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House Fey

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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 — 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.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Black Butler: Sebastian, the titular butler is actually a demon contracted to serve Ciel in exchange for his soul.
  • Hana from Return to Labyrinth is similar to "The Elves and the Cobbler": she lived in the attic of a goblin shoe shop and made shoes for them at night. When the shop started making a profit, she wanted payment for her work. Not satisfied with the tiny shoes they made her, she raided the safe and had her wings torn off as punishment. As a punishment for helping Toby she was forced to be a servant at Jareth's ball.
  • In Natsume's Book of Friends a small kagejawan youkai takes up residence underneath Natsume's home and he is told it will show itself in the house to foretell coming disaster to the occupants and may sacrifice itself to protect them from said disaster. When a youkai attack which Natsume expected to leave him with grievous injuries instead leaves him with no marks whatsoever he finds it shattered and provides it with a burial in thanks.
  • One Piece established an In-Universe fairy tale told by sailors regarding the Klabautermann, a mythical creature that is said to inhabits ships that are well loved and well cared for by their crews. One manifests in the Straw Hats first ship, the Going Merry.
  • Luna Nova from Little Witch Academia (2017) has various fairies maintaining it, including a Cyclops and a minotaur doing maintenance and a fire fairy that heats the water. Season 2 kicks off with them all going on strike due to not getting enough magical energy from the Sorcerer's Stone.
  • The silky of The Ancient Magus' Bride runs Elias' house. Eventually, it's revealed she was a former banshee who was given a new lease on life as a silky.
  • Yuri Alpha from Overlord (2012) is a Ninja Maid dullahan.

    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.
  • 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.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "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.
  • Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "The Three Flowers": Variant. The three huntsmen find an abandoned hut in the woods inhabited by a forest sprite, and they decide to capture her and put her to work as their maid. However, the shy sprite -who moved out of the house to avoid the big, scary hummans- offers to find their missing sister in exchange for being left alone.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 so useless that Maleficent herself has to save the child's life on a regular basis.

  • The Brownie is one specific type from border Scottish folklore that lives in houses and aids in household tasks.
  • Hobgoblins are the English cousins of the Brownies. They have a stronger temper than that of the Brownies, and may react unfavorably to families moving out of the household.
  • The Clurichauns (considered related and even synonymous to the much better known Leprechauns) often protect/haunt the wine cellars of inns, houses and manors in Ireland. Their behavior varies from story to story, but more often than not they protect the food and drink of the places they inhabit and help out with menial chores, at the cost of a meal and some beer or wine. In the case of being neglected, Clurichauns are capable of drinking roughly a barrel of wine or eating a whole lamb's worth of food every night (often both), despite being merely 6 inches tall. When they are properly attended to, they are pleasant, helpful (if a bit drunken) company to have at home.
  • 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, or nisse, depending on language and dialect. 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. It is generally believed that the custom of leaving food out for Santa is a remnant of food sacrifices made to the tomte at Christmastime.
  • The German Klabautermann is a gnome like creature that lives on ships. They dress in a sailor's cap and yellow uniform and smoke a pipe, and often carry tools they use to repair the ship. Laying eyes on them is considered bad luck, because they only appear when a ship is doomed. Sometimes they will save crew members they find worthy.
  • 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. They also have an Evil Counterpart known as the kikimora, who delights in tormenting the residents of a home. 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:
    • 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, and your house were screwed.
    • Osaki are a variant of Kitsune (sometimes said to be descendants of Tamamo-no-Mae) with small weasel-like bodies that attach themselves to human families as invisible magical servants. Those suspected of being osaki mochi were often feared or mistrusted and marriages might be called off if a family was suspected of having osaki.
  • While Duendes from Iberian, Latin American and Filipino folklore are more associated with fae-like beings in general, akin to gnomes, pixies etc., their name actually derives from spanish "dueño de casa", which means "master of the house". They are mischievous creatures who, in some versions, may inhabit human dwellings and cause havoc, but some of them, like the Busgosos in Spain, are compassionate and might help in chores.

