A to Z Challenge Folklore

Gremlins #folklore #AtoZChallenge

P is for Pestilent

Learn more about the challenge here.

pestilent adj 1 annoying; irritating 2 highly destructive morally or physically; pernicious

Collins English Dictionary

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

I first came across gremlins in the movie, of course.

A World War II gremlin-themed industrial safety poster. Image credit


GREMLINS By W. E. WOOSNAM-JONES [The Spectator, 1 JANUARY 1943, Page 7]

IT is not often that a man can be in at the birth, the flourishing maturity and the apparent death of a complete mythology. But any officer or airman who has served in the Royal Air Force since the last War can claim this distinction. For it was the old Royal NavaLAir Service in 1917 and the newly-constituted Royal Air Force in 1918 which first appear to have detected the existence of a horde of mysterious and malicious sprites whose whole purpose in life was to disconcert pupil-pilot and experienced pilot alike, and to bring about as many as possible of the inexplicable mishaps which, in those days as now, troublz the airman’s life. Such were the Gremlins, and all ranks of the flying and maintenance personnel of the Royal Air Force have had much experience during the past twenty-five years of their malicious pranks. For that they exist is, of course, unquestionable, and we now know much of their life and habits, although the outside world is still largely ignorant of their activities.

[Read the full article here.]

A World War II gremlin-themed industrial safety poster. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane


In England and Germany the gremlin was originally believed to be a fairy being described as being covered with brownish fur, bearing a malicious grin and sporting stubby terrier-like ears; they range in size from being very small to as tall as a human. Lore says once these fairies were able to fly but have since lost the ability. Strong enough to tear through metal, gremlins are said to have little or need to eat or drink and live in high altitudes. Because they can no longer fly they despise the fact humans have achieved it, albeit through the use of machines. Nevertheless the gremlin so resents this they will sneak aboard airplanes and cause havoc, destroying the plane as it flies. This idea of gremlins sabotaging planes was first recorded by British Air Force pilots during World War Two.

*More can be read in the book.

Gremlin. Image credit

Further Reading:

Gremlins destroying a plane. Image credit: plane, hammer, chainsaw, gremlin 1 & gremlin 2

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Of all the folklore creatures I’ve researched, gremlins are the youngest by far. They originated during the world wars among pilots who blamed these small monsters on engine failure and other mysterious mishaps, especially concerning technology. They became quite popular among pilots from the RAF (royal air force), American and even German pilots during world war 2.

The first written record of gremlins is in a poem published in the journal Aeroplane in Malta in April 1929. A novel in 1938 by aviator Pauline Gower, describes Scotland as “gremlin country” where gremlins cut the wires of biplanes with scissors. In April 1942, Hubert Griffith wrote an article about gremlins that got published in the Royal Air Force Journal. And there’s an article in The Spectator in January 1943 titled “Gremlins”.

Clearly these creatures had a big impact on pilots and those around them in the first half of the twentieth century. And as they were equal opportunity mischief makers, no-one seriously hunted them. Even Roald Dahl, famous children author of the time, wrote a book titled “The Gremlins” that was published by Random House in 1943.

By the second half of the twentieth century, the movie about Gremlins who shouldn’t get wet and shouldn’t be fed after midnight overtook the traditional gremlin in people’s imagination.

But even today, nearly a century after gremlins were first blamed for mechanical issues, when something goes wrong with something technological or mechanical, gremlins get the blame.

Gremlin. Image credit

Gremlins in Modern Culture

Gremlins Film series

Who hasn’t seen this film?

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa (My Review)

Thousands of green eyes pierced the darkness, razor grins shining like neon-blue fire, as a huge hoard of gremlins poured into the light. Like ants, the swarm flowed over the ground, buzzing and hissing in their static voices, to surround us. We stood back-to-back, a tiny circle of open ground in a sea of little black monsters with grinning fangs and glowing eyes…

…I nodded and looked back at the gremlin, which was now gnawing on one of its huge ears and still glaring at Ash…

…not long ago, I thought the gremlins mindless and animalistic, cunning but lacking any sort of language or society. To hear one speak was more than a little surprising.

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

The Gremlins by Roald Dahl

The story of the The Gremlins concerns the mischievous mythical creatures of the title, often invoked by Royal Air Force pilots as an explanation of mechanical troubles and mishaps. In Dahl’s book, the gremlins’ motivation for sabotaging British aircraft is revenge of the destruction of their forest home, which was razed to make way for an aircraft factory.

Learn more here.

I think this mock-ad for Gremlin Air captures them perfectly:

Gremlins in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Gremlins

Tiny faeries with sharp claws, big pointy ears, big bulbous eyes, and sharp teeth. They can get into anything as they aren’t limited to the physical plane, but can turn themselves into a form of electricity to inhabit even small things like smart phones. They love mischief for mischief’s sake. They enjoy messing with technology and machines. They eat metal, glass, microchips… Anything, really, that shouldn’t be eaten. Lost your homework? A gremlin probably ate it. They find humans and their reliance on technology fascinating and will inhabit – infest! – homes and buildings with lots of technology and machinery in it. Among the fae, no-one really knows what to do with them. Brownies, technology-loving creatures, eat any gremlins they come across before they destroy their kitchen toys.

Gremlin translated to Afrikaans: Kobold.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where did you first encounter gremlins? What do you think of this naughty faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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