Oakmen

Oakmen are male dwarf faeries who are the guardians of sacred oak groves. They are not very friendly towards people, but no one has ever been harmed by one. They are described as having huge heads being  squat, dwarfish people with red caps. There land of origin is Germany and Scandinavia but scattered references have also been found in Northern England though very few folktales about them: there is no doubt that the oak was regarded as a sacred and potent tree.

Most people know the rhyming proverb 'Fairy folks are in old oaks'; 'The Gospel Oak' or 'The King's Oak' in every considerable forest had probably a traditional sacredness from unremembered times, and an oak coppice in which the young saplings had sprung from the stumps of felled trees was thought to be an uncanny place after sunset; but the references to 'oakmen' are scanty. An oak coppice was often considered an evil and dangerous place to travel through at night, especially if it was a blue-bell wood. Oakmen are created when an oak stump sends up shoots. One should never take food offered by them ; they may offer delicious food to passing mortals, but as soon as the fairy magic on them is reversed, you will see they are, in reality, bits of poisonous fungi. It is unwise to wander around felled oaks, as oakmen may be lingering around them, angry at the loss of their parent tree. They guard the wild animals of the forests and dwell near clumps of bluebells. If you damage bluebells in the woods the Oakmen will make sure you get lost! They can be found in oak groves, especially in the Black Forest of Germany.

The oak derives its Gaelic name, (Old Irish daur, Welsh derw) from the Sanskrit word duir, or "door" and since trees have their roots in the unseen world, they are believed to be doors to these realms. Druids, who worshipped within sacred oak groves, derived their name from this word, combined with the Indo-European root wid, 'to know', becoming the "Wise Ones of the Oakwood."  Bluebells were known as fairy flowers. Beatrix Potter in THE FAIRY CARAVAN gives some description of the Oakmen, squat, dwarfish people with red toadstool caps and red noses who tempt intruders into their copse with disguised food made of fungi. The fairy wood in which they lurk is thrice-cut copse and is full of bluebells.

THE FAIRY CARAVAN is her only long book, and is scattered with folktales and beliefs. It is probable that her Oakmen are founded on genuine traditions. In Ruth Tongue's FORGOTTEN FOLK TALES OF THE ENGLISH COUNTIES there is a story from Cumberland, 'The Vixen and the Oakmen', in which the Oakmen figure as guardians of animals. This rests on a single tradition, a story brought back by a soldier from the Lake District in 1948, and may well have been subject to some sophistication, but these two together make it worth while to be alert for other examples.

The Oakmen may have actually been some type of humans who worshipped in tree settings like the Druids of the Celtic lands. Because of the need for secrecy they may have gathered only at night and in the guise of non-human beings, in much the same way witches once gathered in secret. But the fact that they have come into legends as Dwarves means we have to take their existence as faeries seriously, also.

 

Peg Powler

peg2Peg Powler is a hag, who dwells in the River Tees. Although the crown of green tresses is normally sybolic of a water deity, she is believed to be responsible for the deaths of a number of children.

Sometimes known as the High Green Ghost by residents in Middleton in Tees,  Peg Powler is commonly described as an ugly old woman with a green skin, long hair and sharp teeth. She grabs the ankles of those who stand to close to the water, pulls them under water and drowns them. Swimming or wading in this river is strongly discouraged. 

The foam or froth which gathers on the higher reaches of the river in great masses is known as “Peg Powler’s Suds“, while a thinner accumulation of this surface scum is known as “Peg Powler’s Cream.

Similarities to other legends

Deaths attributed to water dwelling creatures are common in English folklore. Peg Powler shares similaries with a Grindylow or Grundylow, a folkloric creature from Yorkshire and Lancashire and thought to be link to Grendel, a creature in Beowolf and often connected to bogs, meres and lakes.

Jenny, Ginny or Jeannie Greenteeth, described similarly to Peg is thought to inhabit waters in Lancashire, Cheshire and Shropshire and grab both children and the elderly to the deaths.

Slavic folklore has similar, albiet male versions, widely known as Vodyanoy. Believed to appear as a naked old man with a frog-like face, greenish beard, and long hair, with his body covered in algae and muck, usually covered in black fish scales. He has webbed paws instead of hands, a fish's tail, eyes that burn like red-hot coals. He usually rides along his river on a half-sunk log, making loud splashes. Consequently, he is often dubbed "grandfather" or "forefather" by the local people. Local drownings are said to be the work of the vodyanoy.

Pooka

Variants: phouka, puca

No fairy is more feared in Ireland than the pooka. This may be because it is always out and about after nightfall, creating harm and mischief, and because it can assume a variety of terrifying forms. The guise in which it most often appears, however, is that of a sleek, dark horse with sulphurous yellow eyes and a long wild mane. In this form, it roams large areas of countryside at night, tearing down fences and gates, scattering livestock in terror, trampling crops and generally doing damage around remote farms.

