Tag Archives: murder by magic

A Modern Bestiary – S is for Spriggan

Yes, S is for Spriggan – perhaps the most unsightly of the Fae.  Sometimes referred to as ‘goat-men’, they are grotesque in several ways, and dangerous despite their small size.

         Here, a spriggan is shown emerging from a wall in Crouch End, London. It’s a talent born of the creature’s make-up, which is closely related to stone.

A spriggan often looks like a wizened old man, but has a large child-like head that resembles a human child with progeria. That would be the rare genetic defect that causes a human child to age with such rapidity the youngster is already dying of old age by the time he or she approaches anything like adult size. Nearly all of them die before reaching the age of 14.

  Humans suffering from progeria tend to go bald at a very early age, but commonly wear headgear to conceal the fact. Because of this, one might mistake a human for a spriggan, which is not nearly as risky as its converse, mistaking a spriggan for a human.

These are traits common to progeria victims, to which I would add ‘manga eyes’ – the disproportionately large head often features eyes that look too large as well, as is often depicted in ‘manga’ style graphic novels.

   Some look less human than others.

   And some, like this little girl, resemble living mummies.

The spriggan, however, is actually kin to the trolls of Scandinavia.

  Note the large nose and sparse hair and fur on this young troll’s body.

  The adult troll, however, can grow to a considerable size, and is as well known for its brute strength as its body odor and its lack of intellect.

The spriggan can also grow to enormous size, and do so almost instantaneously!  This is why they are sometimes said to be the ghosts of giants.  Well, in the Nordic sense of the Jotun, this is partially true – the Norse have never clearly drawn a line separating the giants from the trolls in Jotunheim. The spriggan is distinct from the troll, however, in one important respect – a spriggan can withstand direct sunlight where a troll is apt to be turned to stone in a permanent fashion or burnt to a crisp.

This unfortunate fellow poked his head of his cave at the wrong time.

A Celtic spriggan of the traditional sort is mostly likely to be found in Cornwall these days. Wherever you find one, however, it is best to view the creature as anything but ethereal, whether or not it can pass through walls and emerge from stones.  In some ways, it is made of stones and sometimes looks like a stack of rocks come to sudden and rather horrifying life.

  Do NOT throw rocks at a spriggan!  They are apt to return the favor by throwing chunks of themselves at you in turn, and with deadly accuracy. What’s worse, they can recall the parts they’ve hurled at you, rather like Thor’s hammer, and then, of course, they can do it all over again.  As many times as they like.

For this reason, and because they are impervious to so many magical weapons and spells, the spriggans often serve as bodyguards to other fae.

Unlovely, yes, but effective in their own way.

Spriggans also serve as guards and watchmen. Formerly, they were often found at the sites of ancient ruins, stone cairns (which they can imitate to an amazing degree), and barrows, especially if the tombs contain any form of buried treasure.

Nowadays, and especially since the Fall, spriggans often work as security guards at banks and check-cashing offices.

If you should spot a security guard who sports a prominent nose, large eyes, and a bald head, like either of these two fellows, be polite and keep your distance.  Above all, if you should have grand larceny in mind, go pick another bank to rob!




A Modern Bestiary – O is for Oak Men

1126931186_imefairy32 Yes, I know.  Oak is an Anglo-Saxon word.  But I would not complain of this to the Oak Men.  They are guardians of the oaks, and language is the least of it where they are concerned.  What they speak is older by far than any human tongue, or fae for that matter.

Some consider them dryads of a sort, but this is a serious error.  They are kin to tree spirits but partake too deeply of oaken strength and stubbornness to be classed with any nymph.  Too masculine, down to their roots.

oak-spirit  You may espy an Oak Man wherever a limb has been lost, especially if that branch has been lopped off by a human.  His purpose is healing where the tree is concerned, and vigilance toward the woodsman who would do such damage without permission.

The Oak Men, who are also known as the Inifri Duir, have scant patience with those who do not revere the trees or the creatures and plants who are sheltered by oak groves and forests.

tree_roots  The Oak Men can also be seen among tree roots, where they lurk in winter’s cold, often asleep yet ready to trip up or even seize and eat the feet of an unwary traveler.

The Oak Men are also called the Bodachan na Croibhe Moire, where a bodach is a herder, originally of cows, and Croibhe Moire refers to the heart of the great oak.  Thus they are in some sense tree herds, but for your own sake, do not address them as Ents.  They are unimpressed with Tolkien’s take on their ancient race, and not much inclined to mercy in any case.  Nor are their wives missing.

oak-woman  Indeed, the Oak Women have their own views on all matters to do with the forest, and their frustration with their husbands is often on display, as seen here.  But they are certainly not ‘missing’ much though the Inifri Duir might sometimes wish they were.

The Oak Men, you see, have a problem opposite that of the Macamores.  They are not jealous of any mortal men who may seduce their females.  Rather the Oak Men envy the Macamores their situation and speak longingly of the peace and quiet embracing the woods while the Oak Women pursue such delights.  What do they desire instead?  What do they lust after?


awesome-man-caves1  Especially those equipped with a wet bar and Guinness on tap.  Exposure to such conveniences, and to televised rugby and soccer games, have utterly corrupted them.

So beware the Oak Men.  They’re common enough in California, whose Central Valley is dotted with magnificent valley oaks in addition to scrub and blue oaks of various kinds.  The valley oaks are protected by law, but since the Fall, many also have personal guardians.  And the Inifri Duir may be stubborn folk, but even they have been forced to adapt to changing conditions.

oak-man  Thus the ancient depictions, like the one shown here, are no longer reliable guides to their ways.

In olden times, the tree herders made much use of their mycelial side.  They are as closely linked to the fungus kingdom as the oaks because the trees themselves are dependent on fungiform networks in the soil and in rotting logs for recycled nutrients essential to the growth of seedlings and saplings.

Back then, the revenge taken by an offended Inifri Duir might have taken the form of a gift.  The Oak Man in question could assume a human’s form and present himself as a fellow traveler.  As a kindness, he might offer other travelers or weary woodsmen a fine-looking journey cake.  That cake, however, was commonly made from poisonous toadstools and glamoured to look appetizing.  Eat of it and you’d surely suffer an agonizing death…

amanita_muscaria_crop  …for the Oak Men would often use fly agaric mushrooms like these.  This toadstool’s scientific name is Amanita muscaria and the alkaloids it produces can destroy the human liver.  In fact, Amanita poisoning can only be cured by means of a liver transplant if no fae healer is at hand.

Now, however, the threat is even more serious for in their mad search for ESPN, cold beer, and recliners, in addition to revenge, they will often attempt to invade your home.

Therefore do not be deceived by the modern guises the Oak Men rely upon nowadays.  If you’ve been out in the woods, say, cutting down a Christmas tree or collecting fire wood, hunting deer, or clearing land for construction purposes, beware of hucksters who place themselves in your path but are only human in appearance.  For example:

savage_huckster  The man at the mall, offering to restore you to perfect health using various ‘natural’ all-organic remedies.

lottery-mega-millions  The man at your door or on the phone telling you that you’ve just won the lottery, although you never bought a ticket.  All you need do to collect your winnings is pay the man a small ‘handling’ fee.

used-car-salesman  The used car salesman who ends his pitch by inviting himself to your house on game day.

Do not give such men entry into your life, your wallet, or your house, and especially not your den.  Do not on any account eat their offerings whether it be home-brewed beverages or nutritional supplements or chips and dip!  Even if you should survive the initial encounter, you may never be able to evict them from your basement hideaway!