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Hikey Sprites


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Daniel Parkinson
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We recieved an e-mail about a local variation of the Hikey Sprite from Norfolk and have recieved permission to put it here, it is quite interesting as they are mostly described as benevolent in literature, whereas the one descibed here is not, Here it is: I have edited some detail:

(For a long while I thought this aspect of folklore was restricted to an area of Norfolk which covered Aylsham, Buxton, Hevingham, Reepham, Cawston, Swannington to St Faiths. Recently, following a few readers letters which appeared in the Eastern Daily Press, I've found evidence that (with some variation) it is known of in other parts of the county, elsewhere in East Anglia and further afield too).

My brothers and I were born in Felthorpe, a village which has existed since before the Doomsday book was compiled. In the school holidays we would go fruit picking and during lunch we would sit and eat sandwiches and apples whilst listening to the older folk discuss all sorts of business and news. To keep us quiet (and in one place) one of the adults would tell us a yarn - the type that was designed to keep kids from straying.

I have vivid recollections of stories told by my father, his father and others of their generations. Though I am only 48, I might now be one of the only people who remembers some of them - such is the way our society has been quick to become more cosmopolitan.
As children we were completely absorbed by their accounts and it made us fearful of wandering through rural areas (which most of Norfolk used to be) after dark. This is because the Hikey Sprites, and their kind, would be about. These were creatures which were similar to men, but not homo sapien. They were gaunt looking, only about 5' 5" yet very strong, and their skin was like mahogany coloured shoe leather. Big hands with long thin fingers and filthy, razor sharp nails.

The Hikey Sprites stank, they had an unpleasant pungent, damp smell which carried a long way. They were fast on their feet but also skittish, moving at times like a fly does when it lands. They chattered and barked to communicate, but could also whistle (for which there was a reason). My uncle said that Hikey Sprites enjoyed frightening people, often tormenting and teasing householders in the remote parts by banging on doors and tapping at windows, but they would also grab you soon as they had a chance. Not usually confident in assailing a person by themselves, they would work in groups, in the same way jackals might attack a cheetah.

They had been scavenging around for hundreds of years then people arrived and drove them to retreat to the deepest woods and thickest coppice's - only venturing out to feed. When the black death came, they were drawn to the many mass graves of those unburnt, and began feasting on corpses - which is how they gained a taste for human flesh. Later, hunger caused packs to attack wayfarers and shepherds, so farmers would deposit the carcases of diseased livestock at the fringe of their lairs so to give them food and keep them content. Our own increase in population forced them into fewer and fewer hides.
However, they still raided farms, killing cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry, and they got more used to our presence too. Every so often they would pounce on some poor wretch and drag them away to be devoured. We were told that many farms still had a few corners of fields set aside where trees, bushes and thickets grew. These were originally to act as a haven for rabbits and game that could be used to supplement our meal tables. But those with a dark deep land drainage pit in should be avoided, Hikey Sprites would use these to hide in if unable to make it back to their nest before sunrise.

We were also told to be careful of old dead trees near the road side, particularly those with knotholes or hollow trunks. A cousin of the Hikey Sprite often called a 'Hobyah' (though this may have been a convenient name borrowed from a children's book) or 'Hopity Yah' dwelled in them. This creature was very similar to the Hikey Sprite and would often act as a lookout or guard. It differed in that it was a dirty Ivy green, had shorter legs with tremendous thigh muscles, and long arms with a thin membrane of skin on the inside running entire length from wrist to armpit which attached all along the torso to the hip. From a high vantage point, arms fully extended they could glide, swoop and fly short distances. The powerful legs could enable them to leap, and launch themselves back to their perch when finish gorging on whatever prey available.

So finally, some advice for early morning/early evening dog walkers. Should your animal suddenly prick up it's ears and race off, paying no heed to your calls to return, run! The Hikey Sprites were afraid of dogs but had learnt to whistle and lure them away so they could then descend upon the defenceless owner. Carry a good torch and you would have a chance - they preferred moon lite but hated man-made light and the sun.

Now you know what the Hikey Sprites were like in my part of Norfolk. I've told it as I best remember. I've not seen any articles which describes them quite as I have here yet there were dozens of kids who knew of these things when I was young.

 

Daniel Parkinson's picture
Daniel Parkinson
User offline. Last seen 2 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 22 Jul 2008
Hikey Sprites are mentioned

Hikey Sprites are mentioned in Katherine Briggs' seminal 'Dictionary of Fairies', where they are described as mischevious, but not half as scary as the ones above. It would be interesting to find any other evidence of them described this way.



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