In remote areas of County Down, the pooka becomes a small, deformed goblin who demands a share of the crop at the end of the harvest: for this reason several strands, known as the 'pooka's share', are left behind by the reapers. In parts of County Laois, the pooka becomes a huge, hairy bogeyman who terrifies those abroad at night; in Waterford and Wexford, it appears as an eagle with a massive wingspan; and in Roscommon, as a black goat with curling horns.

The mere sight of it may prevent hens laying their eggs or cows giving milk, and it is the curse of all late night travellers as it is known to swoop them up on to its back and then throw them into muddy ditches or bogholes. The pooka has the power of human speech, and it has been known to stop in front of certain houses and call out the names of those it wants to take upon its midnight dashes. If that person refuses, the pooka will vandalise their property because it is a very vindictive fairy.

The origins of the pooka are to some extent speculative. The name may come from the Scandinavian pook or puke, meaning 'nature spirit'. Such beings were very capricious and had to be continually placated or they would create havoc in the countryside, destroying crops and causing illness among livestock. Alternatively, the horse cults prevalent throughout the early Celtic world may have provided the underlying motif for the nightmare steed.

Robin Goodfellow

(Anglo-Celtic) Since, if you "speak of the Devil" he will appear, Puck's euphemistic "disguised" name is "Robin Goodfellow" or "Hobgoblin",in which "Hob" may substitute for "Rob" or may simply refer to the "goblin of the hearth" or hob. The name Robin is Middle English in origin, deriving from Old French Robin, the pet form for the name Robert (which had cognates in the Old English Hrodberht and Old German Rodbert or Hrodebert, all derived from the Proto-Germanic hrôdberxtas. See Robert). The earliest reference to "Robin Goodfellow" cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1531. After Meyerbeer's successful opera Robert le Diable (1831), neo-medievalists and occultists began to apply the name Robin Goodfellow to the Devil, with appropriately extravagant imagery.

He is a mischievous imp who delights in pranks and hazings. Boastful and immature, at his best he resembles a kind of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn figure, if you can imagine those two endowed with supernatural powers. His name is an Anglicized version of the Irish Puca, Cymric Pwcca, ancient Celtic hobgoblinish spirits having the same general attributes as the later figure.

Though often thought of today as the goat-footed faery king of the woodlands, Robin was probably once another name for the Horned God, and he is believed to be the source for the folk-tales about the forest-dwelling hero Robin Hood.

Spring-Heeled Jack

Spring-Heeled Jack, a high-jumping man-like creature first seen in the 1840's near London. Jack would attack women or cause carriages to run off the road, then run off with a high-pitched, mocking laugh. According to those who encountered him, Spring-Heeled Jack had red eyes and breathed fire. While this may seem ridiculous to us today, sightings of him were taken very seriously, enough so that the mayor of London had to appeal for calm while the demon-like creature was investigated. Sightings of Jack would continue well into the 20th century, but no conclusive explanation has ever been offered.

The Sockburn Worm

The Sockburn Worm was a ferocious wyvern that laid waste to the village of Sockburn in Durham known before 1066 as Storkburn. 

Read more: The Sockburn Worm

Trows

Trows (Alternatively trowe; a Scots term for troll)  live on the Shetland and Orkney Islands and are probably the best known, and widespread, element of Orkney folklore.

Description 

Similiar to the Scandinavian Trolls and like them, they live beneath the ground and have an aversion to daylight. In many cases indistinguishable from the fairy folklore found throughout Northern Europe, the archetypal trow was an ugly, mischievous, little creature that resided in the ancient mounds scattered across Orkney.Their traditional grotesque and outlandish appearance is confirmed by some of the names ascribed to them - names such as Truncherface (trencher face) and Bannafeet (bannock feet). Trows, like faeries in general, can be helpful to those they found favorable and offended by any gifts set out for them.

Although some tales declared that a trow could pass for a human - although usually old, wizened or deformed - in general they were said to be short, ugly, stunted creatures and considerably smaller than a man.

Lore 

In what may be one of the earliest recorded trow tales, the creatures were said to be nocturnal and never appeared in daylight. If a trow is caught above ground when the sun rises he cannot return to his home until the sun sets again. Even when they emerged at night, to many they were invisible. This element of trow folklore echoes both the traditions that the Orkney fairy was invisible and that the Norwegian troll was unable to venture outside in sunlight.

Another account of invisible trows explains how an Orkneyman was unable to see the creatures dancing on the shore. Only by holding his wife's hand, or placing his foot on hers, was he able to watch their exploits.

A practically identical account from Shetland explains that only certain people had the power to see the trows. "Normal" mortals could not see the creatures unless without touching one of these gifted individuals.

