Dear Folklore Agony Aunt
On cold winter nights, I occasionally see a hob lolloping from a hobs hole (now called Hobshole Lane) across our housing estate to the end of an old Roman road (probably an intersection with a much older trackway). He follows his own path which includes my garden, going through a pyracantha bush, nature’s own barbed wire. I don’t think he is on the same time continuum – I think he thinks he’s just following a path over heathland (the previous landscape) – but I’ve seen him flounder in the pyracantha, puzzled by this invisible impediment. I’ve cut the pyracantha down as far as I can, left a saucer of milk as an apology, but is there anything else I can do? What can we dwellers of suburbia do to help our natural sprites?
Lichfield Orc, Lichfield
Dear Lichfield Orc
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been well stumped (technical term) over this problem. I think mainly because I can’t really see where the problem lies, as your hob seems quite set on his route and although perturbed by the pyracantha doesn’t seem to want to make detour. I think you’ve already been wonderfully accommodating with some judicious pruning and the leaving of victuals, but if you feel you need to do more, you might want to consider the following.
A hob (see also hobman, hobthrush, hobgoblin, lob, pixie, brownie, dobby, puck, boggart etc) can’t abide laziness, so continuing to maintain your garden will, quite literally, earn you brownie points. You can also make sure that his path is clear of any cold iron or holy water, and under no circumstances mention it’s a Sunday should he come trotting through on that particular day (hobs are a little touchy about Sundays).
You could also switch up your food offering. For example, just because you perceive your hob to be in a different time continuum, doesn’t mean he’s not lactose intolerant. As your hob is an outdoor chap, rather than milk, try leaving out a small glass of ale, a bucket of water, or a honey-smeared oatcake on a flat stone instead.
But the best piece of advice I can give is treat your hob like Tom Cruise. Just as the acting superstar gets hot under the collar at even the merest hint of incidental eye contact, your hob will not thank you for looking at him. In fact, if you keep looking at him, he won’t be able to leave, and a pissed off hob is not something you want in your vicinity. At the moment his presence ensures good fortune, so give his wanderings a bit of privacy and everything will remain coming up roses.
One final thought on his route. You’re worried about your pyracantha being an impediment, but has it occurred to you that the firethorn might be what’s attracting the hob to your garden in the first place? Firethorn is said to draw good people to it, and much like its close cousin the hawthorn, repulse bad ones. Maybe by going through the pyracantha he is declaring himself to be of kind heart. But also, given that the Victorians took against firethorns because they’re said to smell of sex, you might just have a horny hob on your hands.
So while a city council like say Lichfield, may change a road name from say Hobshole Lane to Valley Lane, collective memory has a habit of lingering, as seemingly so does your hob. So I wouldn’t worry too much about your hob’s continuing presence. If making his hole persona non grata among the hoi poloi, and building a housing estate over his territory hasn’t been enough to drive him off, other than leaving him a piece of clothing, salting his path or dropping tactical horseshoes in his way, I think you can pretty much be assured he’s not going anywhere. Apart from through your pyracantha, obviously.
The Folklore Agony Aunt
Ps. If you have any further suggestions for Lichfield Orc, please leave them in the comments below.
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