Sunday Legends-The Beautiful Ones: Brownies


This will continue a minor trend of ‘things that sound like food but aren’t’ on the blog. For the record, all you people finding me by searching for Hemlock Grove-Roman isn’t a lumpia. A lumpia is a type of egg roll. Of which he is not.

This week will also continue forward with last week’s theme, at least in a way. This week we are looking at one of the more familiar faeries, the brownie.

The brownie is a house spirit, of a type that is found throughout cultures that work with what we may call fae energies today. Typically, these house spirits provide small favors or protections to the household so long as their own needs are met or a satisfactory level of respect is provided. Similar house spirits in areas of Russia may work to ensure that a household runs smoothly and a woman’s yarn stays tangle-free so long as she is industrious and keeps the hearth up to a respectable level, for example.

Brownies are by extension water elementals in that they appear to prefer areas with ponds or streams-though they will become attached to a certain farm or even a certain family. That makes a certain amount of sense, since farms would require at least a relatively local water source. This trait also connects them to several Slavic spirits, who favored their own fields. Depending on source or region, you should or should not attempt to pay your brownie for his services (and it is almost always a ‘he’, which is interesting in light for one of the most common popular associations with the legend). However it is expected that you feed him-which may be an extension of the idea that you have to show a certain level of respect. In some areas however it is expected that you pay him with food or other gifts, or it woud be an act of disrespect.

According to some folklorists, the helpfulness that brownies express around the household seperates them from other faeries that may live in water sources but are disinterested in working for a farm. This willingness to help people is part of the basis for the cultural image that many girls are introduced to the brownie through; the second stage of the Girl Scout advancement process is ‘brownie’ following ‘daisies’, with the bridging rhyme emphasizing the idea of helpfulness and industry.

Other pop culture imagary that lines up with the myth is Dobbie, the house elf from Harry Potter. By description he seems to be more hobgoblin like but his behaviors suggest more of a brownie-type mythos.

One comment

  1. It’s been said that Roman is a Lumpia but he just doesn’t know it yet. Maybe that’s why he’s always cutting himself?

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