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Sculpture by Marilyn Collins
|First reported||In folklore|
Spriggans in folklore
Spriggans were depicted as grotesquely ugly, and were said to be found at old ruins and barrows guarding buried treasure and generally acting as fairy bodyguards. They were also said to be busy thieves. Though usually small, they had the ability to swell to enormous size (they were sometimes speculated to be the ghosts of the old giants).
Certainly their disposition was poor, and they caused mischief to those who offended them. They sent storms to blight crops, and sometimes stole away mortal children, leaving their ugly changelings in their place. In one story, an old woman got the better of a band of spriggans by turning her clothing inside-out (turning clothing supposedly being as effective as holy water or iron in repelling fairies) to gain their loot.
A sculpture of a spriggan by Marilyn Collins can be seen in Crouch End, London, in some arches lining a section of the Parkland Walk (a disused railway line). If walking along the Parkland Walk from Finsbury Park to Highgate Station the Spriggan is to the right just before the disused railway station platforms of the former Crouch End. To the left, on the southside of the Parkland Walk is Crouch Hill Park where Ashmount School has been located since January 2013. This sculpture was the inspiration for Stephen King's short story "Crouch End", in which a stylised rendition of the sculpture is described. The sculpture is sometimes mistaken for the Green Man or Pan.
Spriggans in popular culture
Spriggans appear as magical, treelike creatures in several of the Elder Scrolls role-playing video games by Bethesda Softworks. Spriggans generally appear in wooded areas, guarding hidden glades, cave entrances, or forest ruins. They are hostile towards the player and most other humanoid characters, attacking them on sight. They also possess the ability to command woodland creatures to fight alongside them. In the Bloodmoon expansion to Morrowind, spriggans can regenerate after death twice and only remain dead after being killed three times.
The main character in Sword Art Online manga and anime series takes the form of a Spriggan in the Alfheim Online game. Spriggans are said to only possess illusionary magic that is not seen as being helpful in battle, however Kirito utilizes both a transformation illusion and a smokescreen to overcome opponents in battles in which he was greatly outmatched.
In the Beyound the Spiderwick trilogy, a creature named Sandspur is later discovered to be spriggan.
- Briggs, Katharine. A Dictionary of Fairies. Penguin, 1976.
- Underground History: The Northern Heights, Hywel Williams. Accessed 8 July 2007.
- Hunt, Robert. Popular Romances of the West of England. 1865.