A Witch In The Form Of A Hare Hunted By A Black Greyhound





The writer has heard variants of the following tale in several parts of

Wales:--



An old woman, credited to be a witch, lived on the confines of the hills

in a small hut in south Carnarvonshire. Her grandson, a sharp

intelligent lad, lived with her. Many gentlemen came to that part with

greyhounds for the purpose of coursing, and the lad's services were

always in requisition, for he never failed in starting a hare, and

whenever he did so he was rewarded with a shilling. But it was noticed

that the greyhounds never caught the hare which the lad started. The

sport was always good, the race long and exciting, but the hare never

failed to elude her pursuers. Scores of times this occurred, until at

last the sportsmen consulted a wise man, who gave it as his opinion that

this was no ordinary hare, but a witch, and, said he--She can never be

caught but by a black greyhound. A dog of this colour was sought for

far and near, and at last found and bought. Away to the hills the

coursers went, believing that now the hare was theirs. They called at

the cottage for the lad to accompany them and start the prey. He was as

ready as ever to lead them to their sport. The hare was soon started,

and off the dog was slipped and started after it, and the hare bounded

away as usual, but it is now seen that her pursuer is a match for her in

swiftness, and, notwithstanding the twistings and windings, the dog was

soon close behind the distressed hare.



The race became more and more exciting, for hound and hare exerted

themselves to their very utmost, and the chase became hot, and still

hotter. The spectators shout in their excitement--Hei! ci du, (Hi!

black dog,) for it was seen that he was gaining on his victim. Hei!

Mam, gu, (Hei! grandmother, dear,) shouted the lad, forgetting

in his trouble that his grandmother was in the form of a hare. His was

the only encouraging voice uttered on behalf of the poor hunted hare.

His single voice was hardly heard amidst the shouts of the many. The

pursuit was long and hard, dog and hare gave signs of distress, but

shouts of encouragement buoyed up the strength of the dog. The chase was

evidently coming to a close, and the hare was approaching the spot whence

it started. One single heart was filled with dread and dismay at the

failing strength of the hare, and from that heart came the words--Hei!

Mam gu (Hi! grandmother, dear.) All followed the chase, which

was now nearing the old woman's cottage, the window of which was open.

With a bound the hare jumped through the small casement into the cottage,

but the black dog was close behind her, and just as she was disappearing

through the window, he bit the hare and retained a piece of her skin in

his mouth, but he could not follow the hare into the cottage, as the

aperture was too small. The sportsmen lost no time in getting into the

cottage, but, after much searching, they failed to discover puss. They,

however, saw the old woman seated by the fire spinning. They also

noticed that there was blood trickling from underneath her seat, and this

they considered sufficient proof that it was the witch in the form of a

hare that had been coursed and had been bitten by the dog just as she

bounded into the cottage.



It was believed in England, as well as in Wales, that witches were often

hunted in the shape of hares. Thus in the Spectator, No. 117, these

words occur:--



If a hare makes an unexpected escape from the hounds the huntsman curses

Moll White (the witch)! Nay, (says Sir Roger,) I have known the

master of the pack, upon such an occasion, send one of his servants to

see if Moll White had been out that morning.



In Yorkshire Legends and Traditions, p. 160, is a tale very much like

the one which is given above. It is as follows:--



There was a hare which baffled all the greyhounds that were slipped at

her. They seemed to have no more chance with her than if they coursed

the wind. There was, at the time, a noted witch residing near, and her

advice was asked about this wonderful hare. She seemed to have little to

say about it, however, only she thought they had better let it be, but,

above all, they must take care how they slipped a black dog at it.

Nevertheless, either from recklessness or from defiance, the party did go

out coursing, soon after, with a black dog. The dog was slipped, and

they perceived at once that puss was at a disadvantage. She made as soon

as possible for a stone wall, and endeavoured to escape through a

sheep-hole at the bottom. Just as she reached this hole the dog threw

himself upon her and caught her in the haunch, but was unable to hold

her. She got through and was seen no more. The sportsmen, either in

bravado or from terror of the consequences, went straight to the house of

the witch to inform her of what had happened. They found her in bed,

hurt, she said, by a fall; but the wound looked very much as if it had

been produced by the teeth of a dog, and it was on a part of the woman

corresponding to that by which the hare had been seized by the black

hound before their eyes.





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