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 — especially of clothes — 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
and Zashiki Warashi
Anime and 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 plot of Seconds kicks off when the restaurant's house spirit gives the main character a Magic Mushroom that can alter the past as a thank you for giving her old clothes.
- Maleficent: Three refugee pixies show up at King Stefan's castle offering to look after his daughter if he lets them live there. They are sent to live with Baby Aurora in a cottage after Maleficent curses her but are that useless that Maleficent herself has to save the child's life on a regular basis.
- 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.
- From Scandinavian folklore, there was the tomte. If a farmer took care of his farm and respected the tomte, it would in turn watch over his animals at night and bless the fields with bountiful harvests. If the tomte was disrespected, however, he might kill the animals, tear the barn down or make the soil infertile.
- 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 animated 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 is assisted by elves in making shoes and prospers greatly from their help. When he discovers them and makes them clothes, they accept the gift and depart, never to return.
- 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. Most house-elves are perfectly happy with this arrangement, but Dobby, who serves under evil and abusive wizards, is an exception. Making a gift of clothes to one's elf magically releases him or her from bondage.
- According to Pottermore, the American Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry uses Pukwudgies (distantly related to goblins) instead of house-elves.
- The Dresden Files:
- After Harry does a fae of the Summer Court a favor, the debtor dispatches 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. He also pays them by leaving pizza out for them. However, the brownies are not without their own problems in understanding Harry's dietary needs: once they stocked his pantry with the cereal Froot Loops. Just Froot Loops. He ate them for more than a month.
- Cobbs (the elves from the "Cobbler" tale) appear in one of the short stories. They're ten inches tall, speak with German accents, and wear lederhosen. Having fallen on hard times with the decline of cobbling as a profession, a family of cobbs took up residence in a mall shoe store; in one of his early cases, Harry reconciled them with the store's owners and got them work, with payment taken from the nearby vending machine. True to the tale, the next time Harry encounters the store it has grown much larger and more prosperous. The cobbs do Harry a favor and he repays them by setting up another gig with his friends the Carpenters. Seven active children equals a lot of shoe repair.
- 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 include 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.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Camp Half-Blood has harpies that clean the cabins after the demigods go home (and eat them if they're still there).
- Calypso has invisible servants given to her by Hera that tend to her on her island.
- The Sequel Series The Heroes of Olympus, Camp Neptune has Lares. Minor household Gods that are also quite common in Rome.
- The next series The Trials Of Apollo mentions that the harpies cook breakfast and has dryads serving drinks at dinner.
- Lena Burgess from "Fablehaven" is a Naiad who works as a maid for the Sorensons.
- Brownies would also count in this setting. They come into houses at night and fix things, they also turn random ingredients into desserts. The only drawback is that they don't take orders from humans.
- Mandy, the family's cook from Ella Enchanted is a fairy.
- Rivers of London: Nobody knows exactly what Molly, The Folly's ambiguously human maid is but the third book strongly implies that she was a human mutated by magic. The fifth book strongly implies that she's a fairy.
- In The Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, the magisterium uses summoned elementals to tidy the dorms when the kids aren't there.
- Artemis Fowl: Fairy tales such as "The Elves and the Cobbler" and Santa Claus are inspired by elves coming into humans' houses while time is stopped and doing jobs for them. Of course, this was centuries ago before the fairies moved underground and started enforcing a Masquerade.
- In the third book, Artemis finds out that his bodyguard's first name is Domovoi, based on the Russian legend.
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Imps are low-level demons that magicians summon for household chores and delivering messages.
- In House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones, Charmain has to deal with the kobolds going on strike from their house and garden chores.
- In the Chrestomanci short story The Sage of Theare, among the various Odd Job Gods that inhabit Theare are household gods and kitchen gods.
- Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition Advanced D&D supplement Fiend Folio. Killmoulis live in areas where grains and other types of food are prepared (like a kitchen or gristmill). They secretly help out with the work and eat large amounts of food (such as grain and flour).
- 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.
- Nymphs in Zork fulfill this role, particularly Maid and Serving nymphs.
- The Scarlet Devil Mansion has at least 28 fairy maids. However, they're completely useless due to fairies' flighty natures, meaning the (human) head maid Sakuya handles all the household duties single-handedly; good thing she's a Time Master...
- A chapter of the manga Wild and Horned Hermit sees Gensokyo's resident Zashiki Warashi leaving for the Outside World, so Yukari brings in some hobgoblins to act as a replacement, calling them very friendly and helpful. However, the idea fails because people can't get past the hobgoblins' appearances; in the end, the Zashiki Warashi return and the hobgoblins get hired on by the Scarlet Devil Mansion (meaning Sakuya might have some competent help for a change).
- The downloadable app game Fairy Maids has you playing as one of these.
- 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.
- To a certain extent, this is the role of Owen in Gargoyles. He is actually the fairy Puck, who has decided to serve Xanatos because he thought it would be interesting to do so. On more than one occasion, Owen has proven himself to be fiercely defensive of his employer and his employer's family.