Festive Goblins: Tips and Tricks

Christmas Eve.  The Festive Goblin infestation will be at it’s peak.  You could just give in and watch them boil sprouts from green to grey mush…   Or you could fight back, declare your hatred of figgy pudding and say this pine-needles-in-my-shoes business is unacceptable.  But how do you fight back?  Santa is coming soon, with angelic little elves who fart cinnamon puffs.  You have to be on your best behaviour.  But where there’s a will there’s a way.

1. Sellotape

Do you find your sellotape always in the wrong place this time of year or missing entirely?  The Festive Goblins have confiscated it.  They’ve scurried away with it, held rather gingerly in those pair of tongs that are probably missing too.  It’s fine for them when it’s all rolled up, they play with it like a hoola-hoop.


But when humans start sticking stuff with it: that’s when the fun begins.  They just can’t resist some mindlessly cheerful intervention.  Festive Goblins are already quite sticky creatures; introduce Sellotape and bam!  You’ve got a walking ball of stickiness!  So hunt down your tape and wrap your presents with evil glee…  Knowing the wee blighters who emptied your online basket of presents last week are in for a sticky-squishy surprise!


2. The Blue Cheese In the Bauble Experiment

This may be a bit extreme but if your house is over-run with raucous carol music you might consider this.  Festive Goblins are drawn to baubles like toddlers are attracted to yellow snow: it’s irresistible.  Moslty they swing and ping! and smash! and bounce the baubles to one another like goblin sized beach balls.  You always put less baubles back in the box than you took out.  So this year I took advantage of the bauble-bashing peskies.  I fed crumbs of some particularly whiffy blue cheese inside tiny holes I had made in a box of chintzy* baubles.   Now, I should point out that goblins of all kind shrink and grow to suit their trouble-making needs.  They couldn’t resist.

*Anything tasteful will not work.


The Festive Goblins magicked into tiny pea-sized critters and jumped in.  After feasting on the smelly cheese crumbs they, I imagine, looked about the bauble.  How to get back up?  The walls are smooth and slippy, they can’t be climbed.  Oh, we’ll just magic into something bigger!

And voila!  You see the effect?  They’re hard little hands and feet might smash through but they’re soft-squashy-clementine bodies could not!  You should hear the tinsel-spitting swear words their merry little mouths spat out!  It was delightful.  I’ve posted a dozen goblin baubles to an Auld Hag who once said my red shoes were ‘garish’.


3. The Real Secret

This is tough one.  I mean it’s nigh-on impossible but it’s really the only truly effective way.

To quote an ancient (and bit dodgy) script that mentions humans’ plight with goblins:

“Ye onley wey to ridd yefelf of impertinant pefkies… it bee to have yefelf a jollie goode JigglyUppe.”

That’s right.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Sing.  Hug people.  Eat till your jeans rip.  Talk to your family.  (I realise this last one is particularly shocking.)  It works a treat.  They can’t stand it.  One year, after a board game, good conversation and giggling fit, I spied one Festive Goblin self-combust.  Humans’ having limitless fun is something most faeries are uncomfortable with.  They just don’t get it.  There’s no impaling or armpit sniffing or Eyebrow Knitting Contests.  Especially for Festive Goblins, it frazzles their brains and makes their feet all sweaty.  It drives them nuts.  Crackers.  Christmas Crackers to be precise.

So, my advice to you, is have a very Merry Christmas.  Go on, stick it to them, and have a ball.


All works, illustrations and useless advice copyright to Ellen Forkin. 

Festive Goblins

It’s the 1st December.  It’s happening.  I’ve been putting off writing this – not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I have to break it to you.  Your house is infested with Festive Goblins.  Sounds fun?  If you like to be attacked with spontaneous clouds of glitter* then sure.

*Festive goblins are single handedly responsible for all glitter-bombs in Christmas cards.  Forgive your Aunt Sybil, it was glitter free when she posted it. 

