A to Z Challenge Folklore

Repugnant Red Caps #AtoZChallenge #folklore

R is for Red Cap.

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You think you know fear? Have you met the Red Cap?

Folklore

Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders by William Henderson [1879]

Redcap, Redcomb, or Bloody Cap, is a sprite of another sort from the friendly Brownie. He is cruel and malignant of mood, and resides in spots which were once the scene of tyranny — such as Border castles, towers, peelhouses. He is depicted as a short thickset old man, with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers armed with talons like eagles, large eyes of a fiery-red colour, grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand, and a red cap on his head. when benighted or shelterless travellers take refuge in his haunts, he flings huge stones at them; nay, unless he is much maligned, her murders them outright, and catches their blood in his cap, which thus acquires its crimson hue.

This ill-conditioned goblin may, however, be driven away by repeating Scripture words, or holding up the Cross; he will then yell dismally, or vanish in a flame of fire, leaving behind him a large tooth on the spot where he was last seen.

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Redcaps

Malevolent goblins from the Anglo-Scottish border, so-called because they dyed their hats with blood. They were said to haunt ruined castles that had been the sire of evil doings. According to popular tradition, the foundation stone of old castles on the Borders were bathed in blood, which goes some way to account for the bloodthirsty nature of the redcaps. William Henderson, in Notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders (18660, describes the redcap as cruel and malignant, appearing as a “short, thicket old man, with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers armed with talons like eagles, large eyes of a fiery-red colour, grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand and a red cap on his head”.

*More can be read in the book.

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Red Cap

Variations: Bloodycap, Dunter, Fir Larrig, Powries, Red-comb, Redcap

The red cap is perhaps one of the most evil and malicious of all the fairies of Scotland. Prowling the ruins of the Scottish Lowlands and along the English border this hateful solitary fairy is described as looking like an emaciated man with leathery skin and with little or no hair atop its head. Its eyes are fire red, its hands are tipped in razor-sharp claws, its mouth is full of sharp teeth, and it has a long pointed nose. This fairy is also very strong and can out wrestle any man. The red cap is capable of moving remarkably quickly despite the fact it wears boots made of iron, a rather interesting point as typically iron is the bane of the fay.

The red hat it wears and for which it is named for has been dyed in human blood. After each kill the red cap will clean up the murder site, mopping up the blood with its hat. In some folklore the red cap is also said to be a cannibal, consuming fairy and human flesh alike.

Once the red cap has laid claim to an abandoned castle or cairn it will guard the location with extreme violence, using its sharp scythe to fell anyone it perceived as invading its territory.

*More can be read in the book.

Robin Redcap. Image credit.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Redcap

British folkloric figure. His little hat was red because he washed it regularly in blood from his victims, whom he frightened to death from his haunts in old ruins. His eyes were red, too, perhaps from staring into the darkness, ever on the watch for new prey. Should you encounter, while adventuring around old castles, a wizened old man with wild hair wearing iron boots and carrying a big iron weapon, the only thing to do was to hold up a Bible, which caused the Redcap to emit a horrif scream before disappearing. Occasionally this figure appeared as a kind of useful Brownie, eager to help around the house, but generally he was a fearsome spirit to be avoided.

*More can be read in the book.

Further Reading:

Folklore of Red Caps in a Nutshell by Ronel

Red Caps come from the folklore of the Border between England and Scotland. They are malevolent faeries that inhabit ruins (usually of castles) and murder any who dare enter their homes. Red Caps are said to be sturdy old men with red eyes, talons for hands, large teeth and wearing a red cap (for which they are named). They dye their caps in the blood of their victims. It is said that if the blood that stains their caps dry out, they die – which means they need to kill regularly to stay alive. Red Caps are incredibly fast despite the iron-shod boots they wear and the heavy iron pikes they carry. It is said to be impossible to outrun a Red Cap.

The most infamous Red Cap is Robin Recap, known familiar to Lord William de Soulis of Hermitage Castle. Together they committed many evil deeds.

Hermitage Castle, home of Robin Redcap. Image credit.

