I'm reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I'm a little scared they're going to come and repossess my English degree because I'm struggling. I mean, I know I'm short, but this stuff is sailing over my head hardcore.
So early in the novel (I know that because I'm only about 50 pages in), there's a passage in which Stephen Daedalus is in bed at his boarding school after the prefect leaves, and he wonders about the "black dog that walked there at night with eyes as big as carriage lamps. They said it was the ghost of a murderer." So of course, my brain goes to some literature more my speed... that dog sounds like Sirius Black! Was Rowling making a literary allusion, I wondered.
I mentioned this to Jeremy, and he told me, if I remember correctly, "no, the black dog is like, a thing." By which he meant that a black dog that portends death is a common theme in English folklore. The black dog is a large dog with glowing eyes that comes out at night and are fundamentally evil. There are myths all over the British Isles about the black dog. According to this site, the black dog is sometimes said to be a shape-shifter, is often a ghost, particularly of an executed murderer, and death usually falls in its wake.
According to Wikipedia, it goes by names like Hairy Jack, Hateful Beast, Cu Sith, and, like Sirius Black, Padfoot. Sith, by the way, is from Gaelic, meaning fairy. George Lucas didn't name the Sith of the Jedi after the Gaelic word, however, according to Wikipedia, the Sith were a creepy giant bug race in the John Carter of Mars book series.