The Barghest, North Yorkshire
Legends of phantom black dogs abound in British folklore – witness Black Shuck in Norfolk – but the tale of the Barghest, associated with the North East of England, has a twist on the theme.
Much debate can be found about the origin of the name Barghest, which has many variants including Barguest and Bargeist, and these reflect the nature(s) of the creature. The Bar element (a corruption of burgh or burh) generally denotes town, as the thing is an urban dweller, with alternative meanings bear, bier and even hill. The bear option – though generally the Barghest is a giant black dog – comes from its shape-shifting ability, in some places appearing as a bruin (in others as a headless man, a cat, and even a rabbit). The ghest part is assumed to mean ghost or spirit.
Darlington and Newcastle have strong claims to the tale, but it is most closely associated with York and Whitby . In York, it is said, lone travellers venturing at night through that ancient city’s back alleys, snickets and ginnels (the lovely neologism snickelways now often covering them all) have sometimes become a meal for the Barghest in its black dog form, devoured by the huge yellow fangs and great jaws of the hell-hound. Not something the York tourism office is likely to shout about.
In Whitby too the creature takes a canine shape to attack its victims. Intriguingly it is suggested that Dracula’s arrival in the town in Bram Stoker’s great novel, where the vampire assumes the form of a snarling black dog, may have been inspired by the local legend.
1 Response to The Barghest
From kathy on 9th July 2011
The Bargest is only to be feared by those doing wrong. It will protect the innocent on their lonely journeys if you ask it to.
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