Okay, I may be wrong here, but that’s why it’s called a headcanon.
The Beast looked so familiar to me when we first caught a glimpse of his shape that it’s been literally eating away at me. The more I watched the more it ate at me that I’d seen some creature somewhere similar to him. I just couldn’t figure it out though so I pushed it to the back of my mind.
Now over the last week I re-watched OTGW. It’s finals week so I’ve been watching while studying for my classes in between episodes. And it was during one of these little study sessions that I realized why I kept thinking I recognized The Beast was because of the way he hides among the trees
I’m a folklore minor and during a folk story class this semester we were encouraged to look into folk stories and creatures that weren’t in the class material, that way we could write about something we’d found in our journals that we could look into more for ourselves. I was skimming through my journal when I found a list of English folktales and creatures I had made during the semester (I chose English and Japanese folk creatures cause so many students in my class were looking into American folklore that it wouldn’t have been interesting to me)
That is where I finally remembered the folk creature/being Herne the Hunter. (below art is by George Cruikshank, c.1843)
Herne the Hunter is mostly associated as a ghost, sometimes a keeper of Windsor forest in England, who is, according to Shakespeare, seen to “walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns” at midnight during winter-time.
Winter time anyone? WINTER! (kay I’m done sorry)
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest, Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight, Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns; And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle, And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain In a most hideous and dreadful manner. You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know The superstitious idle-headed eld Receiv’d, and did deliver to our age, This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.
— William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor
He appears antlered, sometimes beneath the tree on which he was hanged, known as “Herne’s Oak”, but more often riding his horse.
Herne is interesting to me because not only is he an anomaly of sorts, as in despite a lot of speculation not many wrote of him, Herne has also been considered a deity at times, as well as a ghost. Some accounts by Shakespeare and Samuel Ireland identify Herne as a once living person, but this can be speculated.
I honestly like the idea of a spirit who is seen in winter. That’s what initially brought me back to Herne when I was thinking about the Beast. But what really brought me to think of Herne the Hunter as the same being that is the Beast was a little passage I had copied into my journal:
Many versions of the Herne legend exist. Some say that Herne hanged himself after committing a terrible crime, whilst another tells of a forest demon that takes on his appearance. The demon is said to place stag horns on its head haunting the forest still trying to convince keepers that it is Herne and that they should sell their souls to him.
- The Legend of Herne the Hunter
Yes, you read that right. A forest demon taking on the appearance of a man, trying to convince people to sell their souls to him. Sound familiar?
I mean, they even look similar. But yeah, these are just my observations. I like to entertain the thought of the demon because hot damn, the beast would do anything to keep his soul lit.
Here’s a few more old drawings to tickle your fancy:
by George Cruikshank
last is by Andrew L. Paciorek with the caption:
Herne the Hunter may be seen at night throughout Windsor Park in Berkshire, hunting or simply standing watching, armed with a bow and a quill full of invisible yet devastating arrows that could instantly still a man’s beating heart. As Herne coursed by night, the mournful blast of his hunting-horn has been said to wither foliage, kill livestock and even cause distant cows’ milk to run with blood. At times he may be seen to travel on horseback, accompanied by a pack of hounds and sometimes also by a screech owl. Part man, part stag, some think that Herne is a manifestation of the ancient fertility Horned God whilst others say that he is the conjoined suicide-ghost of a hunter and his prey and may even be an omen of death and disaster.
There, I’m done. Enjoy your information.