Saturday, October 22, 2011


Just so you know, this isn't the kind your mum make.

 Brownies are a type of hob or hobgoblin; legendary creatures in popular folklore around Scotland and England. Known also in those parts as either brunaidh, or gruagach.

 In England they are said to inhabit the homes of villagers, aiding in small tasks about the home when no one is about or late at night. Working in exchange for small gifts or homages of food; preferring porridge and honey. Nesting only in an unused part of the house, such as attics, closets or anywhere the owner has forsaken. Taking their leave if the gifts are referred to as payments or if the person of the home takes advantage or misuses their kindness.

 In Scotland, known as Ùruisg  - they dwelt outside in streams and in waterfalls; far less likely to offer domestic help. Enjoying solitude throughout different seasons of the year, becoming more sociable around the end of Harvest. Hovering around farmyards, stables, and cattle-houses; particularly enjoying dairy products, tending to intrude upon milkmaids, who made regular libations of milk and cream to charm him off or gain his favour. It is said that every Manor house, had it's own Ùruisg - in the kitchen a place was always left for the brownie by the fireside, one house in particular was said to have been haunted by such a Sprite. The house located on the River Tay, one retains the name for centuries now called "Seòmar Bhrùnaidh" (the Brownie Room.

 Only ever seen by those with second sight, said to be jolly in appearance with flowing yellow hair donning a broad blue bonnet, carrying a walking staff. Hardly ever speaking to humans, they did however hold frequent and friendly conversations with their own kind - having general assemblies on some remote rocky shore.

Wikipedia - In a certain district of the Scottish Highlands, "Peallaidh an Spùit" (Peallaidh of the Spout), "Stochdail a' Chùirt", and "Brùnaidh an Easain" (Brownie of the little waterfall) were names of note at those congresses. Every stream in Breadalbane had an ùruisg once according to Watson the Scottish place name expert, and their king was Peallaidh. (Peallaidh's name is preserved in "Obair Pheallaidh", known in English as "Aberfeldy".) It may be the case, that ùruisg was conflated with some water sprite, or that ùruisg were originally water sprites with brownies.

In 1703, John Brand wrote in his description of Shetland (which he called "Zetland") that:
“Not above forty or fifty years ago, every family had a brownie, or evil spirit, so called, which served them, to which they gave a sacrifice for his service; as when they churned their milk, they took a part thereof, and sprinkled every corner of the house with it, for Brownie’s use; likewise, when they brewed, they had a stone which they called ‘Brownie’s stane’, wherein there was a little hole into which they poured some wort for a sacrifice to Brownie. They also had some stacks of corn, which they called Brownie’s Stacks, which, though they were not bound with straw ropes, or in any way fenced as other stacks used to be, yet the greatest storm of wind was not able to blow away straw off them.”

 In more modern times, brownies make appearances in various films and literary accounts. The movie Willow (1988) film by George Lucas and Directed by Ron Howard, features two small Brownies, Franjean and Rool, who aide the Nelwyn Willow Ufgood, the sorceress Fin Razeal, and the warrior Madmartigan in protecting the baby Elora Danan from the wicked Queen Bavmorda by taking her to Tir Asleen. The two brownies providing comic relief through witty banter and the occasional heckling of either Willow or Madmartigan.

 Various noted literary cameos are The Spiderwick Chronicles, the trilogy sequel to Willow - The Shadow Chronicles, and The Fablehaven series.

Friday, September 30, 2011


 Funny word, I know. This is a lesser known creature, I say that because if you even mention it most folks their eyes go a bit glazed over. The basic explanation is that a Barghest is a type of troll.

 Barghest, the name used more commonly in the north of England, especially in Yorkshire, to a legendary monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws. Though there are varying names given to this creature such as, Berg-geist (German) mountain demon, Bar-geist or bear demon... among other names. Along with the slight spelling changes, the creature in some cases is referred to as either a ghost or a household elf [Insert Harry Potter joke here], especially in Northumberland and Durham.

  It's said the Barghest, frequents a remote gorge named Troller's Gill which is a limestone gorge close to the village of Appletreewick in Yorkshire Dales; Legend has it that the Gill is the home of trolls and the mythical monstrous black dog. Being a nocturnal spectre, the appearance is said to be a portent of death.

Now, in the mainstream of things, as mainstream as Dungeons & Dragons can get, a Barghest is portrayed as a goblin-like creature that comes from the plane of Ghehenna to feed on humans. Doesn't that sound delightful? The evil creatures can change in form to appear as a dog or wolf, or at times a large goblin at will.

 The Barghest was introduced in The Dragon magazine (#26), following this it made an appearance in the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game's original Monster Manual II... it continued to make an appearance in each edition released.

 In 1979, Issue #26 of The Dragon, in the "Dragon's Bestiary" feature by Gary Gygax, the billing was "the return of an old and much-requested column" formerly known as "Featured Creature", the barghest are described as lawful evil in alignment and the article continued to say "Of the various members of the deodands inhabiting the rifts of the planes of Gehenna, the barghest is certainly the most common and one of the worst." It further states that a barghest's natural shape is similar to that of a large goblin, and that it can assume the form of a large war dog or wild dog at will, sometimes giving barghests the the misnomer of "devil-dogs".

