Folklore

River Hag #folklore

I combined various creatures that can be seen as river hags (monsters living in rivers with a few characteristics in common) to create the river hag. There are few original sources to quote, though. The tale I could get, is one of my favourites.

Folklore

Popular Tales of the West Highlands by J. F. Campbell Volume II [1890]

IN the mill of the Glens, MUILION NA GLEANNAN, lived long ago a cripple of the name of Murray, better known as “Ally” na Muilinn. He was maintained by the charity of the miller and his neighbours, who, when they removed their meal, put each a handful into the lamiter’s bag. The lad slept usually at the mill; and it came to pass that one night, who should enter but the BROLLACHAN, son of the FUATH.

Now the Brollachan had eyes and a mouth, and can say two words only, MI-FHEIN, myself, and THU-FHEIN, thyself; besides that, he has no speech, and alas no shape. He lay all his lubber-length by the dying fire; and Murray threw a fresh peat on the embers, which made them fly about red hot, and Brollachan was severely burnt. So he screamed in an awful way, and soon comes the “Vough,” very fierce, crying, “Och, my Brollachan, who then burnt you?” but all he could say was “mee!” and then he said “oo!” (me and thou, mi thu) and she replied, “Were it any other, wouldn’t I be revenged.”

Murray slipped the peck measure over himself, and hid among the machinery, so as to look as like a sack as possible, ejaculating at times, “May the Lord preserve me,” so he escaped unhurt; and the “Vough” and her Brollachan left the mill. That same night a woman going by the place, was chased by the still furious parent, and could have been saved had she not been nimble to reach her own door in time, to leave nothing for the “Vough” to catch but her heel; this heel was torn off, and the woman went lame all the rest of her days.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Jenny Greenteeth

Pond-dwelling Lancashire bogie. Mothers and nannies frightened children with stories of her to stop them from playing in ponds and streams. She was often described as having green skin and long, green, fanglike teeth, which she used to seize children and drag them down under the water.

Morgan

 A Welsh water spirit dwelling in Lake Glasfryn Uchaf. Said to carry away children who ventured too close to the water.

Vodyanoy

In Slavic mythology the vodyanoy is a malignant water spirit living in the depths of rivers or the bottom of the sea, preferably where a strong current assists in his favourite pastime of delivering humans to his underwater abode to be his slaves. As shapeshifter, sometimes appearing as a fish or giant frog, or as an ancient man with a green beard and a scaly body, he is blamed when flooding occurs or a dam bursts.

Peg Powler

Malevolent water spirit of the river Tees. Like her Lancashire counterpart, Jenny Greenteeth, she lured people into the water in order to drown and devour them. In Notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders (1866), Henderson describes her as a sort of Lorelei with green tresses and an insatiable appetite for human life.

Water wraith

Female Scottish water spirit. Water wraiths haunt bodies of water, including rivers and fords, and are wont to lure in travellers and drown them. One particular river wraith is described as a tall, withered woman dressed in green with a malignant scowl. With a bony finger she beckons travellers, drawing them to their watery fate.

*Read more in the book.

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

al Naddaha

In the Arabic folklore in Egypt al naddaha (“the caller”) haunts the Nile River; similar to the Banshee, only this fairy’s call is considered to be a death omen, it is more closely related to the lorelei, mermaid, or siren. Although no one who has ever seen an al naddaha has survived to tell the tale, it is described as looking like a slender, tall, beautiful woman with flowing long hair. Standing at the river bank in transparent clothing, her hands by her side, she would call out in her calm, loud, yet soft voice. Anyone who hears the voice of al naddaha is either devoured by it or pulled into the river and drowned, but either way, the victim is never seen alive again.

Vodyanoi

One of the many malicious water fairies in Slavic folklore the vodyanoi lives on the bottom of lakes, mill ponds, rivers, or the sea and snatch people up, pulling them into the water and drowning them. Descriptions of these creatures vary widely, including a floating log, a large fish, a monster with fiery eyes, a seal with a human face, an enormous frog, and an old man with green beards and hair.

The vodyanoi live an entire life cycle in a single lunar phase, young at the new moon and growing older with each phase. When the lunar cycle begins anew the vodyanoi is rejuvenated and young again.

*Read more in the book.

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Vough

Female Water-Monsters of Scottish legend. Usually garbed in green, they have manes of yellow hair running down their backs to their tails, webbed hands and feet, and no noses. They fear light but have been known to marry humans and produce progeny.

