Review: Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay August 10, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern , trackback
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Shock: The Black Dog of Bungay is a recent book (2010) by David Waldron (of Ballarat Australia) and Christopher Reeve of Bungay, Norfolk. The fact that you have to get a historian-anthropologist from down-under and a Norfolk historian to do justice to said black dog – and they do it justice… – is the proof that the Bungay shock case is problematic. After all, we have an excellent source from 1577 saying that a diabolical black dog ran into Bungay church in the middle of a church service and left a couple of Bungayians dead. But, then, we also have a source from the same year and closer to home that shows that this didn’t happen and that the ‘black dog’ was nothing more than a thunder storm with deadly consequences: a couple certainly died. Confusing? Well, yes, but almost every English county has some legend of a big black phantom dog that means trouble for whoever should see it and probably the most famous of these is the Shock or Shuck of East Anglia. In some way a native tradition had plugged into a natural disaster and a dog and a lightning bolt had got mixed up.
It is fascinating. But one of the strengths of this book is that it does not just remain a mystery in the past. The authors plough on through the centuries to see how the myth has been received in modern Bungay and how it has prospered. They refer (using the term of that villainous old Stalinist Hobsbawm) to ‘invented tradition’. But what they are actually describing seems to be rather a reinvigorated tradition: the re-enchantment of the world as the dew settles on the rusty old clockwork of modernity. Why is it that some of England ancient traditions sink deeper and deeper into the midden and others get picked up and polished and sold on the market stall? Take fairies, an obsession of this blogger. Why should pixies in Devon and, above all, Cornwall be cool and a source of revenue, whereas boggarts in Lancashire are forgotten and vaguely embarrassing? It is so unfair and apparently so arbitrary. The shuck has a rock song, a board game, its became the symbol of the town and the local soccer team are called ‘the black dogs’, whereas the barguest of Yorkshire, well have you ever heard of it? Anyway, Shock is well worth a read and cheap at the cost! Other traditional books: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com