The Borders Redcap - a gory goblin

Myth and Legend

The Borders Redcap - a gory goblin

The Redcap is a type of malevolent, murderous goblin found in Border folklore. He is said to inhabit ruined castles along the Anglo-Scottish border, especially those that were the scenes of tyranny or wicked deeds.

He is also known as Redcomb and Bloody Cap, and is known for soaking his cap in the blood of his victims.

Redcap is generally depicted as a short, thickset old man with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers with talons like eagles and large eyes of a fiery red colour. He has grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand, and of course, a red cap on his head.

It is reputed that, when unwary travellers take refuge in his lair, he flings huge stones at them, and if he kills them, he soaks his cap in their blood, giving it the crimson hue, though he can apparently be driven away by words of Scripture or by the brandishing of a crucifix, which cause him to utter a dismal yell and vanish in flames, leaving behind a large tooth.

First mentioned in the 14th century, his appearance is associated with William de Soules, who became Lord of Hermitage in 1318, and rapidly demonstrated a deep vein of cruelty that quickly had him loathed by all who came into contact with him. He was said to practice the Black Arts, kidnapping local children and using their blood in dark rituals at Hermitage Castle, during which he would summon up his familiar - an evil goblin called Robin Redcap.

It seems the redcap myth may have grown out of de Soules' own dark story. It might also be interesting to note that a red cap is often the headwear of the ubiquitous garden gnome.

Further reading

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