The name comes from the coat of shells these creatures are said to wear, which rattle upon movement.
Many places on the coast of Scotland have names that reference the shellycoat. Supposedly, shellycoats are particularly fond of the area around the River Hermitage.
Shellycoats are considered to be relatively harmless; they may mislead wanderers, particularly those they think are trespassing upon the creature's territory, but without malice. A common tactic of a shellycoat would be to cry out as if drowning and then laugh at the distracted victim.
A pück [home-sprite] served the monks of a Mecklenburg monastery for thirty years, in kitchen, stall and elsewhere; he was thoroughly good-natured, and only bargained for 'tunicam de diversis coloribus, et tintinnabulis plenam.' [a "parti-coloured coat with tinkling bells"] In Scotland there lived a goblin Shellycoat, and we saw (p. 465) that the dwarfs of the Mid. Ages also loved bells [schellen; and schellenkappe is Germ. for cap and bells]. The bells on the dress of a fool still attest his affinity to the shrewd and merry goblin (fol, follet); see Suppl.
Another name by which the domestic spirit was known in some parts of Scotland was Shellycoat, of which the origin is uncertain.
The domestic nature of the shellycoat emphasized by Grimm and Keightly stands in contradistinction to the wild nature of the water sprites mentioned in other sources.
- Briggs, Katharine Mary. The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature. University of Chicago Press, London, 1967.
- Grimm, Jacob. Deutsche Mythologie. Vollständige Ausgabe. Marix Verlag: Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-86539-143-8. English version at Northvegr Grimm's Teutonic Mythology Translation Project. Available online at http://www.northvegr.org/lore/grimmst/017_14.php
- Keightley, Thomas. The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries. 1870. Available online at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm130.htm.
- The Letters of Joseph Ritson, Esq By Joseph Ritson, Joseph Frank, Nicholas Harris Nicolas, William Pikering, London, 1833
- Briggs, pp. 58–59.
- Chapter 17, p. 4.
- Latin translation following Keightly.
- Keightly, 1870, in the section "Brownie".
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