Posted in sci-fi/fantasy writers series

Leprechaun: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series–Magical Creatures

In this Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.

The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.


A leprechaun is a creature from Irish folklore. Leprechauns are generally presented as a type of fairy in the form of a tiny old man. He is often dressed in a cocked hat, wearing a leather apron.  Legends present him to be solitary by nature and to live in remote places where he spends his time making brogue shoes. Traditionally, he also possesses a hidden crock of gold which he guards jealously. The word leprechaun derives ultimately from the Old Irish word luchorpan meaning “little body.”

By birth the Leprechaun is of low descent. His father is said to be an evil spirit and his mother a degenerate fairy. His nature is that of a mischief-maker, the “Puck of the Emerald Isle.” He is of diminutive size, about three feet high, and is dressed in a little red jacket or roundabout, with red breeches buckled at the knee, gray or black stockings, and a hat, cocked in the outdated style of the eighteenth century, over a little, old, withered face.

In mythology, the leprechaun is neither entirely good nor entirely evil. He often is characterized with a mix of both qualities. Sometimes he is portrayed as having a generous nature and performing a kind service. Other times, he is seen as descending into pettiness and meanness. However, his character is such that he is never completely noble nor wholly depraved.

Stories originating from Clare and Galway, Ireland report that the favorite amusement of the Leprechaun is riding a sheep or goat, or even a dog, when the other animals are not available. Herdsmen are reported to have found their sheep looking weary in the morning or found their dog in a state of muddy disarray and worn out with fatigue. This, the herdsman understands, means that the local Leprechaun has used his animal to travel a great distance rather than walk to his destination on foot.

Aside from riding sheep and dogs almost to the point of death, the Leprechaun is credited with small acts of mischief around the house. Legend insists that Leprechauns will make the pot boil over and put out the fire, then again, he will make it impossible for the pot to boil at all. He will steal food such as bacon and potatoes, or fling babies down onto the floor. Occasionally, he is thought to throw articles of furniture around a room with a strength and vigor altogether disproportionate to his diminutive size.

But his mischievous pranks seldom go further than to drink up all the milk or despoil a homeowner’s bottle of poteen, sometimes, filling the bottle with water. Additional stories portray the mischief-making Leprechaun as growing very angry and stoking the flames in a fireplace or hearth, startling the homeowner.  

Work Cited:

  1. D. R. McAnally, Jr., Irish Wonders:  The Ghosts, Giants, Pookas, Demons, Leprechawns, Banshees, Fairies, Witches, Widows, Old Maids, And Other Marvels Of The Emerald Isle Popular Tales As Told By The People, Edition 1, Weathervane Books – New York, Copyright © 1888. In the Public Domain. Found at
Posted in sci-fi/fantasy writers series

Banshee: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series–Magical Creatures

In this Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.

The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.


A banshee (“woman of the fairies”) is a supernatural being in Irish and other Celtic folklore whose mournful “keening,” or wailing screaming or lamentation, at night was believed to foretell the death of a member of the family of the person who heard the spirit.

The name banshee seems to be a contraction of the Irish Bean Sidhe, which is interpreted by some writers on the subject “A Woman of the Faire Race,” whilst by various other writers it is said to signify “The Lady of Death,” “The Woman of Sorrow,” “The Spirit of the Air,” and “The Woman of the Barrow.”

In Ireland, banshees were believed to warn only families of pure Irish descent. The Welsh counterpart, the gwrach y Rhibyn (“witch of Rhibyn”), visited only families of old Welsh stock.

Banshees may be divided into two main classes, the Friendly Banshees and the Hateful Banshees. The former exhibiting sorrow on their advent, and the latter, exultation. But these classes are capable of almost endless sub-division with the only feature they possess in common being that they are both female in nature. The cause of a banshee haunting is varied. Some authors suppose that banshees appear because of affection or a crime, but others point to an origin in sorcery and witchcraft.

Some writers portray banshees as very beautiful women—women with long, luxuriant tresses, either of raven black, or burnished copper, or brilliant gold, and whose star-like eyes, full of tender pity, are either dark and tearful, or of the most exquisite blue or grey; some, again, are haggish, wild, disheveled-looking creatures, whose appearance suggests the utmost squalor, foulness, and despair. Additionally, some stories portray banshees in the form of something that is wholly diabolical, frightful, or terrifying in the extreme.

As a rule, however, the banshee is not seen, it is only heard, and it announces its arrival in a variety of ways—sometimes by groaning, sometimes by wailing, and sometimes by uttering the most blood-curdling of screams. These screams are described as resembling those of a dying woman who was dying in a violent manner. Occasionally, banshees are described as clapping their hands, and tapping and scratching at walls and windowpanes, and, not infrequently, they are described as the signaling their arrival by terrific crashes and thumps.

