Created By: jatay3 on January 8, 2013 Last Edited By: CaveCat on June 8, 2013
Troped

House Fey

Fairy servant caring for your property.

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This is the ultimate Old Retainer. He is an actual fairy or any kind of spirit who lives with a human family and takes care of their property. Unlike his rather eccentric cousins back in the old country, he is actually fond of mortals. He ensures that the crops grow, does all kinds of housework, and wards off evil creatures and other unauthorized intruders.

Often, he will serve the same family for generations.

House Spirits in folklore probably go back to ancestor spirits who were believed to stay around their descendants to support and protect them; though once these beliefs were forgotten, they became mere servant creatures.

The recommended way to treat House Spirits varies in different beliefs. Sometimes, you are expected to leave out some milk or some bread for them, and ungrateful mortals may make them angry. Other times, they seem to desire nothing at all than to serve humans, and giving them payments may in fact drive them away. Yet other kinds only do work when nobody looks, and spying on them makes them leave.

Compare Genius Loci.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In Hellboy: Darkness Calls, Hellboy is cast into the land of Russian myth. He takes refuge in an abandoned cottage, and is attacked by the house's domovoi. Eventually, Hellboy calms the spirit down, and the two get along amicably. The domovoi even briefly assists him in fighting Koschei the Immortal.

Folklore
  • The Brownie is one specific type that lives in houses and aids in household tasks.
  • The Scottish urisk was involved in farm life around harvest time.
  • The Killmoulis was an ugly brownie that hung around mills. It helped the miller work but was known to eat food and pull tricks and pranks.
  • The domovoi from Slavic Mythology would protect the house and occasionally assist in chores and fieldwork. Mistreatment, or poor upkeep of the house, could make them malicious. Russian and other East Slavic folklores have a specific fey for each type of building (well, except the outhouse): a domovoi for the house, a bannik for the bathhouse, an ovinnik for the barn, etc.
  • Classical Mythology: In Ancient Rome, there were the lares (singular: lar) and penates.

Literature
  • "The Elves and the Cobbler" tells the story of a cobbler who was assisted by elves in making shoes and prospered greatly from their help.
  • In the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, every Godmother has a household staff of Brownies.
  • In War for the Oaks, one of the few unqualifiedly positive benefits Eddi gets from her new association with the fey comes when a brownie volunteers to move in and help take care of her apartment.
  • In Esther Friesner's Gnome Man's Land series, Tim Desmond's mother's Russian ancestry causes a bannik (a household domestic sprite) to move in, which ends up driving her crazy with its obsessive cleanliness.
  • The House Elves who serve wizard families in Harry Potter.
  • The Dresden Files: Toot-toot and his Little Folk brethren act like this to Harry after he does them a favor. He pays them in pizza.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The first Fiend Folio had a version of the Killmoulis which was very similar to the folkloric version.
  • Gurps Faerie describes this as do several of the respective historical sourcebooks(Russia, Vikings, etc).

Video Games
  • A Domovoi features in Quest for Glory IV.
  • Tear from Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale counts as this for a business instead of a home. She was sent to Recette's home to at least try to help Recette earn back the debts her Disappeared Dad wracked up so she at least has a chance to avoid having her house seized. While she mainly makes sure that Recette doesn't slack off, she also helps do the chores around the house. This also works on a double level, as Tear herself is already pretty much an indentured servant who was sent to help out Recette by the debt collector company in the first place.

Western Animation
  • The eponymous character of Mr. Bogus, while not exactly a fairy per se, but actually a gremlin, is often home alone in the domicile of his best friend Tommy Anybody. Of course, this is also present in the original Claymation vignettes.

Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • January 8, 2013
    dvorak
    It's "Fey"
  • January 9, 2013
    Arivne
    Folklore
    • The Brownie is one specific type that lives in houses and aids in household tasks.
    • The Scottish urisk was involved in farm life around harvest time.
    • The Killmoulis was an ugly brownie that hung around mills. It helped the miller work but was known to eat food and pull tricks and pranks.

    Literature
    • The Elves And The Cobbler tells the story of a cobbler who was assisted by elves in making shoes and prospered greatly from their help.

    Tabletop Games
  • January 9, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Fixed spelling.
  • January 9, 2013
    Antigone3
    In the Tales Of The Five Hundred Kingdoms series, every Godmother has a household staff of Brownies.
  • January 9, 2013
    MetaFour
    • The domovoi from Slavic mythology would protect the house and occasionally assist in chores and fieldwork. Mistreatment, or poor upkeep of the house, could make them malicious.

