Monday, February 6, 2012

The Brùnaidh (Scottish Brownie)

By Dawn Marie Hamilton

I'm excited about the launch of our new Celtic Hearts blog. A big thank you to everyone who made this site possible. Great job!

For those of you who know me—you've probably had first hand experience with my vivid imagination. When I sat to write my first romance story, I decided to write a Scottish time travel because the genre was one of my favorites as a reader. After doing a lot of research, I also decided to include fantasy elements—fae creatures.

One of these creatures is the brùnaidh.

Contradictory information regarding the diminutive creatures known to the Lowland Scots as brownie and to those who speak the Scottish Gaelic as brùnaidh abounds. I've seen where the brùnaidh is mistakenly lumped together with the ùruisg and the gruagach but each is a separate species of otherworldly creature, the brùnaidh being of the household, whereas the others are creatures of nature.

Some say brownies evolved from the lore of the elf, and in my mind, they have similar physical characteristics. The included drawing is of an ancient elf, but his image is similar to the one I imagine for a brownie.

My first exposure to brownies was as a young Girl Scout. Scouting Brownies take their name from the folklore brownies, as the wee men are a model for the young girls due to the brownie's penchant to assist in household chores, asking for only a bowl of cream or a honey cake for payment.

I became reacquainted with the brùnaidh while doing research for that very first romance story I mentioned earlier. Thus was born my Garden Gate series, which revolves around the MacLachlan clan, who resided at Old Castle Lachlan on the shore of Loch Fyne. The clan has several legends regarding their clan brownie. The History and Legends of Clan MacLachlan, written and edited by James A. Finegan, states, "The MacLachlan's brounie, known as both Harry and Munn, has been associated with the clan for so many generations that no one really knows when the brounie first appeared." The legends are from 1746 and before.

In the classic work, Faeries, from Brian Froud and Alan Lee—I have the twenty-fifth anniversary edition—brownies are introduced as a species of faerie. The brownie is described as a shaggy male of short stature, no more than twenty-five inches tall, wearing either tattered garments or nothing at all. It is also suggested that brownies living in the Highlands have no fingers or toes, whereas those living in the Lowlands have no noses.

Other references tell a different tale. "In appearance, they (brownies) have been variously described, from squat, shaggy, naked creatures to tall, handsome and well proportioned. They usually kept to themselves, being mostly solitaries, unlike the fairies who were notably gregarious." –Scottish Fairy Belief by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan

Although few brownie names are known, there are some who've achieved notoriety: Billie Blin, Aiken Drum, Wag-at-the-wa', and Puddlefoot. With Meg Mullach, also known as Hairy Meg, being one of the few females.

Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, by John Gregorson Campbell, is available on the internet for download and provides additional references to the wee men.

Writers: Have you included Celtic mythological creatures in your romance stories?

Readers: Have you read a story including such creatures? What did you like or dislike? 


Victoria Roberts said...

Hi Dawn! Great post! I do not include Celtic mythological creatures in my writing since I write Scottish historical's, but I love reading the books of others that incorporate these legends.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi, Victoria. Thanks for stopping by. I love Scottish historicals!

Sarah Hoss said...

This was very interesting and I had not heard of this. The connection to the Girl Scout's Brownies I thought was neat.

Thanks for sharing!!!

Renee Vincent said...

What a great post, Dawn! And I LOVE brownies too!!!

Thanks for sharing with us!

Alexa said...

My favorite brownies are definitely chocolate ones. :) The connection to Girl Scout Brownies was interesting!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hello Sarah, Renee and Alexa. Thanks so much for visiting. I was a Girl Scout for ten years starting with the Brownies.

Renee: Gotta love a good dark chocolate brownie. :)

Pat McDermott said...

Dawn, you have clearly done your "brownie" homework. Very interesting, from their appearance to their habitats to their names. I too had no idea about the Girl Scout connection. Thought the GS Brownies' name had something to do with their cookie sale. Thanks for setting us straight. And yes, I've included Irish fairies in my YA sweet romances. Very enjoyable post!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi, Pat. Thanks for dropping in. Some of the Scottish Highlanders beleived in Irish faeries. I've used several as secondary characters in the Garden Gate series.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I love this post. I was a Bluebird myself and who knows where that came from. What a great meaning for the young Brownies.

I always love to hear about the myths and tales and how they explained things in years so long ago.

You're right - this blog is going to be so much fun and informative. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Paisley, thanks for popping in. Bluebirds and Brownies are great organizations for young girls.

Arianna Skye said...

I absolutely love the lore of the Celts. So many different beasts and beings.

My first published novel, WINGS OF DESIRE, is heavy with Celtic lore. I've got faeries, and even the main character's names are derived from Celtic gods and goddesses. I chose Rhiannon and Cerne (afterwards, Google led me to Cerne Abbas-The Green Giant, but I decided the name fit, since it was an erotic romance. LOL) because as I did research I discovered an obscure pagan religion that worshiped Rhiannon and Cernunnos as lovers. Sadly, the name escapes me. I thought the name Cernunnos, as much as I love the great horned god, would be too aggravating and confusing to readers, so I simply shortened it to Cerne. And now, he shares the name with a chalk drawing with a huge phallus. Ha ha ha.

Lizzie Walker said...

My goodness! This story always gives me chills. I love a good lore. I believe my Kindle has about five Lore books on it right now and I have many more in print.

It helps to know the vast tapestries of ancient lore so that it can be woven in your stories.

Thank you for sharing!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi, Arianna and Lizzie. I'm so glad you stopped by. I've been "off the grid for several weeks", and it was such a delight to see your comments when I returned. Thanks!