The Ozarks: also known as the Ozark Mountains or Ozark Plateau, are a hill-swept region between the states of of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and the extreme southeastern corner of Kansas. - The area Is known for many fearsome creatures such as the Gowrow, Ponjureen. Jimplicute, the “High”-Behind, the Ozark Howler, various tales about Hoopsnakes, and of course the beautiful but ominous; Snawfus. –
Most of these stories where collected by Vance Randolf (1892-1980) in his collection of tall-tales and Ozark folklore: 1951's "We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales from the Ozarks." – [a book which In my findings, is cited quite often online, but sadly nearly impossible to track down a copy of!! (if you ever happen to have access to it, I hope you'll consider archiving or digitizing it! 💁♀️)]
The Snawfus is described as a magical white deer, an supernatural stag with graceful wings and blossoming dogwood antlers. Its said to silently leap from tree to tree, flying though the timber gracefully as an owl, at twilight its said to holler: "Halley-Loo! Halley-Loo!!" a cry which sounds similar to a songbird. When it breathes, it exhales a cold breath which emits spirals of cool blue fog, which drift away in delicate rings up into the atmosphere, gently coating the hills a blue hue in the autumn & winter mornings. Some claim its magical breath also heals everything it touches.
Although the Snawfus is gentle & is no direct danger to people on its own, local hunters (and children) are warned and said to be partial to staying home when its especially foggy out, it is said that spotting a white deer in the Ozarks is a bad omen indeed: the Snawfus is never seen by humans in normal circumstances, If a man should witness the glorious glowing stag, then it’s a sign that they aare not long for this world, Anyone who actually sees a Snawfus can expect to die within a year. In other words: its a sign of imminent death.
[The belief that seeing or shooting an albino animal is a bad omen whilst hunting is actually a fairly common superstition which is shared among game hunters world round. - Also; Conversely to the bad omen, a similar “ghostly white stag" also haunts the Pinebarrens of New Jersey, but instead its auspicious, seeing it is lucky. Reportedly it once blocked a stagecoach and saved a family from falling into the Batso River sometime in 1772. - Down a similar unlucky vein however is also the Spectral Moose of Maine, a 15ft tall ghost of a gigantic snow white moose which is said to have been sighted in several areas around Maine since 1891. - the same moose spectre has been seen and attributed to local disasters as recently as 2002! - There are also clear mythological parallels between the Snawfus and the 'white stag' quest animal of legends from the British Isles (where many ozarkans hail from.) - To my limited understanding, In Native American Mythology, Albino animals are also often a sign of innocence, peace, spirituality & nature (as such, its very taboo to shoot them.) ]
One story from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website, says that once a hunter, who was out of bullets shot at the white deer with plumb pits instead, the pits seemingly missed the creature but grazed its horn, it fled & soon the hunter heard stories about a white deer with blossoms sprouting on its antlers, there are also stories of it growing Arkansas Black Apples. – [worth note is that this bit of folklore is also to be found elsewhere in american fearsome critters - The fruit bearing deer. Looking back further than that, it also seems stem from tales of Baron Munchausen (a german story from 1785.) who hunted a stag which had a full cherry tree growing between its antlers. – of course there are also certain species of real deer which decorate their antlers with foliage (and occasionally horn velvet or the guts of other animals) around the breeding season to impress a mate, so, I digress.]
Today, The Snawfus is claimed by some passionate locals to be the 'opposite' to the folkloric cryptid known as the Ozark Howler: the yin to its yang, or that the two are connected in someway, what way exactly? – Nobody seems to be entirely certain, but they're often played out to be rivals, forces of nature with one representing the peaceful side of nature while the other represents the harsh merciless side. – Encountering either creature is often said to be a sign of imminent doom, ones just more pleasant than the other, perhaps sighting one attracts the other? (also Worth note is that The Howler also seems to stem from legends from the british isles, particuarly stories of the hell hounds.)
One things for certain and it’s that the snawfus possibly the most elegant fearsome critter, elegance is quite rare to find among fearsome critters (Most are suffering or just silly in someway or another!) - I'll be sure to draw the others mentioned at the top of the post soon as well, i think they're all pretty cool.
Art by @samkalensky (yo that’s me) part of my fearsome critters collection of stickers, check my shop & follow for many more! ;)