out of anyone.
Many Names: The Padfoot is called by many different names. In Yorkshire and Lancashire, the Padfoot is called Guytrash, Shriker or Barguest. East Anglia and Norfolk are the origin of ‘Black Shuck' and Skeff. In Southern England, ‘Yeth' and ‘Wish Hound' are the Padfoot's aliases. The origin of ‘Guytrash' is unknown. ‘Shuck' may be from the Old English word, ‘Scucca', meaning ‘demon' or ‘spirit'. ‘Yeth' means ‘heath', and ‘Wish' may be an old Sussex word for ‘marsh'. ‘Barguest' may be a German word, ‘Bargeist', which means ‘spirit of the graveyard'(‘Geist' means ‘spirit' or ‘ghost').
A typical sighting is a Padfoot appearing suddenly out of the gloom, walking with a traveler for a few paces, then slowly fading from sight. Several sightings have been more violent, however; an early Padfoot raced through a church and killed two kneeling parishoners in an instant. Burn marks on the church door can still be seen today.
A 1577 sighting of the Padfoot shows a great fear by humans.
"There appeared in a most horrible form a dog of a black color, together with fearful flashes of fire which made some in the assembly think doomsday was come. This dog, or the Devil in such a likeness, ran the length of the church with great swiftness and incredible haste, passed between two persons as they were kneeling and wrung the necks of them both at one instant."
But one scholar says, "There is rather more evidence that black dogs are freindly (or at least, harmless) than they are dangerous. Indeed, the dogs are often positively helpful." In more recent times, there have been more benevolent sightings than evil ones.
The Padfoot-- by many different names-- has appeared in some more modern books, as well.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Philip Pullman
"Lyra listened enthralled to tales of the fen dwellers, of the great ghost dog Black Shuck, of the marsh fires arising from bubbles of witch oil, and began to think of herself as gyptian even before they reached the fens."
HARRY POTTER: J.K. Rowling
In Harry Potter, there are no Padfoots themselves, but their names are used many times. The mythical creature they call 'The Grim' is a type of Padfoot; and Sirius Black's nickname, 'Padfoot' is because his Animagus form is a giant black dog, similar to a Padfoot.
A NOTE: The Paw symbol has taken me a while to construct. I really like the way it turned out! I would prefer that you did not use it, but if you must, please e-mail me with your site address for my permission. Even then, you still have to give a link to this page!!!
'Paw of the Padfoot' was created on July 26, 2001.