Professor Trelawney describes it as “The giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards! My dear boy, it is an omen-the worse omen- of death!” (JK Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, Pg 83(I am referencing this out of respect to Rowling herself)) Since then I was fascinated by the concept of Grim’s and death omens. So for this article, I decided that that was exactly what I was going to focus on.
The ‘Grim’ is not an original idea in itself; in fact, mentions of the ‘Grim’ or of a similar creature have been mentioned throughout history in various stories, myths and folklores. For example, we have heard tales of Hellhounds, the Cerberus and even the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ from Sir Arthur Conan Doyles ‘Sherlock Holmes’ to name but a few.
Lets take a look at some of the other tales out there, where we glimpse a spectral or deathly dog. One of my absolute favourite places to go is Dartmoor National Park, near Plymouth (England). It is riddled with stories, myths and folklore, many of which contain some wild dangerous hound. For example, the story of the huntsman “Dewer” who would chase unsuspecting victims to the top of the highest crag and allow them to fall to their deaths, if the fall itself did not kill them, then his ‘hell hounds’ would be waiting at the bottom ready to tear their prey to pieces. Another is that of the Yeth hounds: these stories can vary slightly but tend to include beastly hounds accompanying a devilish hunt. One of the most famous (and one of my personal faves) is of course ‘The Great Black Hound’, the inspiration for ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and set around the aptly named Hound Tor. Ghostly hounds have been spotted in this place throughout the ages, the blame for these beings falling on many a malevolent character, such as Richard Cabell who was said to hunt young children across the moor with his devil dogs. People have often stated how catching glimpses of the great granite formations in the setting sun makes one see giant monstrous dogs and other spectral creatures. I myself have ventured out (as far as I dare to go) into the wilds of Dartmoor as the sun sets and seen the shadows shape and play, and you never quite get over the feeling that someone is stood at your shoulder.
Yet England is not the only country in the world to have hounds play a particularly frightening part in their folklore. The Cerberus plays a key role in Greek mythology as the terrifying multi-headed dog belonging to Hades, God of the Underworld. He guards the gates to the underworld, keeping the spirits in and the living out. (And on a side note I found out that an android anti-theft company has adopted this creatures name and I thought that was rather smart) Stories of Witches and their familiars are spread far and wide, and while black cats are common, great snarling hounds are just as popular. We could even make links to that of werewolves and how these animalistic men have plagued countries and horror movies through the ages. (Although we may cover werewolves in particular later on)
And how would you drag out a death omen such as a clock failing to ring or chime over an entire novel.
(Some might be able to do it, but I would certainly struggle)
If JK herself ever reads this blog, then please feel free to get in touch! :D