Tag Archives: brownies

Gimlet by Lisa

I was seven when we moved into the house.  It was a huge place—a mansion, really.  I remember tiptoeing through the rooms like it was a museum, afraid to touch any of the ornate furniture.

My parents got it for a ridiculously low price.  Mom thought it must mean the house was a lemon, but Dad’s a contractor, and he checked the whole thing out himself.  I guess the reason it was so cheap was because people thought it was haunted.  Things would happen in the house… furniture would move, messes would be made that no one in the house saw happen.  It spooked people.  The house had been relisted seven times in the past five years.

My parents don’t believe in things like that, so it didn’t stop them from snapping the house up.  Little things did start to happen, but usually they just blamed me for it.  It wasn’t me.  It was him.

I liked to call him Gimlet.  We’d lived in the house for almost six months when I first saw him.  He was a tiny little man, maybe eight inches tall, with disproportionately wide hips and an oversized nose—everything else about him was thin and bony.  He was a very strange little man.

He was angry when I discovered him, toppling over the bobbins of thread in my mother’s sewing room.  He screamed at me in a language I didn’t understand, jumping up and down in a rage.  I think he was mad that we’d come and lived in his house without asking him.

I tried to tell my parents about Gimlet, but they thought I was making up stories.  When I showed my mother the sewing room, she folded her arms and gave me a lecture about how I should never blame things on other people—especially imaginary ones.

After that, Gimlet wouldn’t let me sleep at night.  He’d come in and pull my hair and pinch my nose and make a ruckus, right next to my ears.  I didn’t know what to do.  I tried telling Mom about him again, but she was still mad about the sewing room, and she just ignored me.

And then it hit me.  Maybe Gimlet wasn’t so bad… maybe I just wasn’t treating him the way I should be.  I was a Girl Scout, after all… I knew what Brownies were.  Brownies were helpful creatures.  I didn’t know if Gimlet was a Brownie, but it gave me an idea.

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Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Brownies

forestIf you were ever a Girl Scout (or even if you weren’t) you probably know that Brownies are small little people-like creatures that show up in the middle of the night and finished off chores and tidied up houses.  As usual, though, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Brownies go by a few names depending on the who and the where, from Scottish to Scottish Gaelic, to Slavic or German, but what is fairly agreed to among all is that brownies are a type of hob (like hobgoblin) or in plainer language, house spirits.  It’s said that once upon a time, every house had its own brownie, living in some unused or unknown part of the house, and while brownies are for the most part fairly reclusive and even sometimes lazy creatures, if a family respects and understands the brownie’s humors (not the joke type of humor, the way-of-being type of humor), brownies will step up and do menial tasks very quickly—and brownisometimes will even appear to people, though usually you had to have the “second sight” to be able to see them.

Brownies could not accept “payment” or bribery of any sort for the work they did, however.  If payment of any kind was made, then the brownie had to leave forever, never to return.  Where it gets a little bit gray, however, is that traditionally the household was meant to make offerings or sacrifices to the brownies—a show of gratitude, if you will, by way of returning kindness.  So long as it was strictly not considered payment.  If you failed to do this, the brownie would either stop helping, or possibly turn to mischief against you.  Because of this, milk would often be sprinkled in the corners of houses for the browniebrownie’s use, or offerings of food were left out.  Many homes had a  “brownie stane” or stone, which was basically a stone with a hole bored into it, where they would pour offerings of wort, the liquid that ferments into beer.   Also, in many Scottish homes a seat would be left open by the fireplace for the brownie.

Brownies are also associated with water.  It’s said that while they didn’t communicate with people, they were known to enjoy each others’ company quite a lot, and would often have celebrations and revelries near brooks, where their voices would mix and be hidden by the babble of the water, and it’s speculated that perhaps the brownies were originally or related to water sprites, but I guess we’ll never know for sure.


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