Whilst researching the Brown Man of the Muirs appearance at Hermitage Castle, I came across another legend of the Faery kind, the Redcap advisor to Lord Soulis.
According to legend, Lord Soulis was a cruel tyrant, wizard, and practitioner of the Black Arts. He is said to have fortified his castle by all available means, using both materials and infernal incantations, and recieved advice from his familiar and henchman, Robin Redcap. Redcaps, also known as powries or dunters, are said to be a breed of evil goblins with a lust for blood. They mostly inhabit ruined castles along the border between England and Scotland, where they murder travellers to dye their hats with their victims' blood. It is said that if the blood on their hats dries out, then the redcap will die. From Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802):
"Lord Soulis he sat in Hermitage castle.
And beside him Old Redcap sly ;
" Now tell me, thou sprite, who art meikle of might,
The death that I must die ?"
" While thou -shalt bear a charmed life.
And hold that life of me,
'Gainst lance and arrow, sword and knife,
I shall thy warrant be."
It was said that Lord Soulis could not be killed by metal weapons, but was eventually defeated at the orders of the King of Scotland. According to Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802):
"Tradition proceeds to relate, that the Scotish king, irritated by reiterated complaints, peevishly exclaimed to the petitioners," Boil him, if you please, but let me hear no more of him." Satisfied with this answer, they proceeded with the utmost haste to execute the commission, which they accomplished by boiling him alive on the Nine-stane Rig, in a cauldron said to have been long preserved at Skelf-hill, a hamlet betwixt Hawick and the Hermitage. Messengers, it is said, were immediately dispatched by the king, to prevent the eft'ects of such a hasty declaration ; but they only arrived in time to witness the conclusion of the ceremony."
Robin Redcap is said to still be seen at Hermitage Castle, guarding his treasure. I'm glad to say that on our visit we did not encounter Redcap, but as the castle is open to the public every summer, i'm sure there's no shortage of victims!
Sources and Further Information
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Vol 2, Walter ScottUndiscovered Scotland, Hermitage Castle