The Brownie

A Brownie Mending Clothing

What is a Brownie?

Friend or Foe, little helper or frightening poltergeist. The Brownie (the English word for this particular fairy) is complex and refuses to fit neatly into a little box. About the only thing to truly mark a Brownie as such, is its proclivity to perform tedious chores such as sweeping, churning butter, tidying messes, herding or harvesting — to name a few. They do not tire as we do and seem to truly enjoy the repetitive nature of chores mortals find laborious . Due to this, it’s entirely possible to have a very positive relationship with this fairy, which is quite unique to most solitary fairies.

If, however, they are offended, angry or feel someone is in need of fair punishment, the afore mentioned chores will not only be neglected by the Brownie, but it may add to the chaos. In this state, the Brownie is so changed that we’ve given it another name. A Boggart.

What is a Boggart?

The last thing you want in your home is a Boggart, they will torment those living in their home to no end. Think haunted house, things that go bump in the night, items flying across the room. Now, we tend to think of such things being caused by a ghost, indeed, in some cases a Brownie has been known to be someone passed away, but these fairies are not the ghosts we’ve familiarised ourselves with. They may haunt a home, attached as they tend to get, but a hovering phantom they are not.

What do Brownies Look Like?

Snapshot of a Brownie

Brownies have been reported to be about the size of a small child, or smaller, with the face of an old man. It’s believed there are female brownies, but most of those seen have been largely male. Those who’ve seen them report brown, hairy creatures who are not particularly attractive. Truly, most often their unkempt nature causes some fright to those humans who happen to spot one. In The Brownie Of Blednoch by William Nicholson a description of one Brownie so terrified those who saw him, they feared him even when he posed no threat and was begging to be of service to anyone who would have him.

“There’s a hole where a nose should hae been;
And the mouth’s like a gash which a horn had ri’en”


The story goes on to describe the Brownie named Aiken Drum as having a long blue beard, clawed hands that dragged along the ground as he walked and a hairy body clothed only in weeds. His appearance was so startling that no one wanted him near, not even the neighbourhood dogs.

Not all Brownie’s are described as instilling as much fear, but neither are any said to be attractive. They have even been known to look more animalistic than human with their overly long and thin arms and misshapen faces. Even when someone spots a Brownie and remains unafraid, it seems human's have a terrible time looking upon them. In many stories, over and over again, we attempt to cloth them to hide their scant or missing clothing. It isn’t hard to imagine why they would choose to work at night, therefore, to avoid our meddlesome and judgemental kind.

The Fragile Relationship with a Brownie

Although their appearance may be alarming, they are quite good natured fairy with a fierce streak of loyalty. Some Brownies may become so attached to a family that they will continue on in their service for generations. This is not to say they do not also dabble in mischief. They are most pleased to punish with pranks and tricks those whom they deem lazy. Missing your keys? Yeah... it's one of their absolute favourite tricks. Likely, you're not quite as forgetful as you think you are. Their moral compass is strong and results in their long-lasting loyalty and helpfulness to humans. If you stray too far from their moral path, you'll probably find yourself forgetting things more and more often. If, however, you keep them in good spirits, they're likely to love you deeply and stand by you through all the long, hard household work that tends to pile up.

Bowl of Milk

Most Brownies are shy, elusive creatures who only work in the late night hours. As we already know, they enjoy performing pranks on the "lazy". Do not think this is something they will tolerate themselves, however. A young girl who was very good friends with a household brownie often gave him cream. One day, she thought it a grand idea to play a little trick on her brownie friend and instead of milk, left him a bowl of stale urine. Well, this was not at all well received and the young girl was discovered thrashing and screaming as the Brownie attacked her. He left post haste and never lifted a finger to help that poor misguided young lady again.


Picture of a Brownie

They do not seem to place much concern on their clothing. Of course, there are exceptions, as there is a story of a Brownie who happily continued on in service to a family as long as they continued to cloth him in fine linen, but as soon as he was given an inferior cloth to wear, he left in an outraged huff. In most cases, unless you’re trying to be rid of a Brownie, it’s best to leave them clothed as they may or may not be. For an offering of clothing will deeply offend the Brownie and cause them to pack up and leave forth-with. It’s just as possible that the afore mentioned clothing may indeed thrill the Brownie, but still result in its immediate, happy departure. So incredibly fulfilled with their new gear, they lose the desire to continue in service.

The best thing to placate and keep a Brownie in your home satisfied and helpful rather than ruffled and taxing is food. The heart of a Brownie is won through the belly. They are known to be very fond of cream, or even a small bowl of milk with a bit of cream and or honey as well as sweet cakes. Each Brownie will have their own preference and it’s best to follow their lead.