Saturday, November 07, 2009

[Creature Feature] Gremlins

Gremlins are fairly new creatures of the world, who’ve taken to mechanical sabotage, particularly aircraft.

Although the word gremlin may come from the Old English word gremian, ‘to vex,’ modern gremlins first came into common knowledge in the military during the first world wars among aviators. The earliest known reference is a poem in the journal Aeroplane.

Worldwide awareness of gremlins outside of the military is credited to airman Roald Dahl, who was once attached in the Middle East to the 80th squadron of the Royal Air Force, and had a crash landing in Libya. He penned a novel that identifies males as widgets and females as fifinellas. He speculated they were angry about the destruction of their homeland to make an airplane factory.

Gremlins are equal opportunity tricksters and nuisances, spotted on both sides of conflicts.

The Minnesota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol in Inver Grove Heights adopted the gremlin as their mascot. AMC once made a car named after the Gremlin for 9 years, saying a gremlin was “a pal to its friends and an ogre to its enemies.”

There’s a peculiar musicality attributed to their work, as machinery and cables snap with melodic twangs, according to many survivors. This is probably not immediately of much use. Most gremlins are considered fairy-sized, but a classic Twilight Zone episode suggests they can be man-sized or larger.

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