What Is a Spriggan?

March 28, 2019
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As I read through my research books, I came across a very interesting creature. This creature is known as the spriggan—pronounced sprid-jan.

A spriggan is a type of Fae that is often confused with a giant. It is extremely small in size. It’s able to inflate itself, change shape, and become a giant. This led to them being called the ghosts of giants.

They tend to be dark, ugly creatures with morose tempers. Spriggans run in gangs, taking shelter in caves, outcroppings, hollows, or ruins. The beings are known as skilled thieves.

They look for houses to pillage. As a gang, they are quite destructive and dangerous. If someone comes close to a spriggan, they’ll be lucky just to get a punch to the ear. Typically, the encounter has a far worse outcome.

Spriggans are known for kidnapping children and robbing humans. When they kidnap children, they often replace the child with a changeling. A changeling is a Fae being that is swapped out so the humans don’t notice the kidnapping. This almost always fails as the humans realize when the child no longer acts like a normal child.

Changelings may have been an early way of explaining mental illness, autism, sickness, when their was no medical understanding of those issues.

Spriggans are extremely protective of their treasure. One story grabbed my attention.

An old woman lived in a cottage near a group of spriggans. The spriggans would travel at night, pillage the surrounding towns, and bring their loot back to the cottage. They would count their stolen treasure, reveling in the chaos of the day. When they finished, they would leave the old woman a coin for her cooperation.

As time went on, the old woman grew jealous. She wanted more.

Like any greedy human, she set out to fulfill her desires.

Depending on what you read, you’ll find that Fae are typically repulsed by two things: iron and holy water. Holy water seems to be more of a Christian addition when the stories were rewritten to assimilate pagans. There are more weaknesses—salt, counting, and herbs to name a few—but iron and holy water seem to come up the most.

In this story, the old woman turns her shift (a long, loose-fitting undergarment) inside out. This seems to be just as bad as attacking the spriggans with holy water or iron. They freak out, run away, and leave the woman the treasure.

I would hate to see someone’s underwear inside out, too.

As with any good Fae story, the spriggans had the last laugh. The old woman gained the loot, but she suffered every time she wore the undergarment. Today we might think, “Put something else on.” Back in the day, closets weren’t filled with clothes like they are today.

There isn’t a whole lot about spriggans. They appear in some of my research materials that are strictly on Fae beings, but when it comes to encyclopedias on the magical realms, I haven’t found much.

Of course, spriggans are found throughout modern media; games in particular.

I think they may be a relative of the goblin or leprechaun; possibly both. In my opinion, they sound a lot like a goblin with more shape-shifting abilities. Goblins tend to be mischievous, but spriggans seem to be even more so, focusing on theft and destruction.

If you slight a spriggan, they’ll cause all sorts of chaos. They might punch you. Of course, they might steal all your valuables. It’s said they’ll even blight crops and create whirlwinds if you cause them great anger.

Is that the case?

I don’t know. I’ve never met a spriggan. Maybe they do have these abilities. Maybe they are mischievous leprechauns or angry goblins.

Either way, one thing is for certain. If you meet a spriggan, don’t make it angry. Take your coin, live out your day, and move on. Nobody wants cursed underwear.

You can read about a spriggan in The Fae Awakening series.

If you are interested in reading more about the Fae, check out these two books. Both influenced my research and interest in these ghosts of giants.

 


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