An imp is a mythological being like a fairy or goblin, frequently described in folklore and superstition. They can be ugly little trouble makers. Their faces are like thin stone frequently twisted into a smirk or a grimace. They have big ears, sometimes horns, and leathery bat-like wings. Their skin may be a reddish brown, or gray and scaly. Imps walk with an unpleasant hunch.
Imps are pranksters who know how to switch babies in cradles. They lead people astray in the wilderness. But they’re not very creative. They don’t design elaborate, malicious schemes by themselves. Their pranks are impulsive humor. If an Imp is seen engaging in more cleaver games, someone else is the mastermind.
Long ago, imps and fairies were considered the same. At some point, the imps became ugly and evil, while the fairies transitioned into sweet things like fairy godmothers, or Disney’s Tinkerbelle.
According to folklore, Imps have limited magical powers. They can shapeshift and they may conjure up fire. They’re good spies because they sneak along quietly, disguise themselves, and can disappear. Every private investigator wants at least one. Imps could put all investigative journalists out of work if they could write.
Some cultures may still see Imps to be the same as fairies because both share a sense of free spirit and enjoyment of all things fun. Both enjoy pranks and misleading people. Most of the time, the pranks are harmless fun, but some could be upsetting and harmful.
Imps are not solitary. They like people and crave our attention. To that end, they consider their behavior good when we find it funny. This sometimes backfires when people tire of the imp’s annoying efforts, or become the target of impish antics.
Even when an imp is successful in friendship, it often plays pranks and jokes on its friends because that is the nature of the imp. It’s what they do. This trait is the source of the term “impish” for someone who loves pranks and practical jokes.
When tolerated, imps are familiar spirit servants of witches for whom the little demons serve as spies and informants. During the time of the witch hunts, supernatural creatures such as imps were sought out as proof of witchcraft. Often, the so-called “imp” was a dog, cat, lizard, toad, or some other form.
Imps can be bound or contained within an object like a sword or a crystal ball. They can be kept nearby and summoned when their master wants. Some may grant wishes like a genie.
In the 1891 story by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Bottle Imp, an imp is contained in a bottle and would grant the owner their every wish, provided that the owner’s soul would be sent to hell if the owner did not sell the bottle to a new owner before dying.
Carefully look both ways. The imps are watching you.
Mind the gaps.
Don’t forget to sell the bottle. An estate sale is way too late.