Work Cited:  

  1. Elliot O’Donnell, The Banshee, London And Edinburgh Sands & Company, 1907, In the public domain found at:
Posted in sci-fi/fantasy writers series

Werewolves: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series–Magical Creatures

In this Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.

The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.


A werewolf, in European folklore, is a man who turns into a wolf at night and devours animals, people, or corpses but returns to human form during the day. Folklore dictates that some werewolves change shape at will. For others, the condition is hereditary, or it can be acquired by having been bitten by a werewolf. In this case, the werewolf changes shape involuntarily, under the influence of a full moon. In French folklore, the werewolf is called loup-garou.

The belief that a human being is capable of assuming an animal’s form, most frequently that of a wolf, is an almost worldwide superstition. In myth, such a transformed person is mostly seen at night, and believed generally to be harmful to man.

There are many origin stories to the myth of lycanthropy, or the changing of a man into a wolf. Some attribute the belief to primitive Totemism, in which the totem is an animal revered by the members of a tribe and supposed to be hostile to their enemies. Still another explanation is that of a leader of departed souls as the original werewolf.

The werewolf superstition is found virtually all over the world, especially in Northwest Germany and Slavic lands; namely, in the lands where the wolf is most common.

The werewolf superstition is an old and primitive myth. The point in common across cultures that believe in the myth is the transformation of a living human being into an animal. For example, into a wolf in regions where the wolf was common; into a lion, hyena or leopard in Africa, where these animals are common; into a tiger or serpent in India; in other localities into other animals that are characteristic of the region.

Other examples include the myth among the Lapps and Finns that men transform into the bear, wolf, reindeer, fish or birds. Amongst many North Asiatic peoples, as also some American Indians the transformation takes the form of the bear; amongst the latter also into the fox, wolf, turkey or owl; in South America, men transform into a tiger or jaguar, also into a fish, or serpent. The most universal animal associated with the myth, however, was the transformation into wolves or dogs.

The origin of the superstition must have been the old custom of early cultures putting on a wolf’s or other animal’s skin as a dress or a robe.

As a subject for 20th-century horror films, the werewolf tradition is second only to the vampire tradition in popularity.

Work Cited:

  1. Caroline Taylor Stewart, The Origin of the Werewolf Superstition, Library of Alexander 1909. In the public domain. Found at
Posted in sci-fi/fantasy writers series

Vampires: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series–Magical Creatures

In this Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.

The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.

Vampires (also spelled Vampyre):

What is a vampire? The definition given in Webster’s International Dictionary is: “A blood-sucking ghost or re-animated body of a dead person; a soul or re-animated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave and wander about by night sucking the blood of persons asleep, causing their death.”

Vampires have been featured in folklore and fiction of various cultures for hundreds of years, predominantly in Europe, although belief in them has waned in modern times.

Folklore includes a long history of tales of walking corpses and creatures that suck blood. Consequently, there are many variations of the characteristics that are attributed to vampires.  

The word vampire (Dutch, vampyr; Polish, wampior or upior; Slownik, upir; Ukraine, upeer) is thought to be derived from the Servian wampira. The Russians, Morlacchians, inhabitants of Montenegro, Bohemians, Servians, Arnauts, both of Hydra and Albania, know the vampire under the name of wukodalak, vurkulaka, or vrykolaka, a word which means “wolf-fairy,” and is thought by some to be derived from the Greek. In Crete, the vampire is known by the name of katakhaná.

Vampire lore is, in general, confined to stories of resuscitated corpses of male human beings, though amongst the Malays a penangglan, or vampire, was a living witch, who can be killed if she can be caught in the act of witchery. She was especially feared in houses where a birth has taken place, and it was the custom to hang up a bunch of thistle in order to catch her. She was said to keep vinegar at home to aid her in re-entering her own body. In the Malay Peninsula, parts of Polynesia and the neighboring districts, the vampire was conceived as a head with entrails attached, which comes forth to suck the blood of living human beings.

In Transylvania, the belief prevailed that every person killed by a nosferatu (vampire) becomes in turn a vampire and will continue to suck the blood of other innocent people until the evil spirit has been exorcised, either by opening the grave of the suspected person and driving a stake through the corpse or firing a pistol-shot into the coffin.

In very obstinate cases it was further recommended to cut off the head, fill the mouth with garlic, and then replace the head in its proper place in the coffin; or else to extract the heart and burn it, and strew the ashes over the grave.

Works Cited:

  1. Dudley Wright, Vampires and Vampirism, London William Rider and Son, Limited 1914. In the public domain. Found at
Posted in sci-fi/fantasy writers series

Griffins: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series–Magical Creatures

In the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series, I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.

The series will name and describe some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.


