This topic is broad and large, but we’re starting small. Eventually there will be many pages about different kinds of elves, faires, dwarves, merfolk, etc. found all over Northwestern Europe and connected with certain sites, legends, etc. But there us much to unravel. We’ll be getting there slowly…
Iron Age grave sites were associated with aardmannen. Their name litterally means ‘earth men’ – they can be compared to kobolds, goblins or dwarves. In Flanders they’re also known as alvermanneke or auvermanneke, linking them to alves. Generally they are linked to earth spirits who live in human houses – but they are less bound to these homes. Note the aforementioned connection to grave sites and other hilly areas where they live, often under the rule of a king. They are also connected to underground tunnels and even rabbit holes, especially in Limburg.
Aardmannen are considered to be lucky creatures as long as one stays on their good side. This can be done by giving them offerings of food and drink. They are helpful and help around the house in their own mysterious manners. In Flanders they wash the linen at night, in Limburg they polish the copper ware.
Around Hasselt people would put pots and pans at the ready, and leave a small bag of tobacco with them. Apparently aardmannen loved to smoke, since many aardmanspijpjes (small earth men pipes) have been found in the ground. These small, thick limestone pipes are also known as feeënpijpjes (small fairy pipes). The pipes are also found in other areas of Northwest Europe.
Aardmannen may be helpful, but they do have a dark side. Don’t anger them, because then your luck will be gone. Aardmannen also may leave a changeling in the place of a human baby.
Do you want to get rid of aardmannen, for whatever reason? They will leave if you bully them. They also detest the ringing bells of a clock. Another popular means (since many of these stories have been written down) is giving the aardman something strange to eat, or doing something else they consider very strange. A young man in Roermond (Limburg, Netherlands) had given the earth men old soles in his porridge. The oldest earth man said:
Ik ben zo oud / als het Echter Woud / Driemaal gensoeid / Driemaal geveld / En weer gewassen / Tot molenassen / Maar ik heb van mijn leven / Nooit schoenlappen in de brij gekregen!
I am as old / as the Echter Woods / thrice pruned / thrice cut / Ans waxed again / Into the axles of mills / But in all my life / I have never gotten soles in the porridge!
A kobold with the name Hans Joppen lived under a grave near Oss (Noord-Brabant, Netherlands). This place is known as the Joppenberg. Hans Joppen guided hikers who might otherwise get lost. There are also stories going around about this place, in which this grave is haunted by the ghost of a king.
Clerinx, Herman. Kelten en de Lage Landen. Leuven: Davidsfonds. 2005. (Second print.)
K. ter Laan. Folklore en Volkswijsheden in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Utrecht: Het Spectrum. 2005 (Third print).