The Boggart – aka Tomte or Kobold

Some of you may recall reading about a boggart in the Harry Potter books. Better still, you may have read the book The Boggart by Susan Cooper.

In British folklore, a boggart was a house spirit, a creature that lived in a family’s home and, if treated nicely, might help out with chores. They might live in the closet under the staircase (shades of young Harry Potter himself), or perhaps out in a cozy corner of the barn with the animals, and were seldom seen.

In Germany, a similar creature was called a kobold. In Sweden, the little fellow was known as a tomte.

When in a helpful mood, the boggart might pitch in to milk the cows, churn the butter, feed the cattle, harness the horses, stack the grain in the field, etc. If cranky, though, especially due to insult or disrespect from the family, it might spook the cattle, turn loose the horses, curdle the cream, or play tricks like tying the tails of two cows together.

It also liked to pull the sheets off your bed in the middle of the night.

According to one description of an Irish boggart, the small fellow was about six inches in height, a red nightcap on his head, wore a leather apron, sported blue stockings, and smoked a tiny pipe. His face was “like a withered winter apple.”

There’s a nice tale of a boggart that was especially fond of pranks, and pestered the family so much that they decided to move from their cottage. They quietly loaded all their goods on a cart. As they were leaving, hoping to sneak away unnoticed, a neighbor passed by, and asked where they were going. The family looked back at the cottage and whispered that they were moving. To their surprise, the boggart poked his head out of the butter-churn strapped to the top of the pile on the cart. “Yep, we’re moving!” he called out. When the family realized the boggart was planning to go with them, they decided it was pointless to move, and unloaded the cart and decided to stay put.

The best thing about living with a boggart: if anything was accidentally knocked over or broken, you could blame it on the boggart.

The Boggart, by Susan CooperFor a great read, try Susan Cooper’s The Boggart:

“Sometimes extremely funny, sometimes wildly scary, and always totally absorbing, this remarkable story [is] brilliantly imagined and beautifully written. An outstanding achievement, The Boggart will work its special magic on all who read it.”

“Extremely funny, sometimes scary” –  sounds like the perfect spooky book.


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