Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dobby the House Elf: Pop Culture Meets Folklore!

 This "blog" was written in April of 2009.  I have since then finished the entire series...and am sad to see this era come to an end.  But yeah, I said there would be some personal musings located in the Theresa's Articles section...and this definitely qualifies.  The below piece is what happens on very little sleep!  Please enjoy!

Hehe, I'm not dreadfully familiar with the Harry Potter series...I've only watched one of the movies, and finally sat down this past fall to start reading the series.

My lack of interest in this pop culture classic is probably why I never made the connection...Dobby the House Elf is a GREAT example of the traditional English folklore of the Brownie! If you're familiar with the books and the movies, you'd probably have a better understanding of what I'm talking about, but there are two attributes to Dobby and the other house elves that mimic those traits of Brownies. I'm not sure if JK Rowling ever came out and said she based the concept of the house elves on Brownies, or any other mythological beings and household elementals that permeate through the British Isles, but the resemblances are uncanny, lol.

According to Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns and Goblins, by Carol Rose, a brownie is defined as:

A household spirit of northern English and Scottish folklore; in southern England goes by the name of Robin Goodfellow. The Brownie is described as being like a very small, brown, shaggy human, sometimes naked and sometimes wearing ragged brown clothes. Families were proud of their Brownies as they brought good fortune; to lose one was disasterous. Outside of the family, a Brownie was viewed with caution, as they were prone to mischief when annoyed.

In general, the Brownie was the most industrious of the household spirits, ploughing, reaping, grinding grain, cleaning the house and barns, churning butter-in fact, most of the tedious jobs he would gladly do. In return, the Brownie was entitled to a bowl of the best cream and new baked cake or bread, to be put within his reach. To offer the Brownie any form of payment other than this, especially to take pity and to give him new clothes, was an insult, and he would vanish immediately.

The physical description is relatively the same...the house elves in HP were small, humanoid for the most part, and brown. They were the household servants, per se, and to banish them from their service, the owner must give them the gift of clothes. They normally wore nothing more than mere rags.

In another source I read, it stated that Brownies were fiercely loyal to their families...in fact, the actual wording was "perversely loyal" hehe. That too, describes the house elves in Harry Potter, especially Dobby, who would cause himself great bodily injury for even having negative thoughts about his assigned family, lol.

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