Yes, it’s all fun and games until you get your tinsel in a tangle.  You’ll wake up to find your gingerbread house invaded by pointy-eared squatters.  You’ll go to sleep, wondering why you spontaneously bought a flashing Rudolph jumper online.  Here’s the menace behind your problems…

How to Spot a Festive Goblin:


Don’t be fooled, they may be cheerful, but it’s a dangerous cheerful.  It’s a ‘eat-this-mince-pie-or-choke-on-a-cashew-nut’ kind of cheerful.  And they’re hard to spot.  So really this diagram is pointless.  Still, forewarned is forearmed.  Guard your bundt cakes and look out for tiny footprints around your sleigh.  They are not above sabotage.

Other Clues:


Festive Goblins are easier to smell.  Dead Christmas Tree and Eau de Sprout are their fragrances.  As for noise, listen for activity in your biscuit tins.*  Ever got a Christmas song stuck in your head?  It will be the work of the wee blighters.  They tiptoe onto your pillow while you sleep and crouch by your ear.  Softly, softly, they whisper: “Last Christmas, I gave you a tart, but the berry next day, you gave me a sleigh…”  Yes, it’s creepy, I told you not to get drawn in by the cheerful looks.  And yes, they don’t know all the words, so you’ve been singing it wrong all this time.

*They also go mad in chocolate selection boxes – you’ll find sweet disappearing at an alarming rate.

Now it’s December, the goblins are going to go wild.  They will infiltrate shops, make television cheesy, and force families to decorate their houses with bearded fat men.  So what can you do…?  Don’t worry, I’m forming a plan.  I mean, do worry a little bit.  Just don’t cry.  They’ll start to sing.


All artwork, words, and festive warnings belong Ellen.  She’s in one of her ‘all-is-doom’ moods. 



Orkney Science Festival 2017

A while ago I ventured out into humankind and attended three talks at Orkney’s International Science Festival.

I took my trusty father, notebook, and listening ears and enjoyed learning things from research instead of goblin-hearsay.  The first talks theme: here be dragons!

Dragons in the Darkness

Slovenian dragons to be precise… Marco Frelih spoke about serpentine beasties and dislodged dragon’s teeth that formed giant, jagged rocks in the sea.  He told tales of watery swamp dragons, cave dragons, and the rooster/snake that is the basilisk.  These dragons could cause natural disasters, or in the latter case, petrify you dead with one stern look.  A favourite, I believe of a few of us, was the beautiful grave dragon, crafted out of shells, to guard a loved one in the afterlife.  This was found in Egypt, where dragons protect all treasures, not just gold.

Illustration of a Slovenian basilisk















In my drawing of a Slovenian basilisk, I was guided by both Mr Frelih’s descriptions and the unhelpful suggestions from Fropeggi and Cogg.  So if it does, or does not, look like a basilisk, don’t blame the lecturer, blame the artist and impertinent goblins in her ear.  Another confusing factor was that the male ‘rooster-footed’ basilisk hatched eggs and lurked in wells.  I think Cogg over-exaggerated it’s ‘eeenormous’ size.



The Men of Maes Howe

The second talk was given by my very good friend Ragnhild Ljosland who has taught me many things: including Viking runes, Norwegian trolls, and Orkney dialect… now we ventured onto Vikings and Hogboys!

We learnt about the Viking men who broke into a Neolithic burial chamber called Maes Howe.  Raggie spoke about all manner of hogboy and hogboon who guard mounds such as these and the men who encounter them.  My brain lit up with pictures… Unfortunately I haven’t got my sketches sorted yet, because of health, and a baby troll who is using my drawing hand as a teether.  I did attempt to draw the Hogboy of Maeshowe – a mighty spirit who sparked the imaginations of marauding Vikings.  He may, or may not, go by the name King Orki.  I have not quite captured him on paper yet.  Partly because local trows howl warnings at me that King Orki ‘must-be-not disturbed’ or ‘observed too-close-like’!  He’s a bit of an enigma, which is quite something coming from faeries who happily live amongst humans.  Especially as said humans don’t believe they faeries exist.

Sketch of a ‘neepy-heid-hogboy’

So, in the future, I will draw King Orki, The Hogboy of Maes Howe, and get to the bottom of The Curious Incident of No Lights in the Nighttime.  But for now, I’ll share with you my sketch of a ‘neepy-heid-hogboy’ who haunts a few local farmers.  He lurks in neep fields and can be scared away with the phrase “Get oot o hid, Clapshot!”



The Amazing Mr Tesla! 