    • In Hellboy: Darkness Calls, Hellboy is cast into the land of Russian myth. He takes refuge in an abandoned cottage, and is attacked by the house's domovoi. Eventually, HB calms the spirit down, and the two get along amicably. The domovoi even briefly assists HB in fighting Koschei the Immortal.
  • January 9, 2013
    aurora369
    What, no one mentioned the house elves from Harry Potter?
  • January 9, 2013
    nitrokitty
    • The Dresden Files: Toot-toot and his Little Folk brethren act like this to Harry after he does them a favor. He pays them in pizza.
  • January 9, 2013
    Generality
    ^ The Little Folk serve as Harry's guard, but don't work in his home. He has an unrelated troupe of Brownies that keep the place clean. One of the conditions of their servitude is that he can't mention them to anyone, resulting in confusion from his friends over how he suddenly became a neat freak.
  • January 9, 2013
    Xtifr
    Literature:

    • In War For The Oaks, one of the few unqualifiedly positive benefits Eddi gets from her new association with the fey comes when a brownie volunteers to move in and help take care of her apartment.
    • In Esther Friesner's Gnome Man's Land series, Tim Desmond's mother's Russian ancestry causes a bannik (a household domestic sprite) to move in, which ends up driving her crazy with its obsessive cleanliness.

    Also, this is in no way limited to farmers, and I think milk is a more common price than bread.
  • January 11, 2013
    jatay3
    In Scottish folklore, one version is that house fairies had been exiled from fairyland, and so had taken room with a mortal household.
  • February 25, 2013
    jatay3
    This is an old would-be but it really can't be lost; it is to common in folklore.

    A couple Russian variations I remember are the Bannick which was the bathhouse spirit; it was traditional to leave a pail of water for it.

    Another was the Guardian Doll. This was a combination of this and Companion Cube. It was often told that Russian girls had a magic doll that was actually sentient and could befriend them.

  • February 27, 2013
    aurora369
    Russian and certain other East Slavic folklores have a fey for each type of village building except the outhouse: a domovoi for the house, a bannik for the bathhouse, an ovinnik for the barn, etc.
  • February 28, 2013
    Frank75
    And in Ancient Rome, there were the lares (sing: lar) and penates.
  • February 28, 2013
    KTera
    ...I Thought It Meant the Fey family from Ace Attorney.
  • February 28, 2013
    jatay3
    Are we ready to launch?
  • February 28, 2013
    CobraPrime
    A Domovoi features in Quest For Glory IV.
  • February 28, 2013
    Arivne
    If this trope will include fairies that protect things other than houses, the title and Laconic should be broadened to include them.
  • March 1, 2013
    jatay3
    I don't see why; Tropes Are Flexible. But if you feel it needed. Now can we dump some hats on this so it can be launched?
  • March 1, 2013
    CaveCat
    I don't know if this one would count or not:

    Western Animation
    • The eponymous character of Mr Bogus, while not exactly a fairy per se, but actually a gremlin, is often home alone in the domicile of his best friend Tommy Anybody. Of course, this is also present in the original Claymation vignettes.
  • March 2, 2013
    LordGro
    "Domestic Fey"? Really? What was bad about House Fay? And @dvorak, "fay" is just as good as "fey".

    I suggest House Fay, House Fairy or House Elf, but please not "Domestic Fey".

    And the examples need proper Example Indentation. And the description is only bare bones. The specification to "a farmer and his family" is obviously too narrow. The House Elves in Harry Potter serve wizards, not farmers.
  • March 2, 2013
    jatay3
    House fey is suitable. I changed it for the sake of earlier objection that I also used it for bathhouse fairies and for other buildings.
  • March 3, 2013
    jatay3
    How about "Fairy servant?"
  • March 9, 2013
    jatay3
    bump
  • March 9, 2013
    jatay3
    Is anything wrong with this? It is to common a trope for it to be left out.
  • March 10, 2013
    LordGro
    ^ Proper formatting and Example Indentation would help. Did it.

    "Fairy Servant" is too broad. A servant is not tied to a specific place, nor is the House Spirit normally an all-purpose servant. "Fairy servant caring for your property" is just perfect IMHO -- not too narrow, not too vague.

    From what kind of folklore is the Brownie? English? Scottish? The example doesn't say.

    The description mentions that ungrateful mortals are the creatures' "Berserk Button". Is that really true? The elves from "The Elves And The Cobbler" disappeared forever when the cobbler made clothes for them. Also, the House Elves from Harry Potter were pathologically servile and submissive; they seemed unaffected by the ungratefulness of their masters. It seems it isn't really a core trait of the trope.