A griffin, also spelled griffon or gryphon, is a composite mythological animal typically having the head, forepart, and wings of an eagle and the body (winged or wingless), hind legs, and tail of a lion. It is usually represented with projecting ears, indicating an acute sense of hearing, in addition to its other supposed extraordinary qualities.

The griffin was a favorite decorative motif in the ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean lands. The creature probably originated in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. By the 14th century BCE, the griffin had spread throughout western Asia and into Greece.

The Asiatic griffin had a crested head, whereas the Minoan and Greek griffin usually had a mane of spiral curls. It was shown either reclining or seated on its haunches and it was often paired with the sphinx. Its function may have been protective.

Western mythology recognizes the griffin as being allied closely to the dragon differing somewhat in appearance and function. Medieval artists portrayed the griffin as a four-legged beast like the western dragon, but it has the beak and wings and forefeet of an eagle, and the hind-legs and tail of a lion. Whereas the dragon is depicted as having the attributes of a serpent, lizard, or crocodile. In ecclesiastical art, the griffin was portrayed to have six limbs—namely, a pair of forelegs or arms, a pair of hind-legs, and, in addition, a pair of wings.

The griffin is best known as one of the chimerical monsters of heraldry—the medieval representative of the ancient symbolic creature of Assyria and the East. It may be classed with the dragon, wyvern, phoenix, sphynx, gorgons and hydras and chimeras dire and other imaginary beings.

Old heralds gravely related of this creature that when it attains its full growth, it will never be overtaken. Consequently, it was a fit emblem of a valiant hero, who, rather than yield himself to his enemy, exposes himself to the worst of dangers. As a general symbol in heraldry the griffin expresses strength and vigilance.

Works Cited:

  1. Lankester, Sir Ray, Science From An Easy Chair, Methuen & Co. Ltd. 36 Essex Street W.C. London, 1910. In the public domain. Found at
  2. Jones, W. Henry and Lajos Kropf, The Folk-Tales of the Magyars, Published For The Folk-Lore Society By Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, 1889. In the public domain. Found at
  3. Vinycomb, John, Fictitious & Symbolic Creatures in Art With Special Reference To Their Use In British Heraldry, Chapman And Hall, Limited 11 Henrietta Street, London, W. C., 1906. In the public domain. Found at

Posted in sci-fi/fantasy writers series

Fairies (European): Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series–Magical Creatures

I am launching the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers Series where I will provide sci-fi/fantasy writers with a wealth of information concerning subjects that they may wish to use in their work.

I will start the series by naming and describing some of the magical or fantastical creatures that you may want to use in your stories.

Fairies (European):

A fairy, also spelled faerie or faery, is a mythical being of folklore and romance usually having magic powers and dwelling on earth in close relationship with humans.

Fairies are mythical creatures that can be found in many cultures throughout the world. Two sources of fairy mythology come from Wales and Scotland.

Welsh Fairies:

In Wales, the Fairies are spoken of as people, or folk, not as myths or goblins. As spirits they are immortal and able to make themselves invisible.

According to Welsh folklore, the most general name given to fairies in Wales is “Y Tylwyth Teg,” (the Fair Family, or Folk); but they are known sometimes as “Bendith y Mamau” (the Mothers’ Blessing); and the term “gwragedd Annwn,” (dames of the lower regions), is often applied to the Fairy Ladies who dwelt in lakes or under lakes.

Appearance and dress

Legends insist that the Fairies were small handsome creatures in human form. They were very kind to, and often showered benefits on those who treated them kindly, but most vengeful towards those who dared to treat them badly.

They were dressed in green, and very often in white, and some of their maidens were so beautiful, that young men sometimes would fall head over heels in love with them, especially while watching them dancing on a moonlight night. Many of the Fairy Tales state that one of the young men loved to watch the fairies’ nightly revels of singing and dancing. Accordingly, the fairies often succeeded in inducing men through the allurements of music to join their ranks.


As to their dwellings, the Fairies were “things under the earth.” They were generally supposed to dwell in the lower regions, especially beneath lakes, where their country towns and castles were situated; and the people on the coasts of Pembrokeshire imagined that they inhabited certain enchanted green isles of the sea.

Fairies also had the reputation of being Fairy Knockers (Tommy Knockers). Knockers were supposed to be a species of Fairies which haunted the mines, and underground regions, and whose province it was to indicate by knocks and other sounds, the presence of rich veins of ore.

Scottish Fairies:

Scottish folklore holds that Fairies are underground dwellers and are known mostly from the derivative of the word sìth (pronounced shee). As ordinarily used sìth means ‘peace,’ and, as an adjective, is applied solely to objects of the supernatural world, particularly to the Fairies and whatever belongs to them.

