A recent interest in fairies, goblins, ghosts and worse has come upon me, and so I have ordered a number of books pertaining to the folklore of the British Isles, two of which have arrived today. Both by chance are by the inestimable Katherine Briggs, one being an Encyclopedia, the second an examination of how fairies have been portrayed in tradition and literature since Shakespearean times. Suffice to say, both are fascinating.
Now, people haven’t changed much over the years, and one thing that’s become obvious is that mankind’s love of creeping the hell out of itself was as strong back then as it is today. There are all sorts of deliciously creepy and malevolent fairies and goblins to read about, ranging from the gruesome Rawhead Bloody Bones to the terrifying Nuckelavee. Jenny Greenteeth has a charm all of her own, while the Redcaps could teach the guys from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy a thing or two about zjujing their couture.
One of my favorite tales thus far revolves around a Highland Kelpie. I’ll quote it in full from Briggs’ book:
The Highland Kelpie was as bloodthirsty and as hungry for human life. Its proper form was that of a horse, but it could disguise itself as a man. One story commonly told was of seven little girls who were out walking on a Sunday, and saw a pretty little horse grazing near the lochside. One after another they got on its back, which gradually lengthened itself so that there was room for them all. A little boy who was with them noticed this, and refused to join them. The horse turned its head, and suddenly yelled out, “Come on, little scabby-head, get up too!” The boy ran for his life, and hid among the boulders where the thing could not get him. When it saw this it turned aside and dashed into the loch, with the seven little girls on its back. And nothing of them but their entrails ever came to land.