Gremlins: the monster you don't want in your workshop

Myth and Legend

Gremlins: the monster you don't want in your workshop

The gremlin is a fairly modern monster, arriving soon after the invention of the aeroplane as a destructive sprite that delights in making anything mechanical go horribly and inexplicably wrong. You definitely wouldn't want one on the loose in your workshop!

Airmen and women became aware of gremlins in the 1930s, with an early reference by pilot Pauline Fowler in a novel in 1938. They really came into their own in the Second World War, with the RAF blaming them for numerous mysterious mechanical failures and difficulties. Many pilots swore they saw creatures tinkering with their equipment. Gremlins are described as small, animal-like goblins with strange eyes and sharp teeth (all the better to chew through wiring).

Gremlins became better known outside the RAF when they were the subject of Roald Dahl's first children's novel. He had served in the RAF during the war.

Gremlins can now be found inside all sorts of machinery - their presence inferred from otherwise inexplicable mechanical breakdowns.

Image by Fiona Horan.

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