Saturday, October 4, 2008

R is for Red Cap

I was watching my Hellboy Animated Blood and Iron DVD special features and there was a little animated short on it, based on the folkcreature, a red cap. It perked my interest, and also gave me a chill. Folklore is not always inhabited by happy, friendly, frolicking creatures that mean no harm. There definitely creatures of menace and evil, who gleefully do harm to humans and other unsuspecting beings. The red cap is one of them.

According to Sprits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia of the Little People by Carol Rose, the red cap, also called the bloody cap, is an evil goblin or sprite from the folklore of the borderlands between England and Scotland. The borderlands are ripe with stories of this evil sprite. It lives in the ruins of castles and fortified towers, where previous battles have occurred, and blood has been shed.

In appearance, it looks like an extremely diminutive old man, with hair that is long and unkempt, red eyes, hideous talons on skinny fingers, and protruding teeth. His boots are made of iron, and he wears a cap that is red and blood-soaked.

According to Wikipedia, the red cap, also called a powrie or dunter, has to continually kill in order to dye his cap in blood, as the color will fade. His iron shoes make him very fast, making them quite impossible to outrun.

If a lost traveler happens to come across a red cap in the ruins of a castle, he is a very unfortunate person indeed. The red cap lies in wait to savagely kill him, catching the blood of his unfortunately victim in his cap. The intended victim has the opportunity to escape if he is able to recite the scriptures. This will cause the red cap to shriek and disappear. One of his fangs will be left behind.

If your interest in red caps. has been sparked, Wikipedia lists the following books and media the feature red caps:

  • Hellboy comic "Iron Shoes" by Mike Mignola

  • DemonWars Saga by RA Salvatore

  • Mage: The Hero Rediscovered graphic novel by Matt Wagner

  • Meredith Gentry books by Laurell K. Hamilton

  • Fables Volume 2 gothic novel

  • Spiderwick Chronicles books

  • The Dark Age and Kingdom of the Serpent by Mark Chadbourn

  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

So if you happen to visit Scotland and get lost, remember not to seek shelter in any castle ruins. I think a night spent outside in the elements is a lot safer than encountering one of these beasties. If you think a cold Scottish night outdoors is too much for you, the alternative is to memorize a few scriptures on the flight over.


Rose, Carol. Sprites, Fairies, Leprechaun: An Encyclopedia. Page 43. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. N.Y, N.Y, 1996.

Red Cap-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Date accessed 4 October 2008. Last modified 16 September 2008.


Cormac said...

Hey Danielle. I was reading your blogs... very interesting stuff. lately, and strangely, i have been craving to read more about about, in particular, irish folklore. i live in northern ireland and, stangely playing a game called "folklore" has sparked my younger curiosity of researching this a bit further. the craving i've had to research this further has nearly taken over my life. its hard to explain, but kinda like an awakening or something, of a topic i love and want to immerse myself completely in. i would very much like to get in contact with yourself and discuss a bit further. i hope you get this. please email me on thanks for your time, and also your blogs. i enjoyed reading them.

steve O'Connor said...

Any relation to the Fear Dearg?