A hellhound is a supernatural dog, found in folklore. A wide variety of ominous or hellish supernatural dogs occur in mythologies around the world, similar to the ubiquitous dragon. Features that have been attributed to hellhounds include black fur, glowing red or sometimes glowing yellow eyes, super strength or speed, ghostly or phantom characteristics, foul odor, and sometimes even the ability to talk.
Legend says that if someone is to stare into its eyes three times or more, the person will definitely die. In cultures that associate the afterlife with fire, hellhounds may have fire-based abilities and appearance. They are often assigned to guard the entrances to the world of the dead, such as graveyards and burial grounds, or undertake other duties related to the afterlife or the supernatural, such as hunting lost souls or guarding a supernatural treasure. In European legends, seeing a hellhound or hearing it howl may be either an omen of death or even a cause of death.
The most famous hellhound is probably Cerberus from Greek mythology. Hellhounds are also famous for appearing in Northern European mythology and folklore as a part of the Wild Hunt. These hounds are given several different names in local folklore, but they display typical hellhound characteristics. The myth is common across Great Britain, and many names are given to the apparitions:Moddey Dhoo of the Isle of Man, Gwyllgi of Wales, and so on (see Black dog (ghost)). The earliest mention of these myths are in both Walter Map's De Nugis Curianium (1190) and the Welsh myth cycle of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi (ca. 10th-13th century).
In Southern Mexican and Central American folklore, the Cadejo is a big black dog that haunts travellers who walk late at night on rural roads. The term is also common in American blues music, such as in Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on my Trail"
Main article: BarghestBarghest, Bargtjest, Bo-guest, Bargest or Barguest is the name often given in the north of England, especially in Yorkshire, to a legendary monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws, though in other cases the name can refer to a ghost or Household elf, especially in Northumberland and Durham (see Cauld Lad of Hylton). One is said to frequent a remote gorge named Troller's Gill. There is also a story of a Barghest entering the city of York occasionally, where, according to legend, it preys on lone travellers in the city's narrow Snickelways. Whitby is also associated with the spectre. A famous Barghest was said to live near Darlington who was said to take the form of a headless man (who would vanish in flames), a headless lady, a white cat, a dog, rabbit and black dog. Another was said to live in an "uncannie-looking" dale between Darlington and Houghton, near Throstlenest.
The derivation of the word barghest is disputed. Ghost in the north of England was once pronounced guest, and the name is thought to be burh-ghest: town-ghost. Others explain it as German Berg-geist (mountain spirit), or Bär-geist (bear-spirit), in allusion to its alleged appearance at times as a bear. Another mooted derivation is 'Bier-Geist', the 'spirit of the funeral bier'.
Main article: Black ShuckBlack Shuck or Old Shuck is the name given to a ghostly black dog which is said to roam the Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk coastline. Black Shuck is sometimes referred to as the Doom Dog.
For centuries, inhabitants of England have told tales of a large black dog with malevolent flaming eyes (or in some variants of the legend a single eye) that are red or alternatively green. They are described as being 'like saucers'. According to reports, the beast varies in size and stature from that of simply a large dog to being the size of a horse.
There are legends of Black Shuck roaming the Anglian countryside since before Vikings. His name may derive from the Old English word scucca meaning "demon", or possibly from the local dialectword shucky meaning "shaggy" or "hairy". The legend may have been part of the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.
It is said that his appearance bodes ill to the beholder, although not always. More often than not, stories tell of Black Shuck terrifying his victims, but leaving them alone to continue living normal lives; in some cases it has supposedly happened before close relatives to the observer die or become ill. In other tales he's regarded to be relatively benign and said to accompany women on their way home in the role of protector rather than a portent of ill omen.
Sometimes Black Shuck has appeared headless, and at other times he appears to float on a carpet of mist. According to folklore, the spectre often haunts graveyards, sideroads, crossroads and darkforests. Black Shuck is also said to haunt the coast road between West Runton and Overstrand.
