Monster Monday: Brownie

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 Brownie.

Brownies Reading a Book by Palmer Cox (1905)
Brownies Reading a Book by Palmer Cox (1905)

A brownie is a fairy spirit in folklore from Scotland and northern England. Brownies live in houses or barns and help with household chores, usually for small gifts of food left out for them before the household goes to bed. Sometimes, they play tricks like rearranging furniture, but generally they are seen as benign. They are especially fond of honey and porridge. Other popular gifts are milk, cream, corn, or even small amounts of beer.

They will leave a house if they do not receive any gifts or if they’re mistreated or insulted. A house the brownies have abandoned is regarded as unlucky for its residents, even residents who move in after the brownies have left and had nothing to do with driving them away,

Brownies do most of their work at night and don’t like to be seen by humans, though they can sometimes be heard. During the day they will stay in unused parts of the house. Since they don’t like to appear to humans, there is some disagreement on what they look like, but some say that they appear as short, plump old men. Though the don’t associate with humans, they are sociable among their own kind and often gather together.

One part of the legend is that if a brownie is presented with new clothes, he will disappear and never come back. In this regard folklore about brownies served as the basis for the house elves in the Harry Potter series.

2 thoughts on “Monster Monday: Brownie

  1. benmattice September 30, 2014 / 5:29 pm

    I didn’t know this about brownies. I’ve never really studied fairies themselves before. Are there any myths or legends involving brownies? Maybe I’ll tell a brownie tale on my storytelling vlog one of these days. http://humanetchasketch.wordpress.com/

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