Tag Archives: Legendary beast

The Hodag

Background:

This story came from lumberjack camps In Northern Wisconsin. The Hodag was first reported in the late 1800s, and since has become a figure representative of the region surrounding its supposed place of origin. During my informant’s youth, the town just north of him, Rhinelander, used the Hodag as its symbol, also acting as the high school mascot there. They even have a huge country music festival called the Hodag.

Context:

The informant, my grandfather, says that the Hodag is an important piece of lore to everyone in North Wisconsin. So much so, that my grandparents had their first kiss at the Hodag music festival, and my grandpa’s band played there. Early accounts of the Hodag were even published in the local newspapers, so it’s an important and ever-present aspect of the culture there.

Main Piece:

“So the Hodag is this weird creature that has like a frog kind of head, a fat, squat lizards body, with bulldog-like legs, with big horns protruding out of its head and down its back, and a big horn at the end of its tail, so it was a weird-looking thing. So there were–it was supposed to roam the north woods of Wisconsin, and probably where the story came from was in the lumberjack camps in Northern Wisconsin. Um, one guy–I don’t know his name–it’s said that he actually caught a hodag and burned it. And they published a picture with ashes and a pile of horns. Some people believed that, but to make it really convincing they actually made a taxidermy one and toured it as a sideshow with the circus. When the Smithsonian sent someone to verify it, the guy who created it admitted it was false. Later I was doing some research as the director of Marathon County Historical Museum and reading through some old papers from the 1890s, and there were a couple articles I found really interesting. One claimed that “all kinds of mischief” was going on in the lumberjack camps in Northern Wisconsin, North of Rhinelander. I don’t remember much detail, but there was a bunch of chaos in the camps and the lumberjacks thought there was Hodag in the woods near them. And the other instance, there was a lumberjack that disappeared in the woods and it was blamed on the hodag–they said it ate him.”

Analysis:

Following some more digging, I was able to find out that the Hodag is believed to have come about as a response to the abusive treatment of animals, especially oxen, in lumber camps (Kearney). This seems reasonable because it was not the only terrifying beast to have originated from such camps. As a giant lumberjack, early Paul Bunyan stories also often featured the Hodag. What I find particularly interesting, however, is how this manifestation of abuse and cruelty made its way into the hearts and minds of so many locals in the area. Although it may have sprung from cruelty, the fact that the Hodag once made it into state and even national news headlines completely transformed it. When it had been seen by the nation, outsiders began to think of Rhinelander as the home of the Hodag, thereby associating the two. Because the legend of the creature had been scaled up, it grew from its original representation of cruelty to become a symbol of pride for the locals of the area.

For More on the Hodag and Other North American Beasts:

Kearney, Luke Sylvester (1928). The Hodag and Other Tales of the Logging Camps. Madison, WI. pp. 9–17.

The Legend of The Beast of Bodmin Moor

Informant: In the 1970s there was a rumor, legend, whatever, that there was a beast on Bodmin Moor in Devon. The moor was isolated and creepy and people became afraid to go there because of this beast. You need to know there were a lot of sheep on the moor that had been found mutilated and chewed by something. And there were reported sightings of a huge panther like thing with yellow eyes and a big black cloak. Then in the late 1970s people said somebody found a huge cat like a lion or a tiger or something. The rumor said it had been released from a nearby zoo or private owner, someone like Jo Exotic.
Other people said it was some sort of paranormal beast. Nobody ever got a picture of it. But THEN, and I think it was the late 1970s, somebody found a tiger or a panther skull on the moor.

Interviewer: So wait there actually way a panther on the moors?

Informant: Ah but! They sent it to the museum in London and it was indeed the skull of a panther, but the way it was detached from the rest of the body it looked like a rug. It turned out somebody had chucked out an old ratty rug and it rotted away leaving only the skull. So the mystery has never been solved.

Interviewer: Do you think it could have been someone just wearing the rug as a costume and messing with people?

Informant: Might have been, yeah. Could have been.

Interviewer: But I don’t know how they would have disemboweled the sheep like what you described.

Informant: Yeah. There weren’t wolves around there in 1978, I don’t think, so it couldn’t have been them. But it might have been foxes or natural wildlife, or a big dog.

Context: I asked my informant about what stories she knew about as a kid growing up in England. This was the first thing that came to mind.

Thoughts: There are pictures of a black cat when one searches for the beast which definitely coincides with my informants description of the creatures. I wonder if once upon a time there was a large cat in the area or if it really was just a large dog.

Succineers

These creatures are typically females who have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for power and earthly rewards. They shed their human skins at night and fly around as balls of fire. Often, they practice various forms of black magic and are generally evil beings. However, they are not immortal, and during the day cannot be distinguished between you and me. A way to kill them would be to find their human skins late at night, and put copious amounts of salt in them. The logic in this is that the salt would burn their flesh, and since they cannot exist as balls of fire in the day, the act of putting their skins back on would cause so much pain that they’d die as a result.

My informant heard this from her grandmother and her mother, who were both first generation immigrants from Trinidad. According to her grandmother, their neighbor in Trinidad was one of these creatures. One time, she told my informant’s grandmother that she had red roses from the Queen of England’s garden and then proceeded to produce to two red roses. While this might not be strange by itself, roses were not native to Trinidad and could not be found anywhere during that period of time. Additionally, when my informant’s grandmother was pregnant, she saw one in her room, trying to suck on her blood. However, they could not stand people who were associated with God and spat the blood out and left.

There are many things that skirt the edge of belief and this is one of them. This is an example of binary opposition in more agricultural/hunting cultures that exists in those islands. Note the Christian influences in this story. As learned in class, the idea of God and the Devil spawned from the missionaries that came to the various places that they spread the word of God. The missionaries tended to place a God vs. Satan spin on most of the folklore and culture that they touched and is evident here.

Succineers

These creatures are typically females who have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for power and earthly rewards. They shed their human skins at night and fly around as balls of fire. Often, they practice various forms of black magic and are generally evil beings. However, they are not immortal, and during the day cannot be distinguished between you and me. A way to kill them would be to find their human skins late at night, and put copious amounts of salt in them. The logic in this is that the salt would burn their flesh, and since they cannot exist as balls of fire in the day, the act of putting their skins back on would cause so much pain that they’d die as a result.

                  My informant heard this from her grandmother and her mother, who were both first generation immigrants from Trinidad. According to her grandmother, their neighbor in Trinidad was one of these creatures. One time, she told my informant’s grandmother that she had red roses from the Queen of England’s garden and then proceeded to produce to two red roses. While this might not be strange by itself, roses were not native to Trinidad and could not be found anywhere during that period of time. Additionally, when my informant’s grandmother was pregnant, she saw one in her room, trying to suck on her blood. However, they could not stand people who were associated with God and spat the blood out and left.

                  There are many things that skirt the edge of belief and this is one of them. This is an example of binary opposition in more agricultural/hunting cultures that exists in those islands. Note the Christian influences in this story. As learned in class, the idea of God and the Devil spawned from the missionaries that came to the various places that they spread the word of God. The missionaries tended to place a God vs. Satan spin on most of the folklore and culture that they touched and is evident here.