The Horned One
A visual tribute to Herne the Hunter, hero of my forthcoming novel, Bound to the Beast.
Shifters! Man-beasts! They’re all the rage now, but they’ve been pretty damn popular since, oh, about the Stone Age. These antler headdresses from Star Carr in Yorkshire date from the Mesolithic era, around 10,500 years ago.
Herne the Hunter, a man-god-beast who sports the antlers of a stag, is often associated with ancient Celtic/Gaullic horned deities. This carving, found in France and dating to C1 AD, shows the horned god, Cernunnos.
The first written record of the name Herne the Hunter is found in Shakespeare’s ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ as late as 1597. Nevertheless, the image of Herne is ingrained in English folklore, often portrayed as a god of hunting or a protector of the fair folk. Here’s a (naked!) Herne riding through the forest, as drawn by the very talented Elin Gregory.
Herne’s popularity burgeoned after the publication of William Ainsworth’s novel, ‘Windsor Castle,’ in 1842. Ainsworth’s Herne had his origins in the reign of Henry II, a wronged and vengeful antihero who later haunts the forest. George Cruikshank’s illustrations portray Herne as a shadowy, horned ghost.
Herne certainly has a dark side. He is sometimes believed to be the leader of the Wild Hunt, an army of the undead (medieval zombies, if you like!) who swept across England on the eve of great disasters, such the Norman Conquest, or the plague of the Black Death. This illustration by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1872) depicts the Wild Hunt let by Odin, but perfectly captures their menacing glory.
I first encountered Herne, aged about 5, in the BBC adaption of John Masefield’s ‘Box of Delights.’ When I was a little older, I enjoyed the book even more – particularly after I’d obliterated the image of the BBC’s Herne with a 1980s mullet from my mind!
Herne is obviously fond of his drink, because a lot of English pubs bear his name.
Even my favorite band, Take That, paid tribute to Herne’s ‘look’ in this still from the ‘Kidz’ video shoot (2011).
Check back soon for an exclusive first look at the amazing Anne Cain artwork for my new novel Bound to the Beast, released 10th April 2012.