Wastwater Legends

I received an e-mail a while ago, and the sender asked the following question:

‘Another question is whether The Leaping is based on any legends at wastwater as I have been told about a giant dog that is said to live near the lake and about a monster which lives in the lake.’

I haven’t heard either of these stories, but naturally I’m intrigued. (For those of you that don’t know, ‘The Leaping’ is set in Wasdale and around Wastwater, and it’s an area I’m quite familiar with).

Anybody out there – folklorist, local, anybody – able to shed any light?






3 Responses to “Wastwater Legends”

  1. I do not profess to be a fully-fledged folklorist, and by no means am I a native local, but I have done a fair bit of research on the (widely spanning) legend of black dogs (specifically the {Black} Shuck of East Anglia.)

    Black dog legends are pretty common across the UK, with most information and apparent sightings in East Anglia and Yorkshire if I remember correctly. The beasts are often considered the size of a calf and will have huge red eyes (often explained as the size of saucers). It is rumoured that these are a bad omen for the person who sees it, and those are expected to die within the year.

    Mostly due to the location where they are common, black dogs are sometimes associated with water, but sometimes just that they are found near them – indeed some legends say their lairs are found on nigh-impassable marshes and fens; the Hound of the Baskerville’s in Conan Doyle’s tale fits this as well. Black dogs are reputedly most often sighted near marshes for this same reason.

    They are sometimes considered agents (or aspects) of Satan, and in a number of cases have been recorded as attacking churches. The most well-known stories in East Anglia relate to Blythburgh and Bungay churches.

    Regarding lake monsters – it’s a very common Celtic myth, of which the Loch Ness monster is one version thereof. I’ve yet to read ‘The Leaping’, so cannot comment on whether the monster of the email is of this sort or another. Merfolk legends also occur just as often in lakes as open sea.

    For such a long prior internet echoey silence, this has turned out longer than I’d expected! Hope it helps nonetheless.

    (There’s also Yorkshire legends about a thing called a yeth hound or guytrash – Charlotte Bronte mentions it in ‘Jane Eyre.’ It’s slightly different from the shuck, but I’ve yet to research it. Either way, here seems a pretty summative article on black dogs of the UK.)

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