Thirdly, we ventured into a realm so full of science my poor brain nearly self-combust.

Andrej Detela, physicist and inventor, enlightened us (pardon the pun) on the life and work of Nicola Tesla.  I will have to admit, it was a bit over my wave-lenght (pardon the pun) and my Dad absorbed most of it.  Physics was never my strong point.  And to be fair,  concentrating whilst an Electric-Buzz Sprite is zapping your toes is not my strong point either.  He was momentarily stunned with how Tesla manipulated electric currents, making them wavy and undulating, so they travelled farther.  (He has been practicing this ever since.)  A few trows hooted appreciatively* when the speaker said Tesla was superstitious of women and thought they might distract him from his work.  (*Trow-wives are particularly fierce and I once heard a trow-husband was sautéed in a frying pan and fed to pigeons)

Through each talk, trow, goblin and sprite activity was rife.  Trows gathered dust and softly blew it into people’s nasal passages to spur on coughing fits.  Trows snuck inbetween the chairs of the audience, whipping up ‘dropsie-spells’.  The speaker was interrupted by the occasional thud of a notebook dropping to the floor.  Thankfully, the mischievous hogboy of mobile phone tunes was engaged with the lecturers’ powerpoint presentations.

The Electric-Buzz Sprite


The Electric-Buzz Sprite is 70% benevolent but is not to be taunted or provoked.  (Looking at you, Megrani.)  He mostly is mischeivious to dull humans, livening up a touch with a tiny electric shock, or causing power-cuts during their favourite television programmes.


Seeing as this post is for the science festival, I decided to draw all these using modern technology: my Apple Pencil on the Procreate App for iPad.  There were many glitches from aforementioned baby troll tugging on my elbow.

I enjoyed all three talks immensely, and though I haven’t relayed their subjects in any depth, I hope they can see how much inspiration was drawn from them.

Now off to try draw that King Orki….




The Orkney International Science Festival

Web: www.oisf.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/orkneyscience

Twitter: @OrkSciFest



Marko Frehli of the  Slovene Ethnographic Museum (via visitljubljana.com)

Dr Ragnhild Ljosland at Orkney’s Centre of Nordic Studies 

Andrej Detela, physicist and inventor, Life and Work







Cogg’s Report

It’s starting.  It’s only September but the cheery little mintsuckers are coming out of hibernation.  I can’t speak of them yet, with their cinnamon scented underwear and fairy-light fetish and we WILL NOT mention last year’s fiasco where the wee blighters attempted to sculpt presents out of reindeer droppings.

Don’t be frightened of Bird-Skull-Bill, he’s harmless, if not a bit gloomy.

Instead, we’ll calmly worry about Bird-Skull-Bill.  He’s been awfully low for reasons only he and passing clouds can understand.  He’s been wandering around our farm all summer, picking up moulted feathers from our ducks, chickens, and geese.  What he uses them for, I can never truly be sure.  However, I do hear scratching in my loft where I suspect he writes intricate and morbid poetry using a fine goose-feather quill.  And I also suspect –


Oh hogsbottom!  I can’t concentrate.  A malevolent jingle-bell tinkling is radiating from underneath the sofa.  I can also hear ghostly strands of Fairytale of New York and the air is positively toxic with squirrelled away fir cones and Brussel sprouts.

Here’s Cogg to the rescue.  He’s my new impish friend, who is now perched on the edge of my laptop, swinging his tiny feet.  Cogg’s only a littlun; not only because he is the approximate size of a thumb with legs, but also he’s very ‘new be born’.  Usually I would send him back home, but I hear he’s from a particularly ghastly faerie orphanage, where they make you lick lichen for dinner.  So Cogg is living in an old wellyboot (his choice) and I’ve sent him to investigate and report back on any sightings.  But sightings of what, you ask?

A quick jot of Cogg, who is shy of being drawn

“How bad is it, Cogg?”

“Thurs everywur, Muss Ellum!” the little imp squeaks, darting his eyes left and right. “Thurs murbee hiding, but thurs in every nook and crunny… waiting for the Big Fat Man to sing.”

Oh dear.  It’s happening sooner each year.  It’s only autumn but… Be warned!

They’re coming.

They’re jolly.

And they’re obsessed with mince pies.



