Day 83: Monsters of the Ozarks: The Snawfus



Probably my all-time favorite Ozark monster is the Snawfus. It’s described below by Vance Randolph in his “Fabulous Monsters of the Ozarks”:

“The snawfus, according to some backwoods folk, is just an albino deer with certain supernatural powers, puzzling to human beings but not dangerous. Some hillmen say that it can make tremendous leaps into the treetops; others endow it with great feathery wings, claiming that it can ‘fly through the timber, quiet as a hoot-owl.’ I have even heard that the snawfus bore flowering boughs instead of antlers. Leila A. Wade of Republic, Missouri, author of a serial entitled ‘On the Trail of the Snawfus’ which ran in Arcadian Life magazine from 1936 to 1938, added her impression that the animal ’emitted spirals of blue smoke, which drifted away in delicate rings, and covered the hills.’ Miss Wade told me that, as a child, she never doubted that the glamorous blue haze which hangs over the Ozarks in the Autumn was due to smoke exhaled by the snawfus.”

The roots of the snawfus go back deep into time, back to our Celtic ancestors who brought their folklore to the Ozarks. The white deer, more specifically the white stag, is a symbol of the otherworld. In the Mabinogion, Pwyll sees the white stag when he enters into the otherworldly wood of Annwn. It’s said that Saint Eustace converted to Christianity when he saw Christ appear between the antlers of a white stag. In the Lais of Marie de France, the character Guigemar sees a hermaphroditic white doe with antlers which he shoots with an arrow and is then cursed.

The white stag often represents purity, but a mysterious sort of purity that might be used in a supernatural way. That is to say that the power of the white animal is its pure connection with the divine, and in this way the creature can be both a friend and foe.

Personally I’ve seen the snawfus a couple times, always out in the deep woods, always in the morning when the mist hangs in the hollers and snakes its way in between the trees. I begin to wake up, and as I slowly open my eyes I see the white stag through the mist and he sees me too. Then, turning away from my gaze he disappears back into the fog.

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