*Read more in the book.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Jenny Greenteeth

British water spirit. A boggart or threatening sprite known until the 19th century, Jenny was said to haunt the streams of Lancashire, seeking to drown passersby. Such spirits may descend from early water divinities and may encode a faint folk memory of human sacrifice. Some scholars theorize that Jenny was only a nursery tale told to quiet unruly youngsters; the threat of a green-toothed monster hiding in pools would have kept adventurous children away from danger.

Vough (fuath, brollachan)

Scottish folkloric figure. This terrifying female bogie or kelpie was the most fearful apparition encountered in the Scottish Highlands. She could be captured but not held; one apparently successful hunter found, when his companions gathered around to admire his catch, just a smear of jellyfish into which the monster had dissolved. Her name means “hatred” or “aversion”, which is how she was generally greeted.

Although usually female, the vough occasionally appeared as male. Both had webbed feet and noseless faces; they usually wore green, the fairy color. They disliked daylight but enjoyed intercourse, sexual as well as conversational, with humans; thus some families, like the Munroes, claimed to have vough blood in their veins. The word brollachan appears to describe the vough in its immature larval stage.

*Read more in the book.

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

River Hags are known to carry off children who come too close to the water’s edge. Generally, a hag is seen as a sinister old woman who doesn’t have much in the looks department. River Hags generally kidnap, maim, torture, drown and eat children. They are also bound to the body of water they inhabit – they can leave it, but not for long stretches of time. Folklore has several River Hags known by different names.

In Wales, Morgan is such a water spirit.

Peg Powler haunts the river Tees and has an insatiable appetite for human flesh. This hag’s tangled green hair looks like weeds.

Nellie Longarms is another hag and water spirit from English folklore who uses her long arms to pull unsuspecting children to the watery depths.

Scotland has water wraiths who haunt bodies of water, luring travellers to their watery doom.

In Egypt, Al Naddaha haunts the Nile River. This beautiful water spirit stands on the shore in transparent clothing, calling out to passers-by. Whoever hears her, is never seen again – they are drowned or devoured by this spirit.

The Vough of Scottish legend have long, yellow hair, tails, webbed hands and feet, and no noses. They favour green clothes.

Lancashire has Jenny Greenteeth who apparently has pale green skin, long green hair, green fanglike teeth, long arms, long fingers with long nails, a pointed chin and big eyes. She’s also known as Wicked Jenny and Ginny Greenteeth. She’s fond of pulling children and the elderly into the water to drown them. She apparently prefers water with thick foliage growing over it, like duckweed. In some tales, she even ventures into the trees at night and her wailing can be heard far away.

Whether beautiful or hideous, women who live in rivers, lakes and streams should be avoided at all costs – they clearly have it in for children.

River Hag in Modern Culture

Honestly, I couldn’t find much on my own. So I’m relying on Wikipedia.

First, Jenny Greenteeth.

There’s a book:

Yeah, I’m not crazy about the cover or the blurb, but it exists.

There’s a movie:

Not a bad poster and the plot sounds interesting — I’ll have to watch it at some point (bonus: Tim Curry plays in it.) Jenny Greenteeth was apparently the inspiration for the lake monster Meg Mucklebones.

The rest of the list provided by Wikipedia is mainly where she is mentioned in short stories and in video games.

Next, Vodyanoi:

There’s a book series:

In this book series, the Voyanoi are an aquatic people, skilled in water magic. In the book pictured, they are dockworkers and go on strike, blocking a river shipping route using their magic.

And there’s a Netflix series:

Apparently a Vodník appears in episode 3, terrorising a village by stealing the souls of children.

There are, of course, also a list of games and Russian operas, plays, books and TV shows featuring the Vodyanoi.

River Hag in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: River Hag

River Hags are shapeshifters. They prefer to look like hags as it produces more fear in their victims – and they need that fear to fuel their glamour. Some of them do eat children, but any human flesh would do. Though they are Solitary Fae, they align themselves with the Dark Court every Tithe. Most have green skin, long, green hair, and webbing between their long fingers. Their magic is tied to the water they live in, though some do live in the trees, forests and caves around their water source.

Translation of River Hag into Afrikaans: Rivier Wyf.

Where did you hear about river hags for the first time? What do you think of these faeries? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to river hags.

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