Monday, 24 March 2014

Of Black Shuck, and other terrors

"They do speak of a dog that walks regular. His eyes are big as saucers and blaze wi' fire. He is fair as big as a pony, and his coat is all skeffy-like, a shaggy coat across. He has a lane, and a place out of which he come, and he vanish when he hev gone far enough." - account of a demonic dog near Garveston in Norfolk, from Enid Porter's Folklore of East Anglia.

"Black Shuck, that dog don't give a fu.." - The Darkness, minstrels of Lowestoft

Yesterday saw another nice little gathering of OGRE, the East Anglian regional oldhammer group, with an exciting 3 way battle between Dwarves, Wood Elves, and Fimir around a polluted river. Pictures and a battle report of that encounter to come, but in the meantime I thought I'd keep ya'll updated with the latest additions to my fimir force.

In trying to create an East Anglian theme for my Fen-dwelling fimir, I'm always on the lookout for inspiration from regional folklore. One of the most widespread stories that spread around East Anglia (and to a certain extent persists to this day) is that of a giant ferocious black dog, with glowing demonic eyes - known locally as "Black Shuck".

On the morning of Sunday, 4 August 1577, the people of Bungay were at prayer in their local parish church. The sky was darkened, and a storm had broken, pounding the windows and doors with heavy rain. It was as though hell had broken loose - and then, from out the gates of hell, a beast as black as the storm smashed through the door and launched itself fast as lightning down the nave. Passing between two of the townsfolk kneeling in prayer, it tore into their neck and killed them in an instant. He then launched into a third man, striking him on the back and causing him to shrivel up like leather scorched in the fire, before bounding out as quickly as he had entered. To this day, the scorchmarks from the hellish hound's claws can be seen on the church door.

Another tale of Black Shuck concerns a small blind boy standing with his sister on Thetford Bridge. the blind boy said to his sister: "Please send the big dog away", to which his sister replied, "What dog? There's no dog here." Suddenly the girl felt her brother being pulled away from her and into the water, and only managed to whisk him away home and to safety in the knick of time. Black Shuck's association with the water comes through in many other stories, including the tale of an old lady in Blickling, who told the village parson, "Don't you know that when Arthur was fishing in the lake, he caught an enormous fish and that, when it was landed, a great black dog came out of its mouth? They could never get rid of that dog, who kept going round and round in circles inside the house, till they send for a wise man from London, who opposed the straight lines of the partitions to the lines of the cricles and so quieted the dog. But if these young people pull down the partitions, they will let the dog loose again".

If my fimir force are a manifestation of East Anglian nightmares - the creatures that emerge from the mist and drag you screaming into the fens - it seems clear that I should do something to represent the nightmare of hellish dogs as black as the night and with red glowing eyes. Luckily for me, I'd just picked up for very little a couple of plastic GW sets that someone leaving the 'Games Workshop hobby' was getting rid of, and one of the boxes he was getting rid of were Fenrisian Wolves for a 40K Space Wolf army - perfect to use as Chaos Hounds on the cheap, and fitting the description of Black Shuck quite well.

Can't quite get the glowing eyes in the picture. Need a better camera! But you get the idea. I can imagine the people of albion huddled behind the barred door of an inn, waiting for the sound of the scratching of claws...

I also made a couple of other additions to the force while I was at it - my first attempt at painting a Nick Bibby fimir - this one can act as my warlord. Also, I decided for the scenario we needed a crude war altar. For that purpose I painted up the top of the heroquest rack model, and put it on the backs of two shearl (thralls from Oakbound miniatures' "The Woods" range of Myeri Marsh Demons)

Again, not a great picture, here's another one, this time from yesterday's battle - unfortunately in this picture you can also see my Warlord legging it! Why has he turned and fled? Well, you'll have to wait for my next post to find out!


  1. Good to see the Fimir force growing. Black Shuck brings back memories of my Suffolk childhood too! May I refer you to the song 'Black Shuck' by Lowestoft band The Darkness as it contains all you need to know about the legendary beast.

    1. Hah, had to go back and add in a reference to that song now. Very good! Looking forward to seeing you soon oop north.

    2. Great idea, see you soon mate.

  2. We did a whole half term's work on folk tales the other year - Black Shuck, the Lantern Men and others. Definitely a good resource to plunder for your army theme.

    Can we expect a Lambton worm next?

    1. Hah... funny you should say that. Actually, I have no plans for a Lambton worm but after a chance encounter with the following youtube video: my kid can't stop singing/ asking about said worm.