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P is for Phoukas.
A few months ago I did a post about the folklore of Phoukas. I looked at the various stories and myths surrounding them and then I wrote how they appear in my writing.
Phoukas (From the Origin of the Fae Page)
The first kind roams free as horses and loves being mischievous. They are deft shape-shifters, capable of assuming any form – terrifying or pleasing. Their human form, like those of the second kind of Phouka, is marked by fur ears and sometimes a tail. No matter the form they take, their fur is always dark.
Even in animal form, they have the power of human speech. They enjoy confusing and helping humans in equal measure, even terrifying them on occasion. They like to embellish the truth and see the reactions of others. They’re puckish (like their names suggest) and quick-witted.
Their favourite trick is to suddenly appear out of the ground between the legs of an unwary human and carry the person off. After a wild night of galloping everywhere, the Phouka will throw the rider off at daybreak (in mud, if possible) and disappear.
The only time they appear to be wrathful is when the farmer forgets to leave a couple of stalks after harvesting for the Phouka to enjoy. Everyone knows that they should leave the Phouka’s share…
The Second Kind belong to the High Fae. They were somehow enslaved by them and can only occasionally shape-shift. They have to stay in their human form, fur ears and all, to serve the High Fae. Mostly they live in the human realm. They are absolutely terrified of everything.
They are known to be great chefs, which is the position they usually have in the High Fae household.
Stories abound that this second kind of Phouka are bloodthirsty creatures with Vampiric tendencies. In these stories they are known to hunt down, kill and eat their victims – usually humans. Unfortunately this is true. Because these Phoukas are unable to roam free and be mischievous as is their nature, something inside breaks and they become monsters. But only for a while. They will return to being the frightened slaves of the High Fae, unable to shape-shift once the magic is burned up.
All Phoukas have the ability to give humans the power to understand the language of animals.
All Phoukas love drama, mischief and leading others on a merry chase.
As a reminder of what Phoukas are in literature and folklore:
In the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, the Phouka is a strange creature.
Phooka – On their way to the elves, the Grace kids find a phooka, a shapeshifter resembling a cross between a monkey and a black cat. It sits in a tree branch, talks in riddles and plays with its body shape in a way resembling the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Although he doesn’t seem to be related to the elves nor to Mulgarath and his army, he seems to be aware of the destiny of Arthur Spiderwick and his nephews, giving them advice in riddles.
The Phouka has awesome shapeshifting abilities (as seen in my own writing).
In mythology, folklore and speculative fiction, shapeshifting (or metamorphosis) is the ability of a being or creature to completely transform its physical form or shape. This is usually achieved through an inherent ability of a mythological creature, divine intervention, or the use of magic.
The Púca is a Celtic faery, and also a deft shapeshifter. He can transform into many different, terrifying forms.
Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane.
This information can also be found in Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane.
The púca is a legendary creature of Celtic folklore, most notably in Ireland, the West of Scotland, and Wales. The púca is a mythological fairy and ultimate shapeshifter. The creatures are capable of assuming a variety of terrifying forms, including a horse, rabbit, goat, goblin, or dog. No matter what shape the púca takes, its fur is always dark. They are most commonly seen as a black horse with a flowing mane and luminescent orange eyes. Púcas have the power to use human speech and although they are known for giving good advice, they also enjoy confusing and terrifying humans. Púcas have a fondness for riddles and are sociable creatures. They love to gather and play pranks on unsuspecting people and children. In many regions of the world the púca is seen as a creature of the mountains and hills. They are incredibly respected and if treated nicely will help humans.
Despite all of that, I still didn’t do an in-depth look at how they live and act in the Labyrinth. Though they don’t differ much from the wild or the enslaved kind, they are different in many ways.
The Phoukas of the Labyrinth only shape-shift into smaller animals so they can easily move through the narrow corridors. They prefer to make the other Fae in the Labyrinth believe that they are Faery-Hybrids just to annoy them.
Because life in the Labyrinth can be painfully short, the Phoukas like to cause as much mischief within a Court at a time before moving on. They stick around to see how their mischief caused drama and they sometimes offer advice to the Fae caught up in it all – though that usually just makes things worse.
Occasionally they’ll perform a favour – as long as they can do as much mischief as they possibly can.
The Labyrinth Phoukas differ from other Phoukas in appearance: in their human form, they have dark brown skin, luminescent green hair and long tails.
They don’t belong to anyone and they refuse to answer to any authority. In some ways they are freer than the wild Phoukas: there’s no expectation of their behaviour so they can be as unpredictable as they want.
Here’s an extract from the Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth featuring a Phouka.
“Daphne stealthily walked down a corridor, hugging the wall. She was certain that her quarry was somewhere in this deserted section. Breathing softly, she turned the corner.
A rabbit sat alone in the cavern, happily chewing giant cloves.
The Guardian glared at the dark brown rabbit, willing it to turn into the baboon she’d been chasing. But of course that didn’t happen.” – Mischief and Misdirection, Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth, Ronel Janse van Vuuren
I hope you enjoy reading the sixth tale in the series. Comments can be left here or on Wattpad – I always appreciate feedback. What do you think the Phouka looks like? Based on the research, do you think they’re merely capricious? Do you enjoy stories with Phoukas in them? I even made a Pinterest board about the Phouka – any thoughts?