  • 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 Spiderwick Chronicles: House Fey are known as Brownies, and one by the name of Thimbletack is a major character. However, when they are mistreated they transform into Boggarts, who enjoy wreaking havoc in households. Treating a Boggart nicely will turn it back into a Brownie.
  • 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.
  • In James Herbert's Once, brownies, fond of humans, like to mind their homes, especially if the owners are often away. Rigwit, keeper of Little Bracken, looks after protagonist Thom, whom he helps repel an invading succubus.
  • 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).
  • 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, 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, the various Odd Job Gods that inhabit Theare include household gods and kitchen gods.
  • Edgar's personal servant, Raven from Earl and Fairy is half sprite.
  • The short story "Housing Problem" by Henry Kuttner is about a couple who rent a room to a very lucky man with a covered birdcage which, when he leaves them with it, turns out to contain a fairy house. Unfortunately, they can't stop investigating, and in the end the fairies move out. Another fairy family moves in, but because of their actions it's become a low-rent district and they get sloppy luck.
  • The Nac Mac Feegle have been known to do jobs for Tiffany Aching in the Discworld novels, sometimes even finding out if the jobs need doing first. Anybody else trying to get them to act as house fey would be looking at a face full o' heid. Though bribing them with something alcoholic may well do much to change this attitude. (There is some folklore suggesting this has been attempted; Carpe Jugulum says that if you leave a new sixpence and a horse needing shod near their mound in Lancre, then in the morning the sixpence will be gone, and so will the horse. Nanny Ogg's Cookbook says that if you leave them a saucer of milk, they will steal everything in the drinks cabinet.)
  • In The New Job, the main character (a farmer) starts finding his housework done when he comes home from the fields at night. He thinks an angel might be responsible. In fact, it's completely mundane: someone who once stole from him out of necessity is trying pay him back.
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Magic II: In the short story Clean as a Whistle, Jamie Carhart gets a brownie, a small humanoid creature who's been bound to her mother's line for generations, as a caretaker for her room. She's not amused by this, since her room is naturally messy and she likes it that way. Coville later expanded the basic plot into the full-length book The Enchanted Files #1: Diary of a Mad Brownie (renamed Cursed for its paperback edition).
  • In Gnomes, some gnomes form partnerships with human families. One page mentions a gnome couple in the Balkans who lived for over 500 years, and were given a saucer of cream every day by the family.
  • Moongobble and Me: Moongobble's origin story features them; akin to the story The Elves and the Cobbler, Moongobble used to be a shoemaker who got assistance from elves. Unlike the original, they told him stories about how they used magic to help people, inspiring him to become a magician and do the same.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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).
    • Similarly, D&D brownies (possibly relatives of the killmoulis) sometimes live hidden away in farm buildings, where they will help themselves to produce, but always perform some service in return. If a homestead's owners impress them, the brownies will move into their home and help with the upkeep there. But the brownies' etiquette demands that they remain unseen and unacknowledged, and they'll leave if a place's owners brag about having fey helpers.
    • Dragon magazine Bestiary articles introducing more traditional faerie folk included two other house fey: dobies were another relative of the brownie that would try to help but weren't very good at it, and clurichauns were bibulous relatives of the leprechaun who tended to live in inns and taverns, where the good ones would take care of the inn at night in exchange for beer (the evil ones would just drink everything and give nothing in return).
    • Domovoi are small, hairy, soot-covered fey who live in cold climates, where they're committed to tending a home's fires, ensuring the residence is warm and bright, and keeping the flames in the hearth where they belong. They'll serve in this fashion regardless of who a home's owner is, whether they're humans or orcs or giants, and domovoi will look after a seasonal camp while a nomadic people are elsewhere for months at a time.
  • Brownies appear in Pathfinder's Bestiary 2. Bestiary 5 added several Slavic house fey, including the aforementioned Domovoi, the Ovinnik, and the Kikimora.
  • Dragonlance has grain nymphs, which were later adapted for the 2nd Edition mainstream Dungeons & Dragons. Protecting a farm the way ordinary fey do a forest, if their usual tricks (summoning swarms of insects and farm animals) don't drive vandals off, they can handle male aggressors in typical nymph fashion. If said aggressor actually hurts her, she "marks" him with a powerful curse that causes all farm animals (horses included) regard him as an enemy, forever. While this seems harsh, the benefit she grants to the farm - and whatever town it feeds - is incredible, doubling the harvest.
  • 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.
  • Changeling: The Dreaming has the Boggan Kith, which are somewhere between this and Hobbits. Incarnations of home and hearth, they find Glamour from craftsmanship and maintaining a household, which can mean running a bakery, serving as majordomo to the local nobles, or working as the head accountant for a Fortune 500 firm.

    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.
  • Nymphs in Zork fulfill this role, particularly Maid and Serving nymphs.
  • Touhou Project:
    • 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 Fairy Maids has you playing as one of these.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has two examples:
    • The Lubberkin, a particularly gruesome take on the trope. If a stillborn baby is hastily discarded by the grieving parents without proper funeral rights, it might return as a predatory undead creature called a Botchling. An obscure ritual exists to appease the Botchling's tormented spirit and turn it into a Lubberkin, but it is a physically dangerous and emotionally devastating ordeal for the parent the ritual requires.
    • Second is Sarah, who starts out living in a house secretly and causing trouble for the woman who lives there. Geralt has the option of revealing Sarah to the owner, and if he does the two become best friends.
  • The Town Minish in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, an offshoot of the Picori who loved humans so much that they eventually chose to move in with them, helping with tasks like baking bread and making shoes, but always doing so in secret.
  • The Junimo in Stardew Valley are apple-shaped creatures described as forest spirits. They move into abandoned buildings to return them to nature, but if humans try to restore the building, they will magically assist the restoration and mend some nearby Broken Bridges in exchange for bundles of requested items. One of the magical buildings in the Wizard's spellbook is a hut to house Junimo on your farm, where they will harvest crops for you in fair weather.
    • There is also a rare random event called the "crop fairy", a tiny Winged Humanoid who visits and enchants a planted area to full maturity overnight.

    Visual Novels 

    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.
  • 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.
  • Steven Universe, late in its fifth season, introduces the Pebbles, minuscule Gems who live in the Diamonds' palace walls. They spend their days crafting furniture, tailoring clothes, and harmonizing in spontaneous musical numbers. Blue Diamond possesses one that lives and functions as a singing hair-comb, and their voices are near-identical to those of their creator-Diamond.
  • The Nisse in Hilda live in people's houses, borrowing lost items and storing them in a pocket dimension made of all the house's unused space. They don't actually look after the house, but are tolerated by humans for being largely unobtrusive. They look like small, tailed men with big round noses, and all but one shown have face obscuring hair and beards.

Alternative Title(s): House Fay, House Spirit