Mythical Monday: The Moss People by Mae Clair

I feel like I’ve taken a leave of absence, and I guess I have. I was on vacation all last week, enjoying an end of summer fling at the shore. Now I’m officially ready to embrace fall, just in time for another Mythical Monday.

Dense forest with moss-covered treesWith the trees starting to turn color, I thought I’d creep into the forest where they grow in abundance, and spend some time with the Moss People or Wood Folk.

Germanic in origin, Moss People are a type of fairy, often compared to dwarves or elves. They have a strong affinity to trees and the forest. In many tales they are pursued by Odin during the Wild Hunt, and seek shelter by entering trees that have been scored with a cross—a sign a woodsman has marked the tree to be cut down. Some tales describe Wood Folk as gnarled and gray, covered with moss, in others they are said to be comely, endowed with wings like a butterfly.

An unassuming and shy people, they occasionally borrow items from humans, but compensate for any loan generously. Above all, they prize a gift of maternal breast milk from a human woman, something they covet for their own children as a remedy for all ills. Timid by nature, it is hard for them to beseech such a boon, perhaps the reason they choose to reward such generosity in abundance.

Legends of the Moss People are most popular in the forests of Bavaria in southern Germany, and parts of Scandinavia. In closing, this description of a Moss Woman is taken from “The Moss Woman and the Widow,” a tale of southern Germany, shared in The Fairy Family, a series of ballads related to fairy mythology:

“A Moss Woman!” the haymakers cry,
And over the fields in terror they fly.
She is loosely clad from neck to foot,
In a mantle of moss from the maple’s root.
And like lichen grey on its stem that grows,
Is the hair that over her mantle flows.

Her skin like the maple-rind is hard,
Brown and ridgy and furrowed and scarred;
And each feature flat, like the mark we see,
Where a bough has been lopped from the bole of a tree.

As unassuming as she seems, doesn’t it make you wonder why the haymakers flee?

22 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Moss People by Mae Clair

  1. Interesting post about the Moss People legend. It makes me think of all those Sci-Fi movies that show other beings from parallel worlds that coexist with us. ( I think they become less and less Sci-Fi). The green color is a positive one but, frankly, I wouldn’t spend a night alone in the woods. Thanks for sharing this legend!

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    • Hi, Carmen. You’d never catch me alone at night in the woods, either. Yikes! And the name “moss people” does sound like some kind of sci-fi invasion movie, doesn’t it? Return of the Moss People…Revenge of the Moss People. I hadn’t thought of that but sure appreciate the chuckle 😀

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    • I love trees, but really liked the gem stone post on your blog, Flossie.:) I have a short story I wrote many years ago centered around trees and spirits. Maybe I need to dig that out and dust it off. Trees always make such a great subject!

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    • Hi, Daisy! Thanks for the welcome back. I missed connecting with everyone while I was away. I think the poor Moss People got a bad rap in that fairy tale, especially given they’re supposed to be so generous and shy. They would be nice helpers to have around I think!

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  2. Mae, hope you had a wonderful vacation. I’m sure it gave you lots more inspiration too. 🙂 So it sounds like all the stuff I can’t keep track of is being “borrowed” by the moss folks. LOL Hope they have a good inventory system for when I want it back!

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    • Just remember they’ll reward you generously for all of that stuff they’ve borrowed. Start thinking now about what you need…maybe they’re a bit like fairy godmothers, LOL. And yes, vacay, was the best. I plotted a good portion of my NaNo project for November!

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  3. Hope you had a great holiday! I could use one LOL I was intrigued by the poem. At the end, she doesn’t sound too lovely.
    Her skin like the maple-rind is hard,
    Brown and ridgy and furrowed and scarred;
    And each feature flat, like the mark we see,
    Where a bough has been lopped from the bole of a tree.

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    • I love vacations! There’s an old song by the group Klaatu about how “everyone took a holiday” and just decided to stop working one day. A perpetual holiday. Wouldn’t that be great? And yeah, the Moss woman was clearly not the comely/butterfly type in this poem! 🙂

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  4. Welcome back from your holiday.
    Forests hold the most fascinating legends and fairy tales. I love forests, but they can be eerie places. Having recently watched Willow Creek, I won’t be venturing into one again anytime soon. I hadn’t heard of the moss people, but they seem to be a gentle folk.

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    • So well said about forests, Emma. They are both beautiful and eerie. Perhaps that is why the turn up so frequently in folklore and myths. I had to look up Wiilow Creek. I’m drawn by the Bigfoot stuff so I’m tempted to watch it, but I am kind of a wuss when it comes to movies.

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