Robin Goodfellow - mischievous help around the home
Allegedly born during the reign of Richard I, of a fairy father and mortal mother, Robin Goodfellow (sometimes called Puck) is a sprite of the English countryside. He takes the form of a handsome medieval man, and is mischievous but often helpful – especially with domestic chores being keen on promoting cleanliness, and with a strong work ethic!
Like many supernatural beings, he expects some biscuits or milk in payment, or there will be trouble for the householder.
His surname reflected the popular reference to fairies as the ‘good people’, and was perhaps a slightly fearful attempt on the part of mortals to flatter these mischievous and capricious supernatural beings.
After the Protestant Reformation in the early 1600s, belief in fairies was derided or denounced as sinful. However, the belief in Robin Goodfellow and his fairy companions continued into at least the 1700s, particularly in the household.
Goodfellow was believed to be fanatical about promoting cleanliness and a strong work ethic. For example, it was believed that fairies could help tidy the home; hence Goodfellow was often depicted carrying a broom and supporting domestic workers with their chores. It was also understood that he could enforce order on the household by punishing idle maids who did not meet his high expectations, through inappropriately pinching and nipping them. Consequently, Goodfellow was often praised, or indeed feared, as the strict disciplinarian of the home and its housekeepers.
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