Saturday, February 15, 2014

What the Puck?

Like my previous blog about Caliban having various skin conditions and an interesting origin to his name, I wanted to do some research on the character Puck AKA Robin Goodfellow(we'll get to that alternate name later).

Puck is a mischievous "fairy" or spirit in the play a "Midsummer Night's Dream". If you want to get technical "Puck" isn't his real name. Nope, It's Robin Goodfellow. Puck is just the name of his kind. The word "Puck" derives from a number of ancient European origins, but the one that stood out to me was the Swedish word "pyske"which means "small fairy". That same name, with it's similar spelling and pronunciation, is closely associated with the word "pixie". As we all know, pixies are believed in folklore to be small fairies, but is Puck... er I mean... Robin Goodfellow a pixie? His name would suggest otherwise.

In the play, his name and dealings are described by an unknown fairy:

"Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?"

Now what's behind the name "Robin Goodfellow"? It is believed that his name also means "Hobgoblin", which would makes sense with the "Rob" and "Hob" connection. The name "Robin" alone means "bright fame". I guess the fairy was surprised that she knew who this Puck was. "I told you I was famous!"(name that movie)
 Another interesting side-note that I found regarding the name. The earliest reference with "Robin Goodfellow" comes from a French legend in the 13th century called "Robert le Diable" "Robert the Devil". I don't know about you, but that's better than being called "Brave Sir Robin!" 
Anyway, the legend was about a Norman knight who finds out that he is the son of the devil. It is said that his mother was in desperate need of a son, but since she didn't get help from heaven, she turned to the devil. Which explained Robert's "mischievous" ways in his upbringing.

Going back to the term "Hobgoblin". They were described as being small hairy little men, much like their believed relatives "brownies". No, not the ones that you eat...
The ones from the movie "Willow". May I add that they were little trouble makers!
Another thing to add, "hob" meant "heart" which in layman's terms meant that this "goblin" held food or utensils in a person's house, much like a house-elf. Speaking of elves, this type of Hobgoblin is said to be a difficult person to deal with when offended. They will make your life miserable like themselves, so you better watch it! The only way to get rid of a Hobgoblin is to(I kid you not) give them a new set of clothing! Sound familiar?

 In conclusion, it would appear that Robin Goodfellow is a pixie/goblin hybrid! "What the Puck" is right!

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