Brownies

NOT chocolaty chewy goodness

The brownie is a legendary creature from the lowlands of Scotland.  The brownie was seen as a spirit that lived in someone’s house.  They are the shoemaker’s elves in other words.

Brownies are small, not more then 2 feet and a 2 foot brownie would be a giant of their race.  The brownie lives in the corners, the eaves and the walls of the house.  Named for their affinity for brown and brown tinted clothing, the brownie is hardly ever seen, preferring to do all of their work at night.  The brownie ate off the ‘sacrifices’ left to them by the people in whose home the brownie lived.

They performed small tasks for the homeowner – depending of course on the business that the homeowner was in.  If they were shoemakers, they would help make shoes or tidy up the work area at night, if they were farmers,, the farmer might find small tasks already done for the next day.  I think the quote below better explains the relationship between the brownie and the people that the co-habitated with.

John Brand, English historian and antiquarian wrote about Brownies in 1703 –

“Not above forty or fifty years ago, every family had a brownie, or evil spirit, so called, which served them, to which they gave a sacrifice for his service; as when they churned their milk, they took a part thereof, and sprinkled every corner of the house with it, for Brownie’s use; likewise, when they brewed, they had a stone which they called ‘Brownie’s stane’, wherein there was a little hole into which they poured some wort for a sacrifice to Brownie. They also had some stacks of corn, which they called Brownie’s Stacks, which, though they were not bound with straw ropes, or in any way fenced as other stacks used to be, yet the greatest storm of wind was not able to blow away straw off them.”

So a brownie would have sacrifices made to them and they would in turn do things for the family, pretty simple relationship.

In more modern times, the brownie has been made a denizen of the forest.  In D&D for instance, brownies are magic using miniature elf-like creatures that glean their food from fields near the forests where they live. The brownie is a mischievous spirit that flits around the forest causing problems for the humans that they come across.  In the movie Willow, the brownie is a tribe of tiny creatures that have a militarily organized society and they do the will of wizards and sorcerers.

I think I like the view of the traditional brownie more then a pop-culture take on the brownie.  They idea of living a little food to the spirit that shares your domicile with you sounds rather nice.  Maybe we still have brownies in our homes today.  Try leaving a little thimble of Coke out on your table at night.  Maybe part of a cookie too.  See if you can attract a brownie to your house.  You might find that your shoe-making business really takes off.