Friday, August 7, 2009

Page 13, Paragraphs 4 - 7; Notes

Enter the shagfoal.


Page 13, Paragraph 4:

Now it's dark, and I'm standing up by the logs and I don't understand how it is that I'm standing there with my eyes open. I'm a little frightened as I look around, and now I hear a noise behind me, like someone walking on dry leaves. I turn to see, and now I'm more than just a little frightened.

Paragraph 5:

There is a shagfoal* standing in the grass less than a dozen feet** away from me. She looks at me - her eyes are brighter than fire and she's a big as a tree stump. I piss down my leg - it's warm, then cold.

Paragraph 6:

Around the shagfoal's feet in the dark there are little shapes moving - they are as ugly as her. They are black and eyeless - I figure out that they're shagfoal pups, crawling and scratching beneath their mother. Their tongues are long, white and worm-like, and they wave them around in front of themselves to taste and smell the air. They're silent, and I'm more afraid of them than I am of their mother.

Paragraph 7:

The shagfoal looks at me, and I have no strength to move - it's like I'm made of stone. I think hard about shagfoals, so I can think of something that'll help me. My people say that the shagfoal are big and frightening dogs, the kind that used to be around during the Ice Age, like the Urks, and now, like the Urk-kine, they've passed away. Only their ghosts walk the earth now, up this world and down the other, and where the barriers between worlds have become thin, as they are at a crossroads or a river-bridge, the shagfoal come.

*A "huge black dog", as Neil Gaiman describes it in the book's introduction - see this Wikipedia entry for more information

**i.e., less than 4 meters

Artist unknown (from


  1. That was a good catch, I didn't know about Britain's history with the big black dogs. When I first read 'shagfoal' I thought 'mammoth', or some hairy precursor to horses that I'd never heard of. (I don't recall if it's happened yet, or if it's even in this chapter, but there's a reference to the Urk-kine riding on shagfoals.) The wikipedia article even says that they are found near crossroads and bridges where the realities are thin, a theme that gets repeated throughout the book in almost every chapter.

  2. "That was a good catch"

    Yeah, that was kind of a lucky find on my part. I did a Google Image search on "shagfoal" and found the image from the Wikipedia page (in addition to the ugly bastard you see above), which, of course, led me to the Wikipedia article about black dogs. You find a lot of interesting stuff sometimes coming at the thing you're searching for sideways, as it were. For example, I found one of favorite blogs (The Cimmerian) when I was doing an image search for something quite different.

    "they are found near crossroads and bridges where the realities are thin"

    Are you familiar with Robert Johnson, the old blues singer? He went on about hellhounds and crossroads quite a bit. I wonder if he didn't see a shagfoal or two back in the day.