Robin Goodfellow


Robin Goodfellow
   This was the best-known name for an individual *fairy in late medieval and Tudor England. He was a mocking shape-changer, with a characteristic guffawing laugh of 'Ho, ho, hoh!'. He could turn into a horse, tempting weary travellers to mount him, and then dumping them in a river; or lead them astray as a Will-o'-the-Wisp; or appear in some terrifying shape. Yet he also took on the helpful *brownie role in homes and farms. Elizabethan and Stuart writers often alluded to his tricks; a blackletter pamphlet which appeared in 1628, entitled Robin Good-Fellow, his Mad Prankes and Merry Jests, asserts that he was the son of *Oberon by a human girl, was granted his powers by his father, and eventually joined the fairy dance and was carried off to fairyland. It includes the standard brownie motif that when a grateful girl gives him a waistcoat instead of a bowl of creamy milk, he disappears for ever. His name reflects this ambiguity; 'Goodfellow' might be either a tribute to his merry nature and helpfulness, or an evasive term based on fear, since his pranks could be troublesome.
   Some Elizabethans regarded all fairies as demons. Robert Burton included Robin in his list of 'terrestrial devils . . . which as they are most conversant with men, so they do them most harm' (The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), part I, section 2, 'A Digression of Spirits'). The Mad Prankes pamphlet has a curious woodcut showing him (identified by the initials G F) as a phallic, goat-footed, horned figure like Pan or Satan, but carrying a lighted candle and a broom, presumably to show he does housework by night; there are bats and birds overhead, and small figures, fully clad, are dancing round him. The image does not fit anything in the text; the artist may have been adapting an illustration of a witches' sabbath.
   For a collection of literary texts mentioning Robin Goodfellow, see W. Carew Hazlitt, Fairy Tales, Legends and Romances Illustrating Shakespeare (1875); for discussion, Briggs, 1959 and 1976.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Robin Goodfellow — Rob in Good fel low A celebrated fairy; Puck. See {Puck}. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Robin Goodfellow — est un groupe d origine bordiguiste issu de la revue Communisme ou civilisation. Leur but est « de poursuivre le travail d élaboration théorique et de défense des principes communistes »[1] estimant qu ils sont nécessaires au succès d… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robin Goodfellow — Robin Goodfellow, im Glauben der englischen Landleute ein Hausgeist, ähnlich dem schottischen Brownie, s.d …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Robin Goodfellow — [good′fel΄ō] n. Eng. Folklore a mischievous sprite or fairy: identified with Puck …   English World dictionary

  • Robin Goodfellow — Puck Puck, n. [OE. pouke; cf. OSw. puke, Icel. p[=u]ki an evil demon, W. pwca a hobgoblin. Cf. {Poker} a bugbear, {Pug}.] 1. (Medi[ae]val Myth.) A celebrated fairy, the merry wanderer of the night; called also {Robin Goodfellow}, {Friar Rush},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Robin Goodfellow — noun Date: 1531 a mischievous sprite in English folklore …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Robin Goodfellow — /good fel oh/ Puck (def. 1). * * * …   Universalium

  • Robin Goodfellow — noun a mischievous sprite or goblin formerly believed to haunt the English countryside …   English new terms dictionary

  • Robin Goodfellow — Rob′in Good′fel•low [[t]ˈgʊdˌfɛl oʊ[/t]] n. lit. myt Puck …   From formal English to slang

  • Robin Goodfellow — /rɒbən ˈgʊdfɛloʊ/ (say robuhn goodfeloh) noun → Puck …   Australian English dictionary