Stein Collectors International, Inc.
by Ginger Gehres
While the Heinzelmännchen share many traits with other "little people" and mystical creatures of folklore, they are not anything other than Heinzelmännchen.
It seems that these beings are confused with other little people of folklore and mythology for lack of knowledge and, perhaps, the ease of calling them by other names (let's face it, their name is a mouthful). Historical stories and tradition seems to be disappearing from even the German culture itself. Mettlach artist, Heinrich Schlitt, called his creature creations Zwerge and Gnom.
By their simple definition, gnomes, dwarves, elves, pixies, etc. can be looked at as relatives from other countries and around the world - but not one and the same. As time goes by, the line blurs as to which creature is which. Maybe, with a little effort, the Heinzelmännchen can be restored to the proper place that they once had in days of old. Listed below are the definitions of several different creatures in mythology and historical folklore from the "Encyclopedia Mythica". Even these resources mix the Heinzelmannchen with others. Take a look:
Heinzelmännchen - "Friendly dwarves or elves from German folk belief. They work at night for people whom they like, or to whom they are indebted."
But, when you look at the definitions for the rest, it becomes obvious that there are some pretty significant differences.
Gnome - "A race of small, misshapen, dwarf-like creatures that dwell in the earth. The name 'gnome' was given to them by the medieval scholar Paracelcus, in an attempt to describe the most important of the earth spirits. Gnomes live under the earth, where they guard treasures. According to Paracelcus, they move as easily through the earth as humans walk upon the ground. They cannot stand the light of the sun, for even one ray would turn them to stone. Some sources claim they spend the hours during daylight as a toad. They are in some way related to goblins and dwarves."
Elf- "In mainly Teutonic and Norse folklore, the elves were originally the spirits of the dead who brought fertility. Later they became supernatural beings, shaped as humans who are either very beautiful (elves of light) or extremely ugly (dark / black elves). They were worshipped in trees, mountains and waterfalls. The Danish elves are beautiful creatures, but they have hollow backs.
The Celtic elves are the size of humans.
The belief in elves, or supernatural and invisible beings, is almost universal. Apparently, there has been no primitive tribe or race that has not believed at one time or another that the world was inhabited by invisible beings. Especially on the British Isles the belief was very profound. In stories from the 8th and 9th century there are many references to elves, or fairies as they are called there. The king of the elves, Oberon, and his wife, Titania, appear in some very important works of medieval literature, such as Huon de Bordeaux and Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Dwarf - "In myths and folklore, dwarfs are small humanoids, about half the size of a man, who live in caves or in holes under the ground (and sometimes in hollow trees). They can be hostile towards man, but can also perform small labors for them.
In fairy tales (such as 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs') they are usually portrayed as short, stocky creatures with long beards. They can be found working in mines, digging for minerals and metals. Dwarves are exceptionally skillful with their hands and make the most beautiful (and often magical) objects, which surpass man-made objects by far.
In Norse mythology, the two famous dwarfs Brok and Sindri made many magical objects for the gods, amongst which are Thor's hammer (Mjollnir) and Odin's magical ring (Draupnir)."
Fairy- "The original fairies, or faeries, bestowed gifts upon newborn children, such as beauty, wealth and kindness. In the subsequent centuries they continued this original function, but expanded their activities into other types of meddling in human affairs.
Fairies can only be seen clearly by animals and seldom by humans, although if one is fortunate enough, one might catch a fleeting glimpse. There are a few exceptions however. The first is when fairies use their power (known as 'glamour') to enable a human to see them. Also, during a full moon on Midsummer Eve a mortal witnesses fairy dances or celebrations. And finally, by looking through a self-bored stone (a stone in which a hole has been made by tumbling in the waters of a brook; not found on a beach) one can see fairies distinctly.
The rulers of the race of fairies are Queen Titania and her consort Prince Oberon, their court being in the vicinity of Stratford-on-Avon. Other synonyms and euphemisms for fairies are: the Little People, the Green Men, the Good Folk and the Lordly Ones."
The name is probably a combination of the words fae "friend" and eire "green." So Faerie could mean "Green Friend."
Brownie - "Good-natured, invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country dwellings in Scotland. While people are asleep, they perform their labors for them. They are known to be protective creatures and they become attached to a certain place of family. Even if the family should move to another continent, the brownies will accompany them in their migration. If offered payment for their services or if they are treated badly, they disappear and are never seen again.
The little hairy brownies, with their flat faces and pinhole nostrils, are not very attractive, but their happy smiles and extrovert characters makes up for that. The innocent nature of children allows them to see the brownies, but disbelieving adults will never get a glimpse of them. This however does not prevent the brownies from helping adults in countless minor ways."
Goblin - "Goblins are a different, more grotesque variety of gnomes. They are known to be playful, but at other times they are evil and their tricks could seriously harm people. A goblin smile curdles the blood and a laugh sours the milk and causes fruit to fall from the trees. They pester humans in a number of ways, such as hiding small objects, tipping over pails of milk and altering signposts.
Goblins originated in France and through a cleft in the Pyrenees they spread rapidly all over Europe. They have no homes and usually live in mossy clefts in rocks and roots of ancient trees, although they never stay very long in the same place. The name 'hobgoblin' is thought to be an abbreviation of 'Robin Goblin', the name Druids gave to the first goblins when they entered Britain."
Leprechaun - Very small sprites who sometimes live in farmhouses or wine cellars. They are known to aid humans and perform small labors for them. Sometimes they ask humans for supplies and furniture, and in return they give objects which bring luck and fortune. Leprechauns are called fairy cobblers, for they make shoes for elves (but always one shoe, never a pair). They are seen quite often by humans and are described as merry little fellows gaily dressed in old-fashioned clothes; green, with a red cap, leather apron, and buckled shoes.
When they finish their daily tasks, leprechauns like to organize wild feasts, during which time they are referred to as cluricauns. These (often drunk) cluricauns can then be seen riding in moonlight on the back of a dog or a sheep.
According to popular belief, a leprechaun possesses a treasure (usually a pot of gold) which a human may obtain if he succeeds in capturing one, which is extremely difficult. Even after capture, a person may not take his eyes off him for an instant, for then he will vanish. Leprechauns are mainly found in Irish folklore.
Derived from the Gaelic luacharma'n, "pygmy"; or leith brogan "maker of one shoe".
Banshee - Common name for the Irish "Bean Sidhe." In Scotland, the banshee is known as caoineag (wailing woman) and, although seldom seen, she often heard in the hills and glens, by lakes or running water.
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