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
Anime & Manga
- 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.
- 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.
- Another variant were animate dolls that served as the Fairy Companion of Russian girls.
- Classical Mythology: In Ancient Rome, there were the lares (singular: lar) and penates.
- Japanese Mythology has the Zashiki-Warashi, which are child-like spirits whose job is to protect and bring good fortune onto the house they reside in. If you didn't take good care of the spirit and house and tick the Zashiki-Warashi off enough that they left, well...you and your house were screwed.
- "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, a variation where they're held in what is essentially slavery.
- The Dresden Files: After Harry does the Summer Court of fae a favor, they dispatch a cadre of brownies to keep his apartment permanently tidy. The condition of their employment is that he can never tell anyone about them, so his friends are left wondering how he suddenly turned from a slob to a neat freak.
- A device used several times in Victorian fairy tales and by imitators of same like Edward Eager, was to have children go on vacation at a mysterious mansion or similar place and be led on adventures by the local guardian spirit. Examples were Puck(who had retired from being a prominent member of The Fair Folk) in Puck of Puck's Hill by Rudyard Kipling and the Natterjack of The Time Garden by Edward Eager.
- One of the poems in Just for Fun is about The Little Laundry Fairy.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The first Fiend Folio had a version of the Killmoulis which was very similar to the folkloric version.
- Gurps Faerie describes these, as do several of the respective historical sourcebooks (Russia, Vikings, etc.) for those desiring contemporary folklore for a Historical Fantasy campaign.
- 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.
- 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.