A Tiddy Mun [‘little man’] is a yarthkin, a water fairy living in the Fens of the eastern counties of England, a region that largely lay under water until drains and ditches were put in. The countryside is still dotted with the old windmills that pumped the water. Its human inhabitants were thought to be strange and web-footed themselves, but they feared the marsh fairies and, going out at darkling every night bearing lights in their hands, went round their houses chanting charms to keep them off. A Tiddy Mun can summon the mists, call up disease from the marshes, and control the water. The old fenmen would appeal to the yarthkins to calm the floodwaters:
‘Tiddy Mun wi’out a name
Tha watters thruff!’
If they heard a noise like a peewit, they knew that the Tiddy Mun had heard them. Yarthkins are also connected with fertility. Offerings of bread and salt were placed on flat stones to solicit a good harvest.
A Tiddy Mun lives in the green water holes and comes out in the evenings when the mists rise into the twilight. He limps along like an old man and has long white hair and a long white beard, all matted and tangled, wearing a long drab gown that hides him in the mist or dusk. He whistles like the wind and laughs like a peewit.
The Tiddy Mun is thought to be better natured than most of the local fairies and often helps people, but he can be dangerous when angered. When the fens were drained, the Tiddy Muns became so angry that they brought pestilence on both children and cattle until they were pacified with offerings and prayers..
One particularly nasty yarthkin, called Yallery Brown[‘Yellowy Brown’], was once discovered by a man who found it moaning piteously beneath a stone, all cocooned in its own yellow hair. It offered him gifts in return for freeing it. The man had cause to regret his kindness, for Yallery Brown was the most evil thing that ever lived. All the help the man received caused more harm than good.
© Anna Franklin, The Fairy Ring Oracle, Llewellyn
Illustration © Paul Mason
 M.C.Balfour, Legends of the Cars, 1891
 M.C.Balfour Legends of the Cars, 1891
 Mrs M.C. Balfour, Legends of the Cars, 1891