One of the most notable reports of Black Shuck is of his appearance at the churches of Bungay and Blythburgh in Suffolk. On 4 August 1577, at Blythburgh, Black Shuck is said to have burst in through the church doors. He ran up the nave, past a large congregation, killing a man and boy and causing the church tower to collapse through the roof. As the dog left, he left scorch marks on the north door which can be seen at the church to this day.Two men were touched by the beast and fell down dead
The encounter on the same day at Bungay was described in "A Straunge and Terrible Wunder" by the Reverend Abraham Fleming in 1577:
|“||This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) runing 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.||”|
|“||All down the church in midst of fire, the hellish monster flew, and, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew.||”|
The appearance in Chignal St James/Chignal Smealy, small villages near Chelmsford, Essex are said to have occurred many years ago. All those said to have seen the devil dog are rumoured to have met an untimely end within a year of seeing the red-eyed devil dog, matching the legend that all that see Black Shuck will perish within a year of looking into his eyes. These are of course all rumours and superstition, however, many websites exist acting as directories of sighting of Black Shuck, and these can easily be found on the popular search engines. In recent times, sightings of Black Shuck in the Chignal area have been put down to sightings of black dogs that belong to residents roaming the village, such as The Three Elms pubs large black labradoodle and the Gardening Express nursery terrier cross.
In Catalan myth, Dip is an evil, black, hairy dog, an emissary of the Devil, who sucks people's blood. Like other figures associated with demons in Catalan myth, he is lame in one leg. Dip is pictured on the escutcheon of Pratdip.
In Welsh mythology and folklore, Cŵn Annwn ( /ˌkuːn ˈænʊn/; "hounds of Annwn") were the spectral hounds of Annwn, the otherworld of Welsh myth. They were associated with a form of the Wild Hunt, presided over by Gwynn ap Nudd (rather than Arawn, king of Annwn in the First Branch of the Mabinogi). Christians came to dub these mythical creatures as "The Hounds of Hell" or "Dogs of Hell" and theorised they were therefore owned by Satan. However, the Annwn of medieval Welsh tradition is an otherworldly paradise and not a hell or abode of dead souls.
In Wales, they were associated with migrating geese, supposedly because their honking in the night is reminiscent of barking dogs. They are supposed to hunt on specific nights (the eves of St. John,St. Martin, Saint Michael the Archangel, All Saints, Christmas, New Year, Saint Agnes, Saint David, and Good Friday), or just in the autumn and winter. Some say Arawn only hunts from Christmas toTwelfth Night. The Cŵn Annwn also came to be regarded as the escorts of souls on their journey to the Otherworld. The hounds are sometimes accompanied by a fearsome hag calledMallt-y-Nos, "Matilda of the Night". An alternative name in Welsh folklore is Cŵn Mamau ("Hounds of the Mothers").
In other traditions similar spectral hounds are found, e.g. Gabriel Hounds (England), Ratchets (England), Yell Hounds (Isle of Man), related to Herne the Hunter's hounds, which form part of the Wild Hunt.
According to Welsh folklore, their growling is loudest when they are at a distance, and as they draw nearer, it grows softer and softer. Their coming is generally seen as a death portent.
The gwyllgi (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈɡwɪɬɡi]; compound noun of either gwyllt "wild" or gwyll "twilight" + ci "dog") is a mythical dog from Wales that appears as a frightful apparition of a mastiff with baleful breath and blazing red eyes.
The yeth hound, also called the yell hound is a Black dog found in Devon folklore. According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the yeth hound is a headless dog, said to be the spirit of an unbaptised child, which rambles through the woods at night making wailing noises. The yeth hound is also mentioned in The Denham Tracts.
The Church Grim, Kirk Grim, Kyrkogrim (Swedish) or Kirkonväki (Finnish) is a figure from English and Scandinavian folklore. They are said to be the attendant spirits of churches, overseeing the welfare of their particular church. English Church Grims are said to enjoy loudly ringing the bells. They may appear as black dogs or as small, misshapen, dark-skinned people.
The Swedish Kyrkogrim are said to be the spirits of animals sacrificed by early Christians at the building of a new church. In parts of Europe, including Britain and Scandinavia, a completely black dog would be buried alive on the north side of the grounds of a newly built church, creating a guardian spirit, the church grim, in order to protect the church from the devil.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sybill Trelawney, the divination teacher, associates Harry's tea leaves with the Grim, which she calls "a black dog who haunts churchyards." The Church Grim inspired the creation of the Grim, which is said in the book to be an omen of death.
The title character in Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel Jane Eyre is reminded of a Gytrash when she first sees Mr Rochester's black horse Mesrour and his black and white dog Pilot. Illustration by F. H. Townsend for the second edition of the book.The Gytrash ( /ɡaɪˈtræʃ/), a legendary black dog known in northern England, was said to haunt lonely roads awaiting travellers. Appearing in the shape of horses, mules, or dogs, the Gytrash haunt solitary ways and lead people astray. They are usually feared, but they can also be benevolent, guiding lost travelers to the right road.
