Gytrash

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The title character in Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel Jane Eyre initially mistakes first Mr Rochester's black and white Newfoundland dog Pilot and then his black horse Mesrour for a Gytrash. Illustration by F. H. Townsend for the second edition of the book.

The Gytrash /ɡˈtræʃ/[citation needed], a legendary black dog known in northern England, was said to haunt lonely roads awaiting travellers.[1] Appearing in the shape of horses, mules, or dogs, the Gytrash haunt solitary ways and lead people astray. They are usually feared, but they can also be benevolent, guiding lost travellers to the right road.

In some parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, the gytrash was known as the 'Shagfoal' and took the form of a spectral mule or donkey with eyes that glowed like burning coals. In this form, the beast was believed to be purely malevolent.

As this horse approached, and as I watched for it to appear through the dusk, I remembered certain of Bessie's tales, wherein figured a North-of-England spirit called a "Gytrash," which, in the form of horse, mule, or large dog, haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers, as this horse was now coming upon me.

It was very near, but not yet in sight; when, in addition to the tramp, tramp, I heard a rush under the hedge, and close down by the hazel stems glided a great dog, whose black and white colour made him a distinct object against the trees. It was exactly one form of Bessie's Gytrash -- a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge head [...], with strange pretercanine eyes [...]. The horse followed, -- a tall steed [...]. Nothing ever rode the Gytrash: it was always alone [...].

— Excerpt from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, chapter xii[2]

The Gytrash's emergence as Rochester's innocuous dog Pilot has been interpreted as a subtle mockery of the mysteriousness and romanticism that surrounds his character and which clouds Jane's perception.[3] Brontë's reference in 1847 is probably the earliest reference to the beast and forms the basis for subsequent citations.[4]

Harry Potter[edit]

In the third book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a mysterious Gytrash-like large black dog appears to Harry several times while he is alone in dark places (here referred to as a Grim, an omen of death). However in the end it is revealed to be his godfather Sirius Black in animal form. Interestingly, Gytrashes are featured in the video game adaptations of the early instalments of the series, as a large, vicious, nocturnal spectral dog, that can only be kept at bay by using light.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (1894) [First Published in 1870]. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 
  2. ^ Brontë, Charlotte (1847) [First Published in 1847]. "Chapter XII". Jane Eyre. London, England: Smith, Elder & Co. Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  3. ^ Dr. Sally Minogue (1999). "Introduction". Jane Eyre. p. xv. ISBN 978-1-85326-020-9. 
  4. ^ Wood, Dr. Juliette. Gytrash (PDF). p. 2. Retrieved 2009-01-13.