According to lore, humans are naturally believed to make sound and the entire absence of sound is considered unearthly, unnatural, and not human. The name sìth without doubt refers to the ‘peace’ or silence of Fairy motion, as contrasted with the stir and noise accompanying the movements and actions of people.

The German ‘still folk’ is a name of corresponding importance. Legend insists that the Fairies come and go with noiseless steps, and their thefts or abductions are done silently and unawares to men. Such stories describe the wayfarer resting beside a stream, on raising his eyes, sees the Fairy woman, unheard in her approach, standing on the opposite bank.

Other stories that depict the silence of the Fairies state that men know the Fairies have visited their houses only by the mysterious disappearance of the substance of their goods, or the sudden and unaccountable death of any of the occupants or of the cattle.

These stories hold that sometimes the Fairies are seen entering the house, gliding silently round the room, and going out again as noiselessly as they entered. When driven away they do not go off with tramp and noise, and sounds of walking such as men make, or melt into thin air, as spirits do, but fly away noiselessly like birds or hunted deer. They seem to glide or float along rather than to walk.

Hence the name sìthche and its synonyms are often applied contemptuously to a person who sneaks about or makes his approach without warning. Sometimes indeed the Fairies make a rustling noise like that of a gust of wind, or a silk gown, or a sword drawn sharply through the air, and their coming and going has been even indicated by frightful and unearthly shrieks, a pattering as of a flock of sheep, or the louder trampling of a troop of horses.

Generally, however, their presence is indicated at most by the cloud of dust raised by the eddy wind, or by some other curious natural phenomenon, by the illumination of their dwellings, the sound of their musical instruments, songs, or speech.

For the same reason sìth is applied not merely to what is Fairy, but to whatever is Fairy-like, unearthly, not of this world.

Appearance and Size

In some legends, Fairies are small enough to creep through key-holes, and a single potato is as much as one of them can carry. However, in other stories, the fairies resemble mankind, with whom they form alliances, and to whom they hire themselves as servants; while some are even said to be above the size of mortals, gigantic hags, in whose lap mortal women are mere infants.

In the Highlands, the names sithche and daoine sìth are given to all these different sizes alike, little men, elfin youth, elfin dame, and elfin hag, all of whom are not mythical beings of different classes or kinds, but one and the same race, having the same characteristics and dress, living on the same food, staying in the same dwellings, associated in the same actions, and kept away by the same means.

The easiest solution of the differences in the tales is to conclude that the fairies had the power of making themselves large or small at pleasure. There is no popular tale, however, which represents them as exercising such a power, nor is it compatible to the rest of their characteristics that this description should be ascribed to them.

Most of the tales state the belief the Fairies are a small race, the men ‘about four feet or so’ in height, and the women in many cases not taller than a little girl (cnapach caileig). Being called ‘little,’ the exaggeration, which popular imagination loves, has diminished them till they appear as elves of different kinds. There is hardly a limit to the popular exaggeration of personal peculiarities.


Sìthein (pron. shï-en) is the name of any place in which the Fairies take up their residence. It is known from the surrounding scenery by the peculiarly green appearance and rounded form. Sometimes in these respects it is very striking, being of so nearly conical a form, and covered with such rich verdure, that a second look is required to satisfy the observers it is not artificial. Its external appearance has led to its being also known by various other names.

Tolman is a small green knoll, or hummock, of earth; bac, a bank of sand or earth; cnoc, knock, Scot. ‘a knowe,’ and its diminutive cnocan, a little knowe; dùn, a rocky mound or heap, such, for instance, as the Castle rock of Edinburgh or Dumbarton, though often neither so steep nor so large; òthan, a green elevation in wet ground; and ùigh, a provincial term of much the same import as tolman. Even lofty hills have been represented as tenanted by Fairies, and the highest point of a hill, having the rounded form, characteristic of Fairy dwellings is called its shï-en (sìthein na beinne). Rocks may be tenanted by fairies, but not caves. The dwellings of the race are below the outside or superficies of the earth, and tales representing the contrary may be looked upon with suspicion as modern.

There is one genuine popular story in which the Fairy dwelling is in the middle of a green plain, without any elevation to mark its site beyond a horse-skull, the eye-sockets of which were used as the Fairy chimney.

These dwellings were tenanted sometimes by a single family only, more frequently by a whole community. The fairies were said to change their residences as men do, and, when they saw proper themselves, to remove to distant parts of the country and more desirable locations.

Works cited:

  1. Jonathan Ceredig Davies, Folk-Lore of West and Mid-Wales, printed at the “Welsh Gazette” Offices, Bridge Street, 1911. In the public domain. Found at
  2. John Gregorson Campbell, Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Glasgow, James MacLehose and Sons Publishers to the University, 1900, In the public domain. Found at