All art and words belong to Miss Ellen Forkin, who does not take responsibility for threatening festivity. 



A Bumpy Night 

Last night: sleepless and spooked.  Things with spidery eyes hopped and lurched in the darkness.  Howling heads floated from the shadows.  A sickening thump under the bed jolted me upright.

Here be monsters?  Bumps and Boos, Trupptrink calls them.

“You’re not helping,” I whispered, shuffling out of bed.

I tootled, in my whizzy wheelchair, down the dark corridor with biscuits in mind.  It’s hard to be scared while you’re eating biscuits.  I stopped off at a be-shadowed room, in search of a murderous book or Disney film.  Both can induce sleepiness.  Eyes too blurry to read, I selected a film I could listen to, instead of watch.

I hurtled towards the kitchen.  My red and green lights on the wheelchair blinked like evil eyes.   Due to my expert steering, my wheels screeched against the radiator.  A blood-sucking snizz and guzzling gizzart threw sugar and pencil shavings at me.  It seems the ‘Bumps and Boos’ were a little spooked themselves by the speeding monster and it’s hungry occupant.

I messily gobbled down digestives.

“She eats hunks for breakfast,” Trupptrink spoke to unseen shape-shifters in the shadows.  Whatever did he mean?

“I do not,” I scoffed.  “All muscle, no flavour.”

No tea: my ‘chugga-chug’ contraption that spews out hot water was mysteriously broken. Trupptrink murmured something indistinct about a goblin hot-tub party.  I unsuccessfully tried to prise open a bottle of apple juice.  My face contorted into a scrunched up grimace.  I happened to glance the way of the guzzling gizzart who froze rigid.  Another jar-opening gadget was fished out from a cluttered draw.  I looped the it round the plastic lid like a hangmans noose.  I twisted the cap off, agonisingly slow.  The guzzling gizzart fainted.  He thought he was next.

In the lounge, I shakily detached myself from the wheelchair.  The Three Heads looked aghast, as if I had just plucked my head from my shoulders.  Which is ironic, if you think about it.  The shape-shifters shiftily watched me in a mild horror as I swore at the unreliable TV devices and attacked another digestive.  Eventually I slumped onto the sofa, cocooning myself in a fluffy blanket.

“She’s metamorphosing into something worse!” someone gasped.  A ring of sugary pencil shavings were cautiously sprinkled around the sofa.  I offered the guzzling gizzart a digestive.  It shreiked and hopped away.  The dog woke up, happily crunched the rejected biscuit, and huffed back to sleep beside me.

I peered blearily at the three ghostly heads, dripping words of doom and bad things to come.  I asked Trupptrink if they were talking of my own particular future.

“Yoo’s unlucky anyways,” he said, in almost perfect human-speech.  “But no, it’s a general announcement, like yon’s weather-lassie on the tellyvish.”

“In that case,” I turned to the Three Heads. “Could you please keep it down, I like this bit.”  I pointed to the telly, the film flickering.  They stared at it mournfully.  I heard grumblings about ‘humans today’ and ‘no respect for bad omens’.

The sun was already creeping into the night, although it was only 3.30am.  Or was it 4am?  I blearily stared at the time and a yawn crept out.  “Time’s for bed,” Trupptrink ordered. “I’ll come with you.”

I trundled towards bed, shuffling under the duvet.  The dark had colour to it, the night lightening with every glance.  Still, I shuddered.

“Why were they throwing that stuff at me, Truppy?” I asked the goblin, squashed uncomfortably between me and the wall.  Trupptrink dislikes being called ‘Truppy’ so his answer was blunt.

“They’s scared of you!  They thinks you’re a horrible, evil human who will murder them!”

“Me?”  I thought back to the film I just switched off, the animals singing a chirpy song.  I knew every word.

“Yes, you!” he bonked me on the nose.  “It’s just like humans, some think salt and iron will protect themfrom us ferries.” “And some ferries think sugar and pencil-curlings will protect them from humans.”

I resisted a giggle.  By ‘ferries‘, he means ‘faeries‘.

“So… it doesn’t work?” I asked sleepily.  “The salt and iron or other stuff.”

“Who beknows?” he snapped.  “Not me.  Go a-sleepus.”

