Who are the Redcaps? The Monsters from Northumbrian Folkore Featuring in the North Star

Updated: 2023

The upcoming novel the North Star will be the first ever epic fantasy saga set primarily in Sunderland and the North East, and with it brings its own interpretation of a monstrous creature derived from Northumbrian folklore, referred to as “Redcaps“.

Depicted as man-like monsters with a Goblin like appearance, the Redcaps are shown in the story as having a grey-green skin, yellow eyes and are unsurprisingly violent. While we shouldn’t give away too many overt spoilers about the role or origin of these creatures, it is nonetheless obvious that they will serve as antagonists to the main character, Sophie Scott and will in turn, appear throughout Sunderland.

When one digs into the story and its underlying message, it will soon become apparent that the inspiration for “Redcaps”, despite being derived from Nmythology, is a commentary on social delinquency in Sunderland which plagues young men, with anger, disillusionment and a lack of direction in life literally turning them into “monsters” in the metaphorical sense. In doing so, the modern interpretation of these characters skilfully adds to a longstanding Northumbrian folklore of legendary malevolent creatures of the same name who live around the Anglo-Scottish Border. The Redcap is already an established local legend, we just never knew about it.

The Redcap is in local folkore, a goblin or monster of sorts. His appearance is very similar to that depicted in the series, often described as a “short, thickset old man with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers armed with talons like eagles, large eyes of a fiery red colour, grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand, and a red cap on his head”- the red colour being derived from the soaked blood of his victims. They are said to dwell in abandoned castles. Some stories depict them as spirits than physical monsters, which like to haunt old Scottish towers accordingly.

The creature also features in the Harry Potter Universe too, being referenced in the third film, but is only a subject of lore or discussion than a physical character, which is inevitable given Rowling actively incorporates swathes of mythological creatures into her work. However, it is fair to say that the North Star has created a wholly unique twist on these figures in depicting them as a representation of chavs, yobs and “lost souls” of post-industrial northern England. The Redcaps are Northern England’s very own fairytale monsters, but here will be seeing them as a reflection of our own society.