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Saturday, 25 March 2017

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OR THE HAIRY FAERIE FOLK

The Brownie or Hobgoblin
(Sketch by Joseph Jacobs)

Tales of the little people have persisted for centuries in the British Isles and Europe.
The Fay (Faerie) Family itself, covers a multitude of beings with varying descriptions and attributes, having usually one primary thing in common, which is their small stature and their being imbued with an elusive and short tempered magical disposition. 
Faeries, Elves, Gnomes, Brownies, Imps, HobgoblinsPixies, Puck's, Knockers, Fenydree, Urisk, Gruagachs, Bwbachs to name but a few, pepper our history and folklore for as far back as can be remembered.

These beings are mysterious, secretive, magical and elusive 'creatures', often with mischievous or malevolent character traits. 
In ancient legends they are spoken of as a private folk, very territorial, often kidnapping maidens and children that enter their realm, with their kidnapees often never being seen again. Their alleged habitats range from forests and rivers to small woods, even gardens and also delve beneath large rocks and inside deep caves and mines. Myth and legend tells of many Faerie folk being underground dwellers, (The word Gnome means 'earth dweller', after all). Some were also said to live with or alongside people in their homes, where if the right kind of food sacrifice was offered to them (usually porridge and honey or some kind of dairy product) they would perform menial tasks for the homeowner.

Their physical traits too are extremely varied in reports, from short, squat,goblin like creatures; to beautiful winged fair faced Faeries. Some of their regularly mentioned features that we are especially interested in here, are those ascribed to the Brownie and Fennydree, small creatures, 2 to 3 feet in height; with pointed ears and nose, bearded faces and woolly, hairy bodies.

All of these characteristics seem pretty supernatural and out of the ordinary until we try to fit them, however untidily into the natural order. We will try to squeeze them in to our pre-selected and ill fitting box for teh time being and make their behaviour fit that of an elusive, intelligent animal. Seeing them, as it were, from the viewpoint of medieval superstitious people who did not have any comparative species with which to draw upon to describe them. We must remember that the inhabitants of our Island, until quite recent times did not even know of apes, so, what I would like to consider here is, what would a 'miniature bigfoot' really look like to these ancestors of ours? Other than some dark and foreboding supernatural apparition, an alchemistic 'something' to be appeased or placated. 

My reason for including the little people in my research about those hairy beasts that go Thump in the Night, should be quite obvious, in as much as, I am curious as to whether the Faerie legends of Britain and other countries could in fact be nothing more than the frightened explanations of religiously superstitious natives encountering unknown animals. These descriptions, would inevitably utilise features of known animals and even people, resulting in a rather awkward 'patchwork' being, undoubtedly supernatural in conception and abode. 

There are other Littlefoot type creatures around the world similar to our little folk outside of Europe and in faraway places and different cultures we find creatures like the Junjadee, Duende, Pukwudgie, Bukwus, Ebu Gogo (Hobbit), Orang Pendek and Huldufolk' sharing features with one another and the Brownies, Elves, Goblins, Knockers and Faeries of Britain and Ireland. New Zealand also has its own version of this diminutive Littlefoot, although it doesn't appear to have a native name. New Zealand researcher Catherine Norris, has had several experiences with these small creatures, She describes their behaviour as being very similar to their Sasquatch or Yowie cousins and states that they look exactly like a small copy of these large bipedal primates. She believes that they are a similar species to the 'Orangpendek' of Indonesia or 'Menehune' of Hawaii, preferring to refer to them as 'The Littlefoot' or  just 'The Little Forest People'.  In another quite interesting parallel with many British faerie stories, she says that the Maori people themselves speak of the 'Patupaiarehe' or fairy people, but that her 'little guys' don't quite fit into the physical description of the 'Patupaiarehe', and are probably closer in appearance and behaviour to primates.