I snuggled further into my pillow, the duvet up to my nose.  I shut my eyes but still slinking shadows flickered in my thoughts.  In return, I flickered my eyes open.  A hunk loomed over my bed, spiky club in hand.  I squeaked, sure he was going to batter me.  (You know, to death, not deep-fried with chips.)  Without warning: wa-thump!  He walloped my pillow, killing a spider.  I opened my mouth to say I didn’t condone the killing of spiders… Trupptrink pinched my arm.

“Betters not to argue, eh,” he whispered.  He politely waved to the hunk, who lumbered off.  “See?  They’re not so badly.  No need to be frightened.”

“I am a bit scared,” I admitted.  He patted my nose, more affectionatley this time.

“So were the digestive biscuits.”



All artwork and text by Ellen Forkin – do not try to copyright or a blood-sucking snizz WILL find you. 

A Night of Storytelling

I was delighted that, with permission from my troupe of goblins, I could enjoy an evening out: a storytelling event at my local bookshop.  I thought I should go along, and hear some Orkney tales from a human’s perspective for once.  The story of the man lured into the fairy hill for a year varied wildly from Guppo’s Trow-Foot’s version.

The human storyteller’s in question were Tom Muir and Fran Flett Hollinrake.  They told their tales beautifully –  even Trupptrink shut up his grumblings to listen.  Some stories told the miracles of St Magnus: the Saint, Martyr, and Viking Good Guy.  I decided not to sketch one of his many miracles involving wolves regurgitating human flesh.  We heard  a bad-breathed polar bear escapade from Shetland and a personal account of an irritable guardian-angel-type figure.  And, of course, we were also treated to folktales from the hills and households of Orkney.

As you might expect, I tried to capture a few of the images flitting about the room, by snagging them to paper.  I decided to do little illustrations to two of the tales.


The Changeling

Tom Muir told of a baby whisked away by fairies…  It was replaced by an ugly, wizened changeling, who wailed day and night.  The changeling however gave the game away when it demanded, in a gruff voice, whiskey from the baby sitter.

FullSizeRender-5    FullSizeRender-6


Here he is: yowling blue murder in his cot, then playing his penny whistled created with straw from the byre.  I’ve never met this faery, but I hear he sometimes busks outside Orkney whiskey distilleries, hoping for a free dram.


Baby Dragon

Another image to captivate my inner-eye, was a tale that included a cute baby dragon.

St Magnus – a different fella to Orkney’s Magnus – performed miracles in Germany by slaying troublesome dragons.  Personally I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding between human and dragon, but these were olden times and people don’t appreciate being eaten.


Anyway, St Magnus the Dragon Slayer spared this wee hatchling because of it’s innocence.  And because it was adorable, obviously.  The saved dragon is still mooching around the Swiss hills, thoroughly miffed with humans, as we all come to be eventually.  Best leave him be.



FullSizeRender-7I had a delightful evening, and so did everyone else by the look of it.  I was particularly pleased that no books were shredded by the sprites who escaped from my handbag.  And I successfully managed to convince an ogre not to read melancholy poetry that can last up to eight hours.

Take a look at the Orcadian Story Trust (links below), and if you’re in Orkney, watch out for future Storytelling Festival events.  If you see an harassed looking English lady in the audience, swatting invisible pixies from her hair, and whispering to her shoulder, that’s me!

Orcadian Story Trust Website

Orcadian Story Trust on Facebook

@OrkneyStoF on Twitter

Other Links:

Books by Tom Muir

Fran Flett Hollinrake’s Blog

Orkney FolkLore Storytelling Centre

Info on St Magnus and Dragons


All words and artworks created by Ellen and belongs to a cantankerous goblin called Trupptrink.  

The Selkie’s Song

“What is that noise?” 

We, my parents, my dog and I, were walking along our ‘special secret beach’ just yesterday.   Deerness beaches are beyond beautiful and bursting with enchantment, but being a dweller of this small parish, I’m biased. 

A Deerness beach looking out to the island of Copinsay and its small friend.

It was a beautiful summer’s day for Orkney: soft sunshine soothing your skin, the sky settled, the clouds lazy, the sand warm.  And, most peculiar of all, there was only the faintest tickle of a breeze.  Highly unusual.  

