Of the fae, most of us are acquainted with faeries and elves the best, but several other categories of the fae-dom tend to go unnoticed. One of them is the sprite, and much like their counterparts, these creatures are unpredictable and mischievous. Unlike faeries and elves, they have more otherworldly attributes.
Most often, sprites are paired with water, generally linked to elemental spirits, like the Nixie, which comes from nuhhussa, an Old High Germanic word meaning water sprite. Mythology also called them water nymphs, naiads, or nyads, who were divine entities fixed in one place—differing them from gods and corporeal beings, like selkies and mermaids.
Water sprites are typically spotted near or in small lakes and streams. In Sweden, they can look like a man, a horse a bull, and even a cat or dog. The Bäckahästen make their victims ride on their backs to drown them.
Sprites also have affinities for plants. Brightly colored and roughly the size of larger insects, these sprites have dazzling translucent wings. Many are confused with exotic flowers and butterflies at first glance. At night, they may glow, allowing them to hide amongst the fireflies.
These creatures are more common than their faeries and elven counterparts, living deep in the woods—high amongst the branches, down near rivers and streams, or calm and cool-weathered hills.
Wooded sprites travel in swarms that bite if provoked, and they love to pester butterflies, which they fly faster and longer than. Routinely, the wake and bathe before hunting and eating plant pests, feeding their symbiotic relationship with the flowers, grasses, trees, and bushes.
Tree sprites are responsible for aiding trees in shaking off winter’s snow, budding leaves, and bearing fruit, which they love to snack on. They also help turn the leaves in autumn, and pluck limbs bare to complete the cycle. Afterwards, they hide deep within the trees during winter to keep the tree company and sing to the roots. Sometimes, they don’t make it to the next spring.
A Dobbie is another form of sprite, the “household sprite,” originally seen in 1811, earning its name from dobbin, a farm horse in Merchant of Venice. Sussex, England called such spirits Master Dobbs. Much like J.K. Rowling’s rendition of Dobby, appropriately named, the house sprites take interest in the families they’ve adopted. They live in the unused parts of the house and are often retiring about the time their families are waking up.
Have you heard of the sprite? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!
Read a Russian Folktale about the Wood Sprite: here.