British Folklore Creatures

Here today I will tell you all about a few of the Folklore tales in England. These include some of the most well-known stories as well as others I personally found interesting. English folklore has many tales so these are simply a small number of stories.

Asrai

An Asrai is an aquatic fairy who lives in the seas and lakes and is similar to a mermaid or nixie. They are sometimes timid and shy and are only 2–4ft tall and depicted as tall and thin, supple, and graceful. A tale of an Asrai encounter is of a fisherman who captured one and put it in his boat, it plead for its freedom in its language and when the fisherman got touched by it burned his skin like fire and left a permanent mark. He covered the Asari with weeds and its voice got fainter and fainter. By the time the fisherman came to shore, the Asari was just a puddle of water because the sun kills them.

Other tales have said the Asrai has green hair and a fishtail instead of legs or webbed feet. They live for hundreds of years and come up to the surface to bathe in the moonlight which helps them grow. The Asrai also tries to lure men into the water with promises of gold and jewels and either drown them or simply trick them. The Asrai cannot tolerate coarseness or vulgarity and this will frighten them away.

Barghest

A Barghest is also known as Barguest is a monstrous black dog with large teeth and claws though in some cases the name refers to a ghost or household elf in other parts of England. One case had a Barghest come often to a remote gorge named “Troller’s Gill” in Yorkshire and a ballad called “The legend of the Troller’s Gill” talks about a man who tried to summon and confront a Barghest in an act of ritual magic. His lifeless body was found with inhuman marks upon it. Another story has a Barghest entering the city of York where it preyed on lone travelers. In the 1870s, a Barghest supposedly able to shapeshift lived and took on the forms of a take the form of a headless man (who would vanish in flames), a headless lady, a white cat, a rabbit, a dog, or its common form a black dog.

The Barghest is also often considered as an omen of death, if the passing of a notable person, a Barghest may appear followed by the local dogs of the area in a kind of funeral processing and howling and barking. Anyone who got in the way would get hit by its paw and never heal from the wound it leaves. It is said it also can appear invisible and all you hear is the sound of rattling chains, it cannot cross rivers.

“O Waken, Waken, Burd Isbel”, Illustration by Arthur Rackham to Young Bekie: Billy Blind waking Burd Isobel.

Billy Blind

Billy Blind is an English and Scottish household spirit who only appears in ballads. In the book the Child Ballads, Billy Blind tells the hero of a story his bride is not the woman beside who is a virgin but she is hiding and already pregnant. In another ballad “Willie’s Lady” Willie’s wife is in labor but cannot deliver because Willie’s mother is a witch preventing it. Billy advises Willie to make a wax figure of a baby and invite his mother to its christening, his mother gets angry and demands to know how all her magic was undone.

In another ballad “Young Bekie” Billy Blind advises the character, Burd Isobel, that Young Bekie is about to marry another bride and helps her reach him in time. Lastly, in “The Knight and the Shepard’s Daughter” He reveals the truth births of the marrying couple, and they are both revealed to be nobles.

Black Annis

Black Annis is a blue-faced hag or witch with iron claws and a taste for human flesh, especially children. She is said to haunt the countryside of Leicestershire living in a cave with a great oak tree at the entrance. At night she looks for children and lambs to eat then tans their skin by hanging them off a tree because she wears the skin around her waist. She also would reach into houses and take people, it is said she used her iron claws to dig her cave out of a sandstone cliff. Parents told their children Black Annis would get them if they misbehaved. She also hid in branches of her oak tree to leap on her victims.

People also say that she ground her teeth and people would run and lock their houses if they heard that. It is said that cottages in Leicestershire were made with small windows so Black Annis could only fit one arm inside and people would fasten skins across the windows and place herbs above it to keep themselves safe. Whenever Black Annis howled she could be heard 5 miles away.

John Heyrick made a poem about Black Annis;

’Tis said the soul of mortal man recoiled
To view Black Annis’ eye, so fierce and wild
Vast talons, foul with human flesh, there grew
In place of hands, and features livid blue
Glared in her visage, whilst her obscene waist
Warm skins of human victims close embraced

Not without terror they the cave survey
Where hung the monstrous trophies of her sway
’Tis said that in the rock large rooms were found
Scooped with her claws beneath the flinty ground

Lambton Worm

The story starts with a young man named John Lambton who was a rebellious character who missed church one Sunday and went fishing. In one version of the story he gets a warning from an old man and in another a witch, either way, they tell him no good comes from missing church.

John Lambton catches nothing until church service finishes in which he fishes out a small eel creature. The size of it depends on the story but typically it is no bigger than a thumb or 3 feet long. In some versions it has legs and in others, it’s more like a snake. At some point, the old man or witch tells John he has caught the devil and John throws it down a well.

John joins the Crusades and moves on with his life. The worm grows large while John is away and the well becomes poisonous, the village loses livestock and finds the worm has emerged from the wall and wrapped itself around a hill. The worm terrorizes the village, eating sheep, preventing cows from producing work, and taking small children. It then heads towards Lambton Castle where John’s father manages to stop the worm by offering it a daily offering of 20 gallons of milk. Some villagers try to kill the worm but fail, when a piece of the worm is cut off, it simply reattaches.

This carries on for seven years until John returns home to find his father's estate nearly ruined because of the worm. John wants to fight it but asks help from wise women or witches and she tells him to cover his armor in spearheads but that he must kill the first living thing he sees after killing the worm or else his family will be cursed for nine generations and not die in their beds. John tells his father that when he has killed the worm he will sound his hunting horn three times and then for his father to release his dog for John to kill and avoid the curse.

John fights the worm by the river and the worm tries to wrap around him but cut’s itself on the spearheads and pieces of the worm fall into the river and get washed away before they can reattach back onto the worm. John kills the worm and uses his horn three times. John’s father unfortunately in his excitement forgot to release the dog and he was the first living thing John saw. John couldn’t kill his father and killed the dog but it was too late. The curse seemed to work for at least three generations.

Yallery Brown

In one version of this story, a young boy named Tom was sitting in a field resting when he heard a whimper like a young child in distress. Tom found a creature like a ragged little man that had dark mustard colored skin. The little man begged for help to free him from a stone and Tom thought he should leave the creature trapped but Tom took pity and helped the little man get free. The little man told Tom his name was Yallery-Brown and told Tom he would grant him a wish, Tom asked for help with his daily chores and Yallery-Brown clapped his hands and said it was done. Tom thanked him but then Yallery-Brown got angry and said he should never be thanked or bad things would happen as a result. He told Tom to just say his name if he ever needed him.

The next day Tom went to do his chores and found the broom sweeping, the queen grinding the corn, and other things. People eventually accused Tom of being a witch or warlock and so Tom called for Yallery-Brown and thanked the creature for its help but he no longer needed it. Yallery-Brown got angry and told Tom he would no longer get help but as he once again thanked him that Tom would now be cursed saying;

Work as you will,

you’ll never do well,
Work as you might,
you’ll never get anything,
For harm and mischance and Yallery-Brown,

You’ve let out yourself from under the stone!

Tom had bad luck all his life from the curse put upon him.

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RobTheWriter

RobTheWriter

Hello! I am Rob, I have always liked the idea of writing but never tried it until this year. I hail from England, love tea, of course, animals & true crime.