Gordon G Hall
Writer and Neo-Philhellene

The Flatcoat Fables
Where The Spirit Moves


Now there comes a time in the development of any individual when there arises a very natural curiosity about Death and the Hereafter.
Following their return to the 'pack' after their first Quest our three, now near-adult, pups spent their time running and chasing and rolling and feeding and generally being Proper Retrievers. On the second month after their return however a rather more sombre mood descended upon them and their kin for every dog knew that Old Crusader, leader of the Retrievers was nearing the end of his life.

Crusader however insisted on maintaining his evening perambulation - meeting and greeting every member of the Pack - but on the Friday evening round he was clearly failing as he growled a kind word to the youngest of his family and climbed wearily onto his bench. For a moment he sat there, and then threw his heavy head up towards the heavens and, howling a great long defiant howl of departure, he died.

What has happened to Crusader?

Why doesn't he move?

Has he gone somewhere else?

The three pups were worried and curious and asked all the awkward kind of questions that heir mother, the great Dam of all our Retriever breeds, found so difficult to answer. "You must go again and talk to the Wise Old Hound, Merlin," she told them, "but I am not sure that even he can give you an answer to all your questions".

So off went Lab Pup and Gold Pup and Flat Pup to see Merlin.

"Pups", said Merlin,"I can tell you that Death comes to us All. I can tell you that there we have no more use for our bodies when we die, and I can tell you that the Memory of a great dog like Crusader lingers on for generation after generation. But as for the Spirit, that is something that you will have to discover for yourselves, an understanding of such things is part of that which makes you a mature and responsible Adult Dog. I have to tell you though that for this new Quest you must go your different ways, for some things have to be wrestled with on your own and by yourselves".



gold digger


flat on back

So the Three Pups chewed each other round the neck and tweaked each others tails and said a cheerful goodbye to each other and set forth in different directions to find the Spirit of their Breed.


Lab Pup planned his expedition most thoroughly. He bought many atlases, several compasses, a sextant and the very best quad of walking boots that money could buy. He determined to cover the whole of the Known World in the most efficient and effective manner, So he climbed every line of longitude and slithered around every line of latitude. He trotted in the sunlight and he prowled at night. He met Capricorn and Cancer and he navigated scrupulously so as to cover the whole globe . . . .


Gold Pup was rather less energetic but he too had a Plan. He reasoned that the Spirit must be in the Elements, so he dug great holes around the (rather more civilized you understand!) parts of the world searching the Earth. He could be seen paddling for hours in the (fairly temperate you understand!) seas, searching the Waters. He spent a lot of his time sitting with his eyes half closed (in the interests of better concentration you understand!) sniffing the wind, searching the Air, but most of all he spent his time sprawled out (better to conduct this painstaking research you understand!) in front of as many warm hearths as he could find, searching Fire . . .


Flat Pup was not quite sure what a Plan was, she wondered if a couple of Tennis Balls would do instead? Anyway she set off in a generally Northerly direction and she skipped and she hopped and she grinned and she played. She waved to her friends, and she waved to strangers, she rolled on her back and she played tag and she was generally a very Irresponsible Flatcoat. And all the while her journeyings took her further and further to the North . . .

northern lights Now Merlin was a Very Wise old hound and he knew that the pups would never come back to him with their answers to the Question, because he knew that this side of Death there is no answer, but he knew too that in their own way each of the pups would find the Spirit of their Breed.


Lab Pup did indeed cover the whole of the Globe. And he found in himself the Lab Spirit that was in the Yellow sunlight and in the Black shadows. It was in both the moonlight and the night and it was everywhere, planning, quartering, marching for ever . .

Gold Pup searched Earth and Water and Air and Fire. And he found that the Spirit of Gold can be smelt in the freshly dug ground, seen in the rivers and lakes, heard as the leaves rustle in the wind and felt by us as we huddle around the fire at night . . .

Flat Pup went North until she could go no further. And there, in the far North, she found the Flatcoat Spirit that dances and frolics, ducks and weaves and rolls on its back. It erupts in great flashes of colour and fun, subsides in joy and then rushes up again in great fountains of pleasure. So if we go out on a dark night and look towards the Northern Sky we can see there the Spirit of all the Flatcoats that have ever lived - playing together, pups forever - as the Northern Lights.

  I am indebted to Rieko Mamaoto for her charming illustrations
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Distant Fells
Inspiration from this glorious world.