WILSON: [reading from an encyclopedia] "P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large. The pooka appears here and there - now and then - to this one and that one - a benign but mischievous creature - very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?" —- "How are you, Mr. Wilson?" Who in the encyclopedia wants to know?
— Harvey (1950)
This creature is one of the many different types of fairy from (mostly Celtic) myth and legend, and bears very little resemblance to Harvey. It can take many different forms, but almost always has dark fur.
Like most of the Fair Folk pooka (also phouka, pucka, booka and similar names) are mercurial and unpredictable and have a strange idea of humour - in most of their guises they are prone to practical jokes and making a general nuisance of themselves, but have also been said to provide unexpected assistance to those in need and even perform extended labour for little or no reward. As usual, many cultures that recognise the presence of pooka also propitiate them with offerings - for example in parts of Ireland, a proportion of the harvest was left untouched in the field as the pooka's share … to which was then added anything left ungathered after the harvest festival.
The most common form for this creature to take is that of a large black horse with a sleek black coat and glowing yellow eyes. If the creature can get someone onto its back it will take them on a wild ride that they will return from changed, though the creature is not known to inflict any physical harm on its victims.
Note that this creature is - etymologically at least - related to Puck, the archetypal troublemaking fairy of English myth.
Game and Story Use
- In a fantasy game perhaps the characters need to be taught a lesson. This creature could be used much as the ghosts in A Christmas Carol were used to show the error of the characters ways. Or it could show them the consequences if they don't do something about big bad guy number 3.
- In a more modern game it could be a way to introduce the characters to the supernatural. Yes it is scary. Yes it is terrifying, but it isn't likely to really harm them.
- Or perhaps the modern world has twisted our trickster; perhaps where once it did no harm to its riders that is no longer the case. Now it could leave them in dangerous parts of town, or out in the middle of nowhere to try and hitchhike their way back home.
- It could appear as a sleek black sports car sitting with the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition of a less than appealing part of town- just waiting to take thieves and joy riders on the ride of their lives.
- A more human seeming Pooka might well indulge in the sort of confidence tricks that rely on the mark thinking that they are exploiting the con-artist … and might well reward those that point out its apparent mistake.
- Or perhaps modern cinema has affected it and now it does bear a resemblance to Harvey. Perhaps its particular brand of fun now involves being a creature that only one person can see and watching the mayhem as everyone else becomes convinced that they are mad.