Monster Monday: Imp

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Imp.

Woodcut of a witch feeding demonic imps
Woodcut of a witch feeding demonic imps

An imp is a small demon in Western European folklore. Imps are often characterized as mischievous rather than evil, enjoying practical jokes, though their jokes can sometimes be harmful, such as switching babies or leading travelers astray. Even in these cases, however, the imps don’t usually cause harm intentionally, and simply don’t understand the consequences of their actions.

Imps are often described as ugly, small human-looking creatures. The like to live around people, and sometimes they play practical jokes because they want attention and friendship, but they usually succeed in merely annoying the subject of their jokes until they are driven away. They can be kept away by magical objects or spells. Likewise, imps can become associated with certain objects, and when such an object changes ownership, the imp has a new person to torment.

Imps are sometimes also associated with other magical beings as servants who can perform small tasks or act as spies. During the period of witch hunts in Europe, pets of accused witches were often also killed as “imps.”

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