In some parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire the gytrash was known as the 'Shagfoal' and took the form of a spectral mule or donkey with eyes that glowed like burning coals. In this form the beast was believed to be purely malevolent. As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me. It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of Bessie's Gytrash -- a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge head [...], with strange pretercanine eyes [...]. The horse followed, -- a tall steed [...]. Nothing ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone [...].
—Excerpt from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, chapter xii The Gytrash's emergence as Rochester's innocuous dog Pilot has been interpreted as a subtle mockery of the mysteriousness and romanticism that surrounds his character and which clouds Jane's perception. Brontë's reference in 1847 is probably the earliest reference to the beast and forms the basis for subsequent citations.
Hellhounds are a common monstrous creature in fantasy fiction and horror fiction, though they sometimes appear in other genres such as detective novels, or other uses.
- Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Hellhounds appear in Roger Zelazny's 1970 new wave fantasy novel Nine Princes in Amber.
- Hellhounds feature in Rick Riordan's series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
- Hellhounds are called 'The Grim' in the Harry Potter series and have an important role in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
- Hellhounds feature in Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series.
- Hellhounds are the pets of Harpies in Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Series.
- Hellhounds (called Shadow Hounds) appear in Anne Bishop's Tir Alainn trilogy.
- In Piers Anthony's On A Pale Horse, Satan sends hellhounds to attack Zane (Death) and bring him back to hell. The hounds are immortal but are dispatched by Death's magical scythe.
- Frank Belknap Long's Cthulhu Mythos-related Hounds of Tindalos.
- Hellhounds appear in the motion picture The Omen.
- In Anthony Horowitz's Raven's Gate, the protagonist, Matt, is pursued through a forest by demonic canines, after being discovered eavesdropping on a witchcraft ritual. The dogs are described as having rotten flesh, and emerge from the witch's bonfire.
- Hellhounds (called darkhounds) appear several times in Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time. Darkhounds are a particularly nasty form of Shadowspawn. They look like very large dogs or wolves. Their saliva is deadly poison - a single drop on the skin can kill. They are extremely difficult to kill and once they sense their prey they never give up. The only thing that stops them is rain or running water. They leave footprints in stone but none in soft ground.
- Hellhounds appear in the television show Supernatural. They are used and controlled by demons to drag souls to hell (usually after a deal for the victim's soul has accrued). Only the person being attacked can see or hear the hellhound, and they are never seen on screen.
- Houndour and Houndoom, two of the Pokémon creatures, are based on the concept of a hellhound.
- In Call of Duty: World at War, in the 2nd and 3rd map pack of Nazi Zombie mode, Shi No Numa and Der Riese, Hellhounds appear and attempt to kill the players every 5-7 rounds. They have glowing eyes, are quite swift and burst into flames when spotted. These Hellhounds return to the Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombie levels Kino Der Toten and Moon.
- In Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job, Charlie Asher, who becomes a soul collector, adopts two hellhounds to protect his daughter Sophie.
- A Hellhound named Sammael is one of the main antagonists in the first Hellboy film.
- In the MMORPG RuneScape, there are many Hellhounds.
- In Neverwinter Nights, the hellhound is available as a familiar for wizards and sorcerers.
- Alucard of the manga series Hellsing can transform into a hellhound.
- In the Bersek manga, the dark side or shadow of Guts's personality is represented as a hellhound or black dog.
- In League of Super Evil, the League has a pet hellhound (usually referred to as a Doom Hound) named Doomageddon who is usually chaotically evil and disobedient, sometimes becoming a cause of, though at times a solution to, their problems.
- Hellhound is also a creature of chaos in the game Master of Magic.
- In the video game The Witcher the Hellhound is a boss monster.
- In Heroes of Might and Magic III, the hell hound is a recruitable 3rd-level unit from the Inferno town that can be upgraded into a cerberus.
- In the Japanese manga One Piece, the Marine Admiral Akainu can use a magma-based ability called Meigou. Meigou translates to Dark Dog, but the official English translation calls it Hellhound.
- In the video game NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, one of the bosses for Will's dream is called Cerberus and is, as stated by Reala, a hellhound