Wandering Tales: Black Shuck
A lot of people end up here in East Anglia looking for Black Shuck. Writers, monster-hunters… Those with very little sense. I suppose we’ll see which you are soon enough.
Which am I? I’m a roamer, I go wherever the tale takes me, and tonight, the tale is in the fens.
You’ll want to set out after dark. Old Shuck is seldom seen in the daylight, at least not without a stormy sky to smother the sun.
The first time anyone saw Black Shuck? No one knows for sure, but he made the papers in 1127. Imagine walking home, the road lit only by a dwindling moon, and you’re approached by a dog, the size of a horse, shaggy fur bristling in the wind and blazing red eyes trained on you. You can see why Shuck made the headlines.
His legend grew and a macabre pattern emerged, people began to drop dead one year after meeting Shuck’s gaze. No one knows if he appears as an omen to those who only have a year regardless, or if his fiery red eyes are what cause your demise.
Some lost travellers claim Shuck has led them out of the fens, and they’ve gone on to live long lives… Personally, I think there are those who stumble across Old Shuck, and those who are called to him.
Shuck’s most famous sighting came centuries later in 1577. It was a tumultuous time in England, the Great Comet flew across the sky and East Anglia prepared for one of England’s most violent witch hunts. Was it this brutality that summoned Black Shuck?
A stormy night raged across Suffolk, thunder boomed and lightning cracked threateningly close. Black Shuck burst through the church doors of Blythburgh with such force the steeple collapsed, killing a man and boy. 20 miles away in Bungay Church, two congregation member’s necks were snapped as Shuck raced between them.
The only sign Shuck was at the helm of this carnage? The scorch marks seared into the church doors.
Many questioned how Shuck could materialise villages apart on the same evening. I’m a sceptic, a seven-foot dog destroying churches and acting as a omen of death is one thing, but one that lives for centuries? I believe that Shuck isn’t a name, but a title. I think Shuck is the tribe of harbinger dogs that have been roaming the East Anglian fens for centuries, their numbers slowly growing.
Well, go on then, the sun is going down. Maybe I’ll see you around if Black Shuck doesn’t see you first.
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Lucinda is a folklore lover and general tree-hugger. She takes a sweet and sour approach to art, writing stories etched in creep, terror and tenderness alongside watercolour paintings of botanical beauties and dreamy magic.
You can find Lucinda at instagram.com/lucinda_morrow_ or foraging in the woods.