Lore Report: “The Third Time” (Episode 136)

image from mythology.net/mythical-creatures/black-dog

But it was [accused witch Elizabeth Sawyer’s] familiar, Tom, who would be remembered the most. Because it sits at the edge of a modern belief and a much more ancient idea–an idea not represented by the behavior or powers she claimed it had, but by the very shape it had taken. A shape that continues to inhabit a terrifying place in folklore today: the black dog.

No, the latest episode of the podcast Lore isn’t devoted to a discussion of man’s best friend–more like his worst nightmare. Host and narrator Aaron Mahnke tackles the subject of an uncanny creature–a monstrous-sized, furry and fiery-eyed animal that is possibly a predatory, shapeshifting demon.

Mahnke performs his usual oratory feats here in “The Third Time.” He contextualizes the discussion with a return to ancient mythology (invoking such figures as Anubis and Cerberus). He makes passing reference to pop-cultural reflections, citing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan (to this brief list I would add these works of genre fiction: Dan Simmons’s A Winter Haunting, Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore’s Sleepy Hollow High, and two separate stories titled “Black Dog” by Neil Gaiman and Laird Barron). He recounts a series of illustrative tales that span centuries and range across continents, from the 16th Century English village of Bungay to the Hanging Hills of Connecticut in the 19th Century (as an aficionado of American Gothic, my favorite tale is the episode’s concluding one–of the black-dog-inspired panic that gripped the Massachusetts town of Abington in 1976). He also steps back to speculate on the origins, purposes, and remarkable persistence of folklore tales of the black dog.

The form of this Lore episode might be familiar, but its content is as original and compelling as ever. According to the portentous saying that Mahkne quotes here, the first time someone encounters the black dog is for joy, the second time for sorrow, and the third time means impending death. An initial listen of “The Third Time” promises to bring joy to the life of fans of the macabre.

 

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