 In 1983, Monster Manual II was released, the barghest within the world of Dungeons & Dragons is said to live upon the plains of Gehenna in "isolation from one another, each having it's own stronghold and force of servitors, ruling a smoking right despotically." The spawn of the barghest, a litter of six, is sent to the Prime Material Plane to feed. Living in pairs near isolated human communities or with goblin bands, always keeping their natural form amongst the goblins. The distinct difference between a barghest and a goblin are that the barghest's eyes glow orange with the creature becomes excited; in their canine form the barghest can become rather difficult to notice when motionless, and nearly "impossible to tell from a normal dog, except that other dogs will fear and hate it, attacking at every opportunity." It's said that barghests are worshiped by goblins, going to great lengths to to provide human sacrifices, as well as fearing and serving them; barghests do not take this unheeded, slaying the powerful enemies of the goblins and enriching their host's treausre.

 Magical abilities in this sort of world is not uncommon, the barghest have the abilities to charm other creatures, project illusions, and affect other creature's emotions. Barghests are unable to be harmed by fire, but the canine form can be sent back to it's home plain if struck by a magical fire attack. When a barghest slays and devours a human, it becomes largers and more powerful through what is described as "the unholy vampirism attendant upon the slaughter of humanity."

 Appearance wise, the skin begins to darken upon growth, from yellow towards a bluish red, at some point they become a deep blue. Once a barghest becomes fully grown, it returns home to Gehenna to find its ow reeking valley rift.

Each editions offers a few more tidbits of description from the life cycle to their attack behaviors.

For being a bit more obscure on the list of creatures, the barghest is a rather interesting and offers quite the vast amount of lore.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cauld Lad of Hylton

  I sit here thinking about what my first blog post will be, I have a vast range of lore and myths to write about. The one that is foremost in my mind is the tale of Cauld Lad of Hylton.

It's said that in the ruins of Hylton Castle are haunted by the ghost of a murdered stable boy named Robert Skelton. The events are said to have taken place in either the 16th or 17th century, that being said there are several legends concerning the origins.

 In all the versions spoken of, they do however start one of two ways... Robert Skelton was caught with the Baron's daughter or that the Baron of Hylton Castle ordered the stable boy to prepare his horse for a long journey. Robert Skelton unfortunately had overslept, hence not fulfilling his master's orders. This is where each version begins to vary.

 It's said that the enraged Baron either:

   -Decapitated him
   -Struck him on the back of the head with a riding crop. Possibly, hitting a spot that had been injured
    the day before causing the fatal blow
   -Stabbed him with a nearby pitchfork

Though the how Robert Skelton was killed is up in the air, one thing still remains consistent; The Baron disposed his body in a deep pond or an unused well. Several months later, the body was discovered, leading to a murder trial. The Baron was able to come up with an alibi, when an old farmer made a testimony saying The Baron had ordered the stable boy to remove a tool from the top of the shelf in the barn. Robert then slipped and fell, seriously wounding himself in the process. The Baron had tended his wounds but the boy had died. Robert Hylton, de jure 13th Baron Hylton (d. 1641) was pardoned in 1609.

 Afterwards strange events began to occur in the castle, it didn't go unnoticed. The kitchen that had been tidied at the end of the night would be messy in the morning. An unseen person would take hot ashes from the first and lie on them, leaving an imprint of a body. Chamber pots would be emptied and strewn upon the floor.

  Finally having had enough of the mystery, a cook stayed up until midnight to see who was causing the mischief. He saw a form of a naked boy crying in the night, "I'm cauld."  ("I'm cold.") The following day the cook and his wife left a warm cloak for the ghost boy, then waited up until midnight. The ghost appeared saying, "Here's a cloak and here is a hood, the cauld lad of Hylton will do no more good." Then he disappeared and the strange occurrences ceased, though even now people claim to have heard the ghostly cries of Cauld Lad.

  There are a few theories to why these events occurred in the castle; Poltergeist activity or described as either a brownie, bargherst, or an elf that had been put under a spell that could not be released until after they were given a gift.

 A song is said to have been sung by the version of Cauld Lad as a brownie, bargherst, and elf, it's as follows:

Woe's me! woe's me!
The acorn's not yet
Fallen from the tree,
That's to grow the wood,
That's to make the cradle
That's to rock the bairn,
That's to grow to the man,
That's to lay me.
Woe's me! Woe's me!'

The song is a cry out for someone to bestow gift of clothing upon the creature to release it from it's bonds.  (Sounds like Harry Potter... doesn't it.)

  Robert Sutees, a local antiquarian, claims that as well as haunting the castle, Cauld Lad has appeared as a ferryman at the North of Hylton side of the River Wear. He would take passengers halfway across, then disappear leaving them stranded.

  It's said that even into the 1970's lights can be seen at night in the ruins, the body having been laid since the early 1600's and the castle ruins having since lost it's upper floors.