    Maybe a nitpick, but the description refers to the House Fay as "he". This would imply the creature is always male. Is that true? I can't think of a female example, but maybe "it" would cover all eventualities.
  • March 11, 2013
    jatay3
    He is the generic male. Unfortunately the English language does not have a genderless reference to a sapient being and attempts to make one have proven clumsy. "It" doesn't work, and "he or she" triples the verbosity. "He or she" may be the best one can do if there are any others who want that changed.
  • March 11, 2013
    LordGro
    Well, I don't want to come off as racist towards fey creatures, but "it" goes with animals, so I'd have no problem to use it for fairies.
  • March 11, 2013
    jatay3
    Animals are not generally regarded as sapient, fey are. And no, I don't care whether or not you are racist toward fey. According to some tellings it was a pardonable vice.
  • March 11, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • Tear from Recettear An Item Shops Tale counts as this for a business instead of a home. She was sent to Recette's home to at least try to help Recette earn back the debts her Disappeared Dad wracked up so she at least has a chance to avoid having her house seized. While she mainly makes sure that Recette doesn't slack off, she also helps do the chores around the house. This also works on a double level, as Tear herself is already pretty much an indentured servant who was sent to help out Recette by the debt collector company in the first place.
  • March 11, 2013
    SalmonPunch
    Im really not sure how Genius Loci relates unless your refering to the actual "genius loci" the Romans believed in (spirits that embodied and altered a landmark/home) and not our trope definition on sentient planets.

    If someone could tidy up the descriptions word flow (there should be a colon leading into "He is actually fond of mortals..." not a period, stuff like that) I'd gladly give this a hat because frankly im shocked this wasnt a trope earlier.

    Mythology example

    • the Kikimora from slavic mythology, sometimes said to be the Domovoi's spouse, was a spirit that nested behind a stove or in a celler and would reward clean households by picking up the slack. The Kikimora, however, hated being caught in the act of actually doing so, to the point some legends say she would kill anyone who saw her spinning thread.
  • March 12, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In Touhou, The Ojou vampire Remilia hired a bunch of fairy maids to attend her mansion. However, since fairies are the Red Shirt army of Gensokyo, they end up being useless at anything, and in the end it's Sakuya who does all the housework. Remilia knows this, but she still hires the fairies just because a big mansion is supposed to have many servants.
  • March 12, 2013
    elwoz
    @jatay3 @LordGro Singular "they" is the new black.

    Does this count? In Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell, several historical magicians are said to have had a "fairy servant" or to be trying to obtain one. It's never spelled out what a fairy servant does for you, but it is implied to be more about magical power than housework.
  • April 20, 2013
    CaveCat
  • April 20, 2013
    DunDun
    Singular "they" is typically used in lieu of ze/zhe/zir/et cetera. It should be noted that some house wights--such as in Norse Mythology--can be any gender; they can prefer any personal pronoun.

    Also, I really don't agree that this necessarily has anything to do with The Fair Folk. Norse Mythology has house wights (a.k.a. "the House Vaettir" or "House Spirits"), who are kind of related to land wights (a.k.a. "the Landvaettir" or "Land Spirits"). But neither of them are related to The Fair Folk (their Celtic equivalents are, however).

    Might want to just nix the "House Fey"/"House Fairy" theme naming altogether, though. Tropes Are Flexible but spirits are not fairies and some of the examples are not fairies. They're simply not the same. Mystical House Helper? Spiritual House Helper? Spiritual House Servant (though I am against "servant")?

    • In Norse Mythology, house wights are spirits that reside with humans and can become a part of one's family so long a relationship is maintained. If a relationship is formed with one, a house wight can help find missing objects; protect one's house; be a character witness in spiritual trials (known as Things); or, depending on the individual wight, help in trance work. If they are disrespected, they can hide objects; weaken your house's defenses from spirits; destroy your crops, if you have any; and take your house's Luck (which is possibly the worst other than outright attacking you).
  • April 20, 2013
    Treblain
    The description should explain the conditions and rules folklore often applies to these (leaving food for them, what happens if they're mistreated...). Also, more detail on the folkloric background of the trope in general should be up there rather than making people scroll down to the examples.
  • May 5, 2013
    DunDun
    Bump
  • May 6, 2013
    Frank75
    More folklore: Heinzelmännchen from Germany. According to the legend, they used to appear at night and do unfinished work at home. But they don't like at all to be watched: When a woman was curious and spied on them, they disappeared, and since then, everyone has to do all the work by himself.

    Edit: They're written with a + umlaut.
  • May 6, 2013
    DunDun
    ^That's ä.
  • May 11, 2013
    DunDun
    bump
  • May 11, 2013
    LordGro
    I expanded the description.

    As to the title, House Fay and House Spirit are both okay by me. I don't think the term "fay" is so strictly defined that it would exclude any of these. "House Fairy" is problematic because that term may be used humorously for a (real, human) housemaid/servant.

    I am not sure whether the description should mention The Fair Folk and Land Of Faerie at all. It may be irrelevant.

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