Supernatural Canines: The Hellhound and the Okuri-Inu

 

 

The Hellhound is a popular figure in Western legends, most commonly in the British Isles. It is the harbinger of death and destruction, or, at the least, of a misfortune. Curiously, a similar creature appears in Japanese legends. That is the Okuri-Inu (loosely translated as “the sending-off dog”). This monster and the Hellhound are both known to attack and kill travelers at night. The Hellhound is generally associated with crossroads, and the other with rocky mountain paths.Both of them have many variations depending on geographical regions, but the Okuri-Inu is usually alone, unlike the Hellhounds that sometimes appear as a pack.

Luckily for travelers, the Okuri-Inu can be beneficial to those it stalks as long as they don’t stumble or fall. Because it is so ferocious, no other monsters will harm you as long as you are followed by this dog. Once you arrive at your destination, all you have to do is say, “Thank you for sending me off!” (or leave some food for it) and the creature will leave you alone. The Hellhound is rarely as merciful.

Folklorists attribute the popularity of these dog monsters, as well as that of similar creatures around the world, to our close association with dogs. Meeting a large black dog alone at night would certainly frighten most people, especially if they are out in the wild. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is an example of a story inspired by the Hellhound legends. This story has many movie and television adaptations, which, in turn, serve to perpetuate people’s fascination with this legend as well as the fear of hunting dogs.

The Okuri-Inu and other Japanese dog monsters gained some level of popularity during the late 1990s and the early 2000s thanks to a Japanese graphic novel, Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi. The titular character is a son of a human noble woman and a dog yokai[1] General. He is a trustworthy protector to his companions and a ferocious fighter to his enemies.
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[1] Japanese term for monsters

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