Friday, October 11, 2013


Merrows, also known as murdhuacha /muroo-cha/, are the Irish mermaids. The females are beautiful, with fishes' tails and webs between their fingers. They tend to appear before a storm, and so are dreaded, but overall, they tend to be kinder than most mermaids and often fall in love with human fishermen. The offspring of a fisherman and a merrow sometimes are covered with scales. 

The male merrow is ugly, with green skin, a sharp, red nose, and pig-like eyes. However, they are amiable and jovial. Crofton Croker adds in Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland that the male merrows also have green hair and teeth, as well as short arms that are more like flippers than arms. 

Merrows will sometimes come ashore in the form of little hornless cattle, but generally wear read feather caps, which are their means of going through the water. Like selkies, who cannot return to the water without their skins, merrows cannot return to the sea without their red caps. 

We consulted Katharine Briggs' An Encyclopedia of Fairies for this post. Picture courtesy of Google Images:

Friday, September 27, 2013


Though not very popular in modern lore, selkies are a type of fey we've been fascinated by for some time now. 

Selkies are beautiful maidens and men who, when they wear the magical pelt of a seal, turn into seals themselves. If their pelt is taken from them, they cannot return to seal form, or to the water from whence they came; it is in this fashion that men sometimes capture the females for wives. 

In Orkney, England, the common seal was thought to belong to the animal world, but larger seals such as the great seal, the grey seal, and the crested seal, were known as 'the selkie folk.' It was thought that their natural form was human, and that they donned seal skins and the appearance of seals so that they could travel through the waters from one region of air to another. They were said to live either in an underwater world or on lonely skerries. The selkies of Shetland are very similar. 

In Orkney and Shetland, it was believed that when the blood of a selkie was shed in the sea, a storm would arise that was often fatal to shipping. The death of a mermaid was said to have had the same effect. 

Tanya Huff's The Wild Ways is the only current fiction book we've read that deals with selkies, and she does an excellent job of describing the selkies and creating a selkie society (though we may wish she did even more with them); she stays true to the old legends, which we liked. In this book, oil drillers have stolen the selkies' pelts in order to get them to stop protesting the drilling of oil near a seal rookery. If you're interested, this is the second book of the series, the first being The Enchantment Emporium, which does not deal with selkies. 

We consulted Katherine Briggs' An Encyclopedia of Fairies for this post. We got the picture courtesy of Google Images,  

Friday, August 30, 2013


Hob, or hobthrust, is the general name for a hobgoblin, a kindly but mischievous type of fey. The brownie is a kind of hob. Usually found in the North Country or northern Midlands of England, hobs can be more sinister. One tale related by William Henderson in Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties says there was one called Hob Headless haunting the road between Hurworth and Neasham. 

However, more often than not, hobs appear to be benevolent, as in the case of one attached to Sturfit Hall in Yorkshire; he churned milk, stoked fires, and performed other brownie-type tasks until he was offered clothing, and vanished. The reason hobs disappear when offered clothing varies on the tale. The hob attached to Sturfit Hall seemed to have been so satisfied with this payment that he decided he need work no more; however, another hob, who worked at a farm in Danby, was insulted by the quality of the clothes he was given. Of course, if the regular payment of food was ever forgotten, the hob would also leave. 

Friday, August 23, 2013


According to Katharine Briggs' An Encyclopedia of Fairies, hobgoblins are friendly folk related to brownies. From the Puritans on, the word was used to refer to wicked goblins, but in Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' Puck is referred to as a hobgoblin and does not protest. 

One type of hobgoblin is the Will O' the Wisp. Briggs says that hobgoblins are generally good-humoured, though they do love practical jokes, and must not be crossed. Wikipedia says they're small, hairy men who do small, odd jobs round the house just as a brownie would. In return, they expect food; but offer them clothing, and they will depart. They can, if Puck is to be believed, shape shift. 

In JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit, the Uruks or Uruk-hai were originally written as hobgoblins, back before Tolkien realised hobgoblins were of small stature. Perhaps following this mistake, the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) uses hobgoblins as a larger, more menacing type of goblin. Other role-playing games have also followed suit. 

For more information, visit

Image from Google Images:,or.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=d750b992d784f8&hl=en&q=Puck&sa=1&tbm=isch&facrc=0%3Bpuck%20midsummer%20night's%20dream%20drawing&imgdii=_&imgrc=_.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Elves were sometimes thought to be male faeries -- in England, this especially applied to small faery boys. In general, the term 'elf' in England referred to the smaller trooping faeries, although in Scotland, elves were human sized, and Faeryland was called 'Elfame.' 

In Scandanavia, faeries were also called elves, and were either light elves or dark elves, similar to the Scottish Seelie and Unseelie Courts. The light elves were like England's trooping faeries, and in Christian times, Scandanavian elves (or huldre folk) destroyed cattle, stole humans away, and avenged any injuries done to them in the same way that the Scottish faeries did. Huldre maidens dressed in grey with white veils, and were beautiful but had long cows' tails. If a man was dancing with a huldre girl and noticed her tail, he must not betray her, but instead tactfully mention that she was losing her garter. He would then be rewarded by perpetual prosperity. 

Danish elves loved to steal human food, such as dough. Though beautiful from the front, Danish elves or ellewomen were hollow from behind. 

Publications such as Goedys' Lady's Book, published by Louis A Goedy, popularised the idea of the Christmas elf in the nineteenth century, and JRR Tolkien's famous The Hobbit brought elves into high fantasy in the twentieth century. 

Bibliography: An Encyclopedia of Fairies, by Katharine Briggs.

Webography: Wikipedia:

Picture courtesy of Google Images:    

Friday, July 26, 2013


Cowslips are another flower that is guarded and well-loved by the fey. Also known in the west of England as Culver's Keys, they are thought to be keys to unlock the way to faery gold. According to (, where we got the above image, they're also known as Fairy Cups.

In Medieval times, according to (, it was called Herb Peter and Key Flower, and frightened faeries were said to hide in it. It was also said to have the ability to split rocks with treasure inside.   

Bibliography: Faeries, by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. 

Friday, July 19, 2013


Bluebells, known as 'Deadmen's Bells' in Scotland, are a flower favoured by faeries and associated with danger. The Scots give the bluebell their moniker because to hear a bluebell ring was to hear one's death knell. It is said to be one of the most powerful of all faery flowers; a bluebell wood is a place of enchantment and faery spells -- and is an extremely hazardous place to be.  

It is believed that anyone who steps into a ring of bluebells will fall under a faery spell and soon die. It is also said that bells rang out to summon the fey to their gatherings. 

Other names for bluebell include Auld Man's Bell, Wilde Hyacinth, Wood Bells, Calverkeys, and Jacinth. 

Bibliography: Faeries, by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. 
Webography: Woodland Trust (

We found these pictures on Google Images (