King Trows were exclusively male and would leave their homes to court and marry mortal women, though as soon as her baby was born the mother would die.  They are frequently observed performing a curious lop-sided dance called 'Henking' 

In days past, trows were said to be frequent night-time visitors to the house. Once a household had retired for the night, the trows would enter the building and sit by the glowing fire. Numerous tales recount how the terrified farmer and his wife would lie in bed listening to their unwanted guests scuttling around in the other end of the house. This, together with the trows' documented hatred of locked doors, strengthens opinion that the tradition is a remnant of the creatures' origin as an undead spirit.

In Norse tradition, the ghosts of the family's predecessors had to be welcomed into the house - a custom particularly prevalent at Yule, when later tradition has the trows at their most active and dangerous. At this time of the year, one of the last preparations on Yule Eve was to unlock every lock in the house.

Within their earthen mounds - known locally as howes or knowes - the dwelling-places of the trows were said to be sumptuous and dazzling. Gold, silver and previous materials were said to decorate the walls, while only fine food and drink was served at their tables. Deep inside these magical halls, the trows would satisfy their insatiable passion for music and dancing, very often luring mortal fiddlers inside to perform at their otherworldly celebrations.

But although the majority of trow tales come to us as mere folktales, there are still a few intriguing accounts that supposedly detail actual trow encounters. In the late 1960s, after the Orcadian folklorist Ernest Marwick published some stories about the trows in a Scottish magazine, an Englishman who had spent time in Hoy during World War Two wrote to describe:

"a never-to-be forgotten experience that would seem to lend weight to the belief in the existence of these supernatural creatures."

Trowie Tunes

Some Shetland fiddle tunes are said to have come to human fiddlers when they heard the trows playing. One example of such a "trowie tune," Winyadepla, may be found in the playing of Tom Anderson on his album with Aly Bain, The Silver Bow.

... a troop of peerie folk came in. A woman took off the nappie from her baby and hung it on Gibbie's leg, near the fire, to dry. Then one of the trows said, "What'll we do ta da sleeper?" "Lat him aleen," replied the woman, "he's no a ill body. Tell Shanko ti gie him a ton." Said Shanko, "A ton he sall hae, an we'll drink his blaand." After drinking, they trooped out of the mill, and danced on the green nearby ...

Tylwyth Teg

(terlooeth teig) .

Tylwyth Teg is a general name for the fairies in Wales, it means the 'fair folk'. Like the euphemistic Bendith y Mamau the flattering name was thought to appease them, in an attempt to avert their kidnapping activities. Fairies would typically leave a sickly changeling child in the place of the healthy child they had stolen.

In many accounts, their king is said to be Gwyn ap Nudd. They are associated with a number of places in Wales, including the lake, Llyn y Fan Fach.They are like the Daoine Sidhe, and dwell underground or underwater in under hollow hills and in deep crevices, and to frequent ancient places such as Bronze Age Barrows or cromlechs.

They are small in stature and have golden or fair-hair and dress in white. Like other faerie folk they are fond of dancing and singing and making fairy rings. They are partial to golden haired mortals. The danger of visiting them in their own country lies in the miraculous passage of time in Faeryland. According to many stories time in their realm passed much slower than in ours, a day in their realm could be a year or a hundred years in ours. This difference could prove disastrous for any mortals returning from the fairy realm. They give riches to their favourites, but these gifts vanish if they are spoken of.They are usually portrayed as benevolent but capable of mischief. The Tylwyth Teg are said to fear iron and unbaptized children could supposedly be protected from them by placing a poker over their cradle.

They often interacted with mortals in the past and the fairy maidens are easily won as wives and will live with human husbands for a time , although they always longed to return to their own people.

One example of the Tylwyth was the Jili Ffrwtan, female fairies who were of a proud and amorous disposition.

A common belief was that the Tywyth Teg had Fairy paths upon which it was death for a mortal to walk.

Water Leaper (Llamhigyn Y Dwr)

The Water Leaper, also known as Llamhigyn Y Dwr, is a creature from Welsh folklore that lived in swamps, lakes and ponds. It is described as a giant frog with a bat's wings instead of forelegs, no hind legs, and a long, lizard-like tail. It jumps across the water using its wings, hence its name.It was blamed for problems ranging from snapping fishing lines to eating livestock or even fishermen.

White Ladies

The use of White Ladies for both ghosts and fairies is an indication of the close connection between fairies and the dead. The White Ladies were direct descendants of the Tuatha De Danann.The name "Guinevere" means "white phantom".They may be female Gentry (see Gentry) or the Tuatha who vanished into the Mists.

Wichtlein

Wichtlein behave in much the same way as goblins. They announce the death of a miner by tapping three times. When a disaster is about to happen they are heard digging, pounding and imitating miners work.

Will-o’-the-Wisp

Also called Fairy Lights, Elf-fire, Hobbedy’s Lantern or Night Whispers. No one is quite sure what these distant floating balls of flame are, but they are generally associated with and are sometimes thought of as faeries in the British Isles. Usually known as small winged fairies whose glowing lights can be seen at dusk in the meadows and grassy hills. Known to appear at night in lonely places carrying a lantern. It uses this light to cause travelers to lose their way.