The Black Dog of Weacombe

It is a winter afternoon and a child has wandered too far from home high up on the Quantock Hills. Maybe they were distracted from their normal route by a beautiful red stag or a pony, following them when they knew they should not. Maybe the mist that so often hangs on top of hills came down too quickly, maybe the winter night, the dark, crept in too soon. Whatever the reason this child is now lost. They panic. They wander further, making things worse in the hope that they are going in the direction of their home, back down towards Bicknoller.

The mist thickens and the cold is biting. They stumble, then sit at the base of a tree. Despair fills their little body when suddenly out of the mist walks a giant black dog, shaggy and the size of a small pony. The child jumps, but rather than fear, it is reassurance that fills them as the creature approaches. They can tell that he is kind.

The dog nuzzles the child and the motions for it to follow. They do so, holding gently to the shaggy black fur and before long to the child’s amazement they have come back down through Weacombe and are near their home. The child approaches their door and runs towards their waiting parents. They shout what happened but as they turn to thank the black dog, it is nowhere to be found…

Black Dogs are relatively common animals in folklore, usually ghostly or demonic creatures that bode of ill, but the main Black Dog of the Quantocks that frequents around Weacombe Coombe is a rare anomaly, for it is benevolent.

There are various reports, but the best known is of children being lost on the hills, seeing a large shaggy black dog, a beast that would normally be a frightening apparition, but rather than being scared, they are drawn to it. They follow the beast and it leads them back home, ensuring their safety in a landscape where a lost child would normally meet a tragic end. Indeed tragic ends are far more the norm in folktales…

Other reports of the Black Dog in this location are even more mysterious. They report a black dog that seems to be able to lead people across a kind of threshold into the realm of the dead. In folklore Black Dogs are often ghosts, creatures that when they appear are either seen as a form of haunting or as an omen of death. Black dogs of the normal living kind were also associated with death, perhaps tainted by the folktales – it was tradition to bury a black dog in the north of a graveyard in order to protect the dead from evil spirits. Perhaps this idea in certain tellings has become combined with the more benevolent nature of the Weacombe dog and its helping those who are lost, giving it the power to lead people to places where no living soul should be able to go…

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