Brownies and Boggarts
Many myths abound in Scotland, most having equivalents in the other areas of the British Isles. One of the relatively well-known myths is that of the brownie. Other names for the brownie include brounie, urisk, brùnaidh, ùruisg, or gruagach. Brownies are tiny little fairies, never winged, of the domestic variety. They live secretly in people’s homes, coming out only at night to help with chores. However, when angered by the carelessness or disrespect of their human housemates, they often become a much nastier version of themselves known as boggarts. Boggarts will perform all sorts of cruel tricks on their housemates, trashing the house, pinching people til they bruise, and breaking things, among others. One way to keep a brownie happy, or to apologize to it and make it turn back into a brownie from a boggart, is to leave a bowl of milk, cream, and/or honey out for them at night. In many of the slightly more remote places in Scotland, this practice is still commonplace.
Hobgoblins are creatures that are very similar to brownies, except for the fact they are technically a variety of goblin. However, they are much more friendly than their goblin cousins. They act much like brownies and will help keep house during the night if properly respected. However, they also will become quite nasty if they are not. These little goblins normally hide under or behind the stove, or “hob”. To this day, the inside of the stove is called an oven in the UK. The stovetop itself, with the burners, is called a hob. So this little goblin’s name quite literally means “stove goblin” to those of us outside the UK.
Goblins are little creatures that range from odd-looking to grotesque, from mischievous to evil. However, in almost all the legends surrounding them, they are sneaky tricksters with at least a bit of magical knowledge. They also tend to be greedy and spiteful. These creatures are probably the most well-known ones on this list, with appearances in Tolkien’s writing, the Elder Scrolls video game series, plenty of fantasy genre works, countless fairytales, and even in famous literature like “The Goblin Market”, a poem written by Christina Rossetti in 1859.
Redcaps (also known as powrie or dunter) are a variety of goblin that lives in old forts and ruins along the border of England and Scotland. These goblins are described as stout little old men with red eyes, sharp claws, and razor-like teeth. They have iron boots, pikes, and red caps. They are known for killing any travelers that stray into their homes, then using the blood from their victims to dye their caps red. However, despite the heavy weapon and boots, redcaps are very fast and, according to legend, impossible to outrun. It is said that if the blood staining the redcap’s hat dries out, then the redcap will die.