One of the reasons that I love horror so much is the way that the genre relies on traditional imagery. There are so many folkloric stories that influence popular culture, but they sometimes receive so little attention. Sundays will be the day where I pick one story or one image and examine the history and variations of the legend.
Faeries in Folklore and Popular Culture
Last week I touched (very) briefly on the history of faeries and faery like creatures in European folklore. This week I would like to look at one particular legend and its impact on popular culture.
Red caps are an interesting race because they fall into a range of species depending on locality. Regardless of whether or not they’re seen as faeries or dwarves, they are a particularly violent bunch. The term red cap stems from their habit of painting themselves with the blood of their victims-which in some cases is the only thing keeping them alive.
Red caps are said to be extremely fast and avoiding one is almost impossible once you attract their attention. Oddly, red caps carry iron. Iron is suggested to be a traditional faery ward but in this case, red caps make weapons out of it. Red caps are often portrayed as shorter, older men.
Red Caps in Popular Culture
Most likely due to their violent nature, red caps have been used as villians and montsters with some frequency in modern popular culture. Ranging from video games to rpgs, red caps are often linked with goblins and other ‘dark’ fey. Wikipedia lists at least eight book series reliant on this one faerie as character races.
It would require more citation and research than this blog is able to currently reflect, but red caps in popular culture may reflect a wider trend in western popular culture with regards to faerie like species. Television shows ranging from Grimm to True Blood are beginning to rely on more traditional faerie imagery. It may be that pop culture is attempting to reclaim the darker aspects of faerie lore, but it may also be a short term trend that won’t stand the test of time.