Perhaps because of the lack of ear-thumping wind, sounds from far away carried across the dazzling blue sky.  I’m not talking about the common sounds.  Kids squealing in water fights and lawnmowers droning on and on.  This was the strangest natural sound we’ve ever stumbled upon.

It was eerie.  An other-worldly wail arising from the ocean.  It encouraged thoughts of mermaids lamenting, a kraken keening in far off lands, or Finfolk singing in an underwater choir.   Could it be the ghosts of sailors mourning sunken ships, sunken fellows, sunken souls?  Could it a selkie mother, returned to the sea, calling for her human children, who she left behind? 

Maybe, maybe not.  But selkies I’m sure it was.

The stage of the selkie’s song… with a small skerry at it’s centre.

It is not easy to spot on this photo (above), but there is small ragged skerry, right on the horizon.  On it, were small grey lumps, the unmistakable blobs of seals.  I cannot be sure, but I feel those seals were singing.  A beautiful echo of distant voices, bouncing off the waves, skimming the sky, filling the beach with their music.  It is a spectacle to be heard to be appreciated.  There was no chill air that day, but still we got goosebumps. 

A selkie’s song…

There are many stories of selkies, their coming to shore, their deep sea adventures, their unparalleled beauty and enchanting songs.  I imagine all those who have trod these islands before me, their stories, their lore, their songs.  The two are wonderfully connected.  These were insightful and poetic people, in love and in awe of their wild home.  

It is easy for us today to deem the people of the past ‘ignorant’ and ‘simple’ folk who believe in fairy tales.  Live in their world, experience this wonder… you will be listening to selkies in no time. 

A footnote:

Monty was unimpressed with the eerie sounds and stunning views.  Instead he tried to dig up a burrowing Sea-Fumbit.  Sea-Fumbit unharmed, if not a little irritated to be woken before nightfall.  Dog unharmed, if not a little stunned to be squawked at and have his tennis ball stolen.  
All photos and artwork created and belong to Ellen and her beasties. 

Look Out For Meadow-Sprites! 

It’s a sprigwurrgan!  Nearly trod on one in the tall summer grass.  There’s hundreds of them about this time of year, freshly emerged from their burrows, drawn by the wild flowers.  They are overly protective of rabbits, and will attempt to twang your foot* if you startle one.  Sprigwurrgans, a species of meadow-sprite, are happy, little creatures, that can often be heard softly whirring in meadows and other grassy spots.  Though harmless, I wouldn’t advise keeping one as a pet.  

Watch your step for this here Sprigwurrgan, a type meadow-sprite.
*Foot Twanging: Have you ever been walking quite normally, say in nice field amongst sprigwurrgans, when suddenly you find your foot striking the ground at an odd angle, and your ankle twisting in a peculiar way?  After effects may be a tingly knee, slight embarrassment, and/or a beetle in your boot.  Many Faeries practice this fine sport, mostly on oblivious human subjects, and it is a favourite lawn game amongst Faerie dignitary. 

Note: Sprigwurrgans are not to be mistaken for those wee peskies: grass sods.  

All artwork belongs to Ellen Forkin and a hysterical ogre who dislikes porridge. 


You may have heard me talk of Megrani – or a variation of that name, it changes as often as the wind.  She’s an ancient Orkney witch, who wingbeats over these islands as a raven or hooded crow or, when in town, a jackdaw.

She is wise, mischievous, and only a touch malevolent.  I won’t lie; she dishes out ugly curses, embrasssing bewitchments like all the world has wronged her.  Maybe it has?  She has cursed me more times than I can can count.  Mostly she will curse my hand, so I cannot draw for a week or more.  Despite the heartbreak and frustration, I can never quite muster any hatred for her.  She’s an owld crowie witchety fiend, but also a friend. 

I’ve recently made a kind of shrine for her, and for all crows.  It’s not glamorous, just a large blue plastic lid screwed to the fence.  On it, I gift her an egg, or some other food treat.  I also plan to place small, shiny objects, as like all corvids, she loves trinkets that glitter like rain and starlight.  An old spoon, a silver chain, a shiny button.  I hope she likes them.  And if she doesn’t, I will no doubt be plagued with a mysterious toothache before the week is out.

All art and witterings copyrighted to Ellen Forkin, lest ye be cursed.