Red Caps in Modern Culture

Harry Potter

Red Caps, according to the fandom of Harry Potter (read here):

These dwarf–like creatures live in holes on old battlegrounds or wherever human blood has been spilled. Although easily repelled by charms and hexes, they are very dangerous to solitary Muggles, whom they will attempt to bludgeon to death on dark nights. Red Caps are most prevalent in northern Europe.“—Newt ScamanderFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[src]

The Red Cap is a small, dwarf-like magical beast that inhabits wherever human blood had been shed, such as in the dungeons of castles, the potholes of old battlefields, or holes underground.

Pathfinder (Role Playing Game)

Redcaps are vicious little fey that relish the pain and suffering of other creatures. They are an embodiment of the savage, merciless side of nature. They love nothing more than cutting creatures down to size with their over-sized scythes, mushing them to paste beneath their iron-shod boots, and then soaking their caps in the bloody mess that remains.

Feed the Beast (Minecraft Game)

The Redcap Goblin is an aggressive mob added by Twilight Forest. It carries an Iron Pickaxe, wears Iron Boots, and constantly giggles to itself. They have 20 health points. They also sometimes sneak up on the player to blow them up with TNT, though they only have a single block to use. They are found lurking in Hollow Hills, as well as occasionally appearing in the Goblin Knight Stronghold. They deal 4 points of damage per attack.

When slain, Redcap Goblins drop up to 2 Coal, and a chance to drop its Iron Pickaxe and Iron Boots.

red cap goblin feed the beast minecraft
A Redcap Goblin in a Hollow Hill. Image credit.

Redcap (Folklore Series #1) by Larry Yoakum III

Kyle West, while visiting family after the murder of a young child, is starting to have visions of a horrid little monster. After meeting a mysterious private detective, Kyle comes face to face with the creature in the blood red cap.

I like the cover. Image credit.

Red Caps in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Red Caps

Red Caps are creepy little buggers. Not only do they have talon-like claws, but they have eyes that glow in the dark. And that’s just the tip of the scary iceberg.
There are only male Red Caps due to a curse placed upon them when they breeched the Compact between Man and Fae.
Red Caps haunt the Borderlands between England and Scotland because their legend is strongest there, but any old castle will do. Once they pick a place to live, they protect it fiercely. Their favourite way to do this is to push boulders from up high onto their unsuspecting victims.
Due to poor nutrition, they look slightly emaciated. They have almost no hair and a scraggly beards which gives them the appearance of little old men.
Their appearance isn’t the only consequence of them breaking the Compact between Man and Fae. They are no longer able to use Fae Glamour. This lack of Fae magic they bypass by practicing black magic – which, of course, is forbidden. They are also forced to wear iron-tipped shoes as punishment for their many crimes.
The only way for them to maintain their immortality is to consume the flesh of humans and Fae alike. They prefer to only hunt humans for sport, but they’ll eat them if no Fae prey are around.
Red Caps get their name from the red caps they wear. These caps are dyed in human blood. They have to do this continuously to survive.
The only way to escape these cannibals is to outsmart them.

red cap English Afrikaans
red cap sketch
stories on scrolls book extract
Read it here.

Red Caps are obviously terrifying. What do you think? Where did you hear about this fae for the first time? Any tales about the Red Cap you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to this fae.

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15 thoughts on “Repugnant Red Caps #AtoZChallenge #folklore”

  1. Redcaps are creepy little buggers indeed! I only learned about them this year. They were minor characters in a book, the title of which I can’t remember (sigh), but they were so off-putting with their bloody caps, I filed them in the don’t-read-about-them-anymore category.

  2. Your redcap drawing with the thug in a baseball cap made me laugh so hard I nearly did a spit-take. So thanks for that.

    I may have accidentally eaten the stem of a red cap mushroom once. Okay, several stems. I don’t know for sure, but that was the guess by others later. Yeah, that was not a great time in my teen years.

  3. They also get a mention in the Harry Potter series, as a critter to study in Defence against the Dark Arts class.

    I do love that second illustration, the water colour. I see it’s modern, but looks rather like Arthur Rackham. Another piece reminds me of a Brian Froud.

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