Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ghillie Dhu—Scottish Forest Faeries

The Ghillie Dhu or Ghillie Dubh are solitary faeries believed to reside within Scottish forests, especially near Gairloch in Ross-shire, though one account claims many emigrated to forests in Northern America after following Scottish fur trappers to French Canada in the late 1700's.

Imagine a wee man of about three feet tall, dressed in garments made from leaves and moss, with hair black as a moonless night and eyes the deepest brown of a hazel nut. 'Tis said his skin color changes from green to brown to green with the seasons. He lives in the trees, preferring birch, and protects the woodland. He seems to be kind to children, with a nature both wild and shy. In Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend Donald Alexander Mackenzie tells the tale of young Jessie Macrae who upon getting lost in the forest is directed home by a Ghillie Dhu.

Some accounts claim him to be a harmless sprite, while others recount a darker side. His name means dark servant to match his dark hair and dark eyes and darker temperament. Be wary of venturing into the forest at night when the Ghillie Dhu are known to be most active, for if offended by an adult human the wee man will reach out with thin, long arms and crush him in his angry embrace, leaving the human to rot into earthy compost. Alternatively, a Ghillie Dhu might kidnap the human and drag him into faerieland to be enslaved.

An excellent depiction of a Ghille Dhu illustrated by Brian Froud can be found in the wonderful book, Faeries.

Are you afraid to walk in the forest alone at night?

Other Scottish fae creatures:
The Fachan—Creatures to Avoid
Brùnaidh—The Scottish Brownie

Tweet me at @DawnM_Hamilton


  1. I'm afraid to walk in the forest alone in daylight, Dawn! Especially knowing the "Good" folk live there. So interesting, the differences and similarities between Scottish and Irish fairies. The Celtic people had the same ethnic roots and myths, but I suspect the environment to which they migrated revised their ancient fairy legends. Fascinating stuff!

  2. "Are you afraid to walk in the forest alone at night?"

    I wasn't until I read this. Hehe. A short guy covered in moss and leaves that can crush you? Not good. Being dragged off to faerieland? People would pay big money for that.

    Seriously, I am always fascinated by stories of the fae. Thanks for bringing this one to light. I'd not heard of a Ghillie Dhu before. Wonder if that is where snipers get the name for their draping camo called a ghillie suit. I'll be it is.

  3. Hi, Pat. With so much movement over the years between Scotland and Ireland, it is no wonder the legends and myths are similar. Thanks fro dropping by.

  4. Right on, Derek. The Gillie suit has its origins with Scottish gamekeepers. Check out wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghillie_suit Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Fascinating post, Dawn. This inspired me for a story that will come later in my paranormal series. Thanks so much!

  6. Hey, Anita. I'll look forward to the future story. :) Thanks for visiting.

  7. Fascinating post, Dawn! I love learning about myths and legends, and how they related to real life or history.

  8. Hi, Vonda. Me too. The myths and legends can tell us so much about the culture. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I better not be afraid to walk in the forest at night - I live in a forest. Haven't seen any fairies yet, but now I will be on the lookout for them.

    I love hearing about the wee people and promise to let you know if I do encounter one of them. I'd take a photo, but I'd hate to anger one of them.

  10. No. Don't anger the fae, Paisley. We're looking at purchasing a home in the middle of a forest too. I'm hoping some wee people live there. :) Thanks for visiting Castles & Guns.