The best known of the industrious domestic hobgoblins. The brownie’s land is over all the North of England and up into the highlands of Scotland. They are good-natured, invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country dwellings in Scotland.
The brownie is small, hairy, ragged and shaggy dressed in brown clothes. They are about 2 to 3 feet in height with their brown wrinkled flat faces and pinhole nostrils, are not very attractive, but their happy smiles and extrovert characters makes up for that. Some say he has a nose so small as to be hardly more than two nostrils. According to tradition, most brownies go naked, or at least wear ragged clothes, and can make themselves invisible or are good at hiding. The innocent nature of children allows them to see the brownies, but disbelieving adults will never get a glimpse of them. This however does not prevent the brownies from helping adults in countless minor ways. In parts of Aberdeenshire they are said to have no seperate toes or fingers, in the Scottish Lowlands they have a hole instead of a nose but no mouths.
While people are asleep he is willing to do all odd jobs about a house, (possibly that has been left undone by the servants) but sometimes he untidies what he has been left to tidy. They make themselves responsible for the farm or house in which they live: reap, mow, herd the sheep, prevent the hens from laying away, run errands and give good counsel at need. They are known to be protective creatures and they become attached to a certain place of family. Even if the family should move to another continent, the brownies will accompany them in their migration.There are several stories of brownies riding to fetch the nurse for their mistress. They become attached to particular families or places. brownie can become personally attached to one member of the family. Their devotion to their master might also make them unpopular with the servants, whom they might punish for wrongdoing. In return for their help they expect only a bowl of cream and a cake to be left for them.Tradition says they do not like teetotallers and ministers. If there is a lazy servant in the home, he might choose to plague him for it. Care should be taken not to criticize their work. When one farmer criticized the mowing job, the Brownie responsible threw the entire crop over a cliff.
The brownie can accept no payment, and the surest way to drive him away is to leave him a suit of clothes and he will disappear and never be seen again. Bread and milk and other dainties can be left unobtrusively, but even they must not be openly offered. Any offer of reward or clothing will drive the brownie away, as a 16th century brownie song points out: “What have we here, Hempen Hampen! Here will I never more tread nor stampen.” A gift of new clothes to a brownie oftentimes generate undesirable effects: they immediately stop working and after putting on the clothes, disappear forever. Displeased brownies who have had repeated bad luck with humans often degenerate to malicious spirits called Boggart, who constantly harass the inhabitants of the house or farm they live in. In such cases, wise men are always called in to “lay”, or temper, them. The Claud Lad of Hilton, an unhappy brownie who haunted Hilton Castle in Northumberland, was left a green cloak and a hood, and promptly left the castle singing: ‘Here’s a cloak and here’s a hood! The Claud Lad of Hilton will do no more good!’
The Cornish Browney is of the same nature. His special office is to get the bees to settle. When the bees swarm the housewife beats a tin, and calls out: ‘Browney! Browney!’ until the brownie comes invisibly to take charge.
His territory extends over the Lowlands of Scotland and up into the Highlands and Islands all over the north and east of England and into the Midlands. With a natural linguistic variation, he becomes the Bwca or Bwbachbod in Wales, the Highland Bodach and the Manx Fenodoree (a larger, stronger variety inhabiting the Isle of Man, believed to originate from the Ferrishyn, or faerie tribe of Man). In the West Country, Pixies or Pisgies occassionally perform the offices of a brownie and show some of the same characteristics, though they are essentially different. Border brownies are most characteristic.
Two varieties are known: Highland Brownies that have no fingers or toes, and Lowland Brownies that have no noses. Brownies are sometimes indistinguishable from hobgoblins, in part due to the malevolence of some species. Brownies are well known for inhabiting human homes and barns. Their industriousness and beneficient nature to man have given rise to the use of the term “brownies” to the youngest members of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. They are rarely seen
Bogles are mischievous Brownies that tend to be evil-natured toward liars and murderers, behaving similarly to poltergeists. Bogles are sometimes classified as goblins because of their mischievous behavior.