It has been a resolute and steadfast theory, not my own, but one belonging to the collective mind, that European Faerie lore could be attributed to a small species of Bigfoot or Littlefoot, for want of a better name. However, this theory is somewhat hard to define. After months of research, the evidence I sought for this theory remains as elusive and as varied as the reports and tales of the creatures themselves. I have listed some sightings here , but even these are not altogether satisfactory to me in their contiguity with one another. I still feel convinced that in many cases, the Faeries in our folklore traditions, not only here but around the globe, may in fact be some type of miniature bipedal primate, perhaps now extinct or at least incredibly rare, but a primate nonetheless. In profile, it is a composite creature, stitched together by frightened and superstitious ancients without the benefit of our modern and wondrous catalogue of the natural world (and the internet!) Our ancestors, limited in knowledge and sphere, rooted to the land and yet somehow part of it, have knitted this intelligent and mischievous creature into a magical being, full of mal intent, and endowing it with dangerous and whimsical powers. What we shall hopefully see in the sightings laid out here for your perusal and critique is a hint of continuity in behaviour and physical description that will shine a little light on the Littlefoot Theory and re-brand the Faerie Folk (if not here,at least in other parts of the world) in your minds as the pygmy primates I believe most of them to be.


Sightings:

Little Hairy Man of Horsham 
In 1948, Mr. E.J.A. Reynolds was just 10 years old when he was visiting Horsham, England. One moonlit night he went out to set rabbit traps , when he witnessed a man 18 inches tall, (1.5 ft) and covered in hair step out from a blackberry bush nearby.
The 'small man' did not notice him hiding nearby and he was able to get a good look at 'his' features. 'His' face was bare and leathery with a sharp nose and the arms seemed longer than a human’s would be. After a short time 'he' quietly stepped back into the bush and disappeared. A few days later whilst riding on top of a double-decker bus he saw the little hairy man walking across a garden in the town.

Castlewellan Lake Hairy Man
In October, 2016 a driver on the A25 towards Castlewellan, County Down in Northern Ireland, watched a four foot high hairy figure dart across the road and disappear behind a bush. The driver looked behind the bush as they drove past, but was unable to see anything there

Green Faced Monkey-Man of Torbay
Over a six week period, in the summer of 1996, fifteen witnesses saw a green faced monkey, running through Churston Woods, Torbay. The witnesses described seeing an animal, four to five feet tall, with a flat, olive-green face,  running through the woods and swinging in the trees.

Little Bear-Man
In 2008 Irene Dainty, had a face to face encounter with strange creature on Love Lane, Woodford Bridge. she described it thus  “I had just come out of my flat and just as I had turned the corner I saw this hairy thing come out of nowhere. I really don’t want to see it again. It was about four feet tall and with really big feet and looked straight at me with animal eyes. Then it leaped straight over the wall with no trouble at all and went off into the garden of the Three Jolly Wheelers pub. I was so terrified that I went to my neighbour’s house and told her what had happened. She couldn’t believe it and asked me if I had been drinking, but I said of course I hadn’t – it was only about 3.00 p.m.”


Who's a Clever Monkey? 
We are educated through our textbooks and televisions to think of the world as a place that has been mapped and pored over inch by inch, with every field and forest, every creek and pool, every mountain crack and crevice being explored and catalogued and fully explained, with all of the species therein being observed and accounted for and to believe that there is nothing else that could be in existence (especially in a country like Britain) without our having discovered it! This seems like foolishness to me and very unscientific thinking, something that flies in the face of open mindedness and objectivity.
It would make sense that if there are animals in Britain that we haven't yet discovered, that that they would most likely be 'nocturnal' and 'elusive' and the kind of creatures possessing enough intelligence to stay away from people. At the very least it appears through our aversion to mystery that they are given an odd sort of protection from discovery via the dismissiveness of the learned and tenured, in that, those serious scientists and professionals in the field who are likely to posses the necessary skillset to find these animals, are made absent from the search, through fear of ridicule and the pressure of their peers. 




Written by Andrew McGrath

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