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.