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Sculpture by Marilyn Collins
A spriggan, a singular borrowed from the Cornish plural spyryjyon 'spirits') is a legendary creature known from Cornish faery lore. Spriggans are particularly associated with West Penwith in Cornwall.
Spriggans in folklore
According to The English Dialect Dictionary (1905), spriggans were apparently related to the trolls of Scandinavia. Spriggans were depicted as grotesquely ugly, wizened old men with large child-like heads. They were said to be found at old ruins, cairns, and barrows guarding buried treasure. Although small, they were usually considered to be the ghosts of giants, with the ability to swell to enormous size. They were also said to act as fairy bodyguards.
Spriggans were notorious for their unpleasant dispositions, and delighted in working mischief against those who offended them. They raised sudden whirlwinds to terrify travellers, sent storms to blight crops, and sometimes stole away mortal children, leaving their ugly changelings in their place. They were blamed if a house was robbed or a building collapsed, or if cattle were stolen. 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. They were sometimes associated with the underground spirits called knockers who could often be heard working in tin mines.
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 platforms of the former Crouch End station. To the left, on the southside of the Parkland Walk is Crouch Hill Park where Ashmount School has been located since January 2013. The sculpture is sometimes mistaken for the Green Man or Pan.
Spriggans in popular culture
Horror writer Stephen King once visited his friend, Peter Straub, whose house is in Crouch End. The legend goes that after asking for a good place to go for a walk, he was directed towards the old railway line, now called the Parkland Walk. While here, he was inspired by the strange unsettling surroundings and the sculpture of a spriggan (a pan-like green man), which was pushing its way out of an old arched wall. King wrote the short story "Crouch End", based on his visit, which was later adapted as an episode of Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, which included the spriggan in the introduction.
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.
In Magic: The Gathering, it is a Goblin creature type. Cards such as Hungry Spriggan and Tower Above show their ability to swell.
The main character in Sword Art Online light novel, manga, and anime series, Kirito, 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 Beyond the Spiderwick trilogy, a creature named Sandspur is later discovered to be spriggan.
In the online game Elsword there is a boss in a stage called Spriggan that is a rather small miniature knight about half of the character's height, but has an attack which consists of his true form being rather tall "Shadow" inside the armor to come out and perform stronger attacks, the shadow being 3 to 4 times a character's height.
The Warmachine tabletop miniatures game has a model in their Khador faction called a Spriggan.
In the online video game Wizard101, a spriggan is a creature found in the world of Avalon in which you must defeat.
In the season three episode "Fae-Ge Against the Machine" of the sci-fi series Lost Girl, the character named Balzac is a spriggan. In the episode, it is stated that a deal with a spriggan is binding and must be upheld.
The Spriggan is a demon of the Fairy family in the Shin Megami Tensei series. He appears Strange Journey and Soul Hackers. He looks like a giant statue and has a childish personality.
In Hiro Mashima's manga Fairy Tail, series antagonist Zeref assumes the name Spriggan in opposition of the titular guild when acting as emperor of the Alvarez Empire, referring to himself as a "grotesque fairy".
In the PlayStation video game, "Wild ARMs 2", the elemental bosses of the four Raypoint temples are subtitled "Spriggan".
In the multi-platform MOBA video game by Hi-Rez Studios, SMITE, the playable god Terra has a Spriggan skin. Terra is the Roman goddess of the Earth, the Greek counterpart being Gaia. With her Spriggan skin, she resembles a mystical tree-like humanoid with brown bark and green hair.
In Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Spriggans appear as a type of enemy in Dracula's castle, they are depicted as bizarre humanoid creatures with no arms who move by hopping and attack by dashing at the player character Juste Belmont.
In Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Spriggans are a form of monster, simillar to leshens. Spriggans appear in the Blood and Wine DLC.
- Wright, Joseph, ed. (1905). The English Dialect Dictionary. V. Henry Frowde. p. 690.
- Piskies, Spriggans, Knockers, and the Small People – Traditional Tales from Cornwall. Truro: Tor Mark Press. c. 1979. p. 2.
- "An Interview with Peter Straub (March, 2010) | Bookbanter". Bookbanter.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-11-07.