The Nac Mac Feegles (also known as Pictsies, the Wee Free Men, the Little Men, and 'Person or Persons Unknown, Believed to be Armed') are a type of fairy appearing in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels Carpe Jugulum, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith. Aside from being six inches tall, they just about invert the Victorian concept of mystical and refined fairies, and hark back to the fairies of folklore, who were generally seen as occasionally helpful thieves and pests.
The Nac Mac Feegles' skin appears blue because it is heavily tattooed and covered with paint, and all have red hair. The tattoos identify a Feegle's clan. Wings or similar features of any kind are out of the question. Their speech can only be described as some sort of variation on the Scots language, usually Glaswegian in the clans encountered so far, although William the Gonnagle (from a different clan) has a softer, Highland accent. They are notably strong and resilient, which comes in handy given that male Feegles (almost all of them) tend to be notoriously rowdy as a lifestyle.
The Feegles spend their time drinking, fighting and stealing, alone or in various combinations. The immense strength and rowdiness of these pictsies means that they will fight anything, and they have a particular fondness for headbutting creatures far larger than themselves. In a good fight, a Feegle will take on all comers, fight his fellow Feegles, with such enthusiasm that makes missing someone hazardous ("Crivens! I kicked meself in ma ain heid!").
Some clans have an apparently superstitious fear of their names being written lest their names appear on unwelcome legal documents. Some of the upland clans have mastered the concept of law as a weapon however, and note that it is a good idea "neever tae sign a feegle contract; six inch high people write verra small print". Beware the cry, "We've got a cheap lawyer an' we're not afraid to use him!" Their swords glow blue in the presence of lawyers.
See also: Gnomes (Discworld)
According to their own history, the Nac Mac Feegle rebelled against the wicked rule of the (or possibly "a") Queen of the Fairies, and were therefore exiled from Fairyland. According to everyone else (including the Nac Mac Feegle themselves if they forget this story) they were kicked out for causing fights and being drunk at two in the afternoon.
The Nac Mac Feegle have an innate ability to cross dimensions, which they call "the crawstep". There appears to be no limit on what worlds they can cross into like this, including worlds that exist only in a person's imagination (although they can't use it to travel within a world - for this, we are assured, they have "feets"). The Nac Mac Feegle take pride in being able to get into, or out of, anywhere (although getting out of pubs presents something of a difficulty). In A Hat Full of Sky, they claim "the crawstep" is "all in the ankle, ye ken".
The Ramtops have many legends about the Nac Mac Feegle. One, similar to the legend of Wayland's Smithy, says that if you leave sixpence and an unshod horse at a certain Feegle cairn overnight, then in the morning the coin will be gone, and you'll never see your horse again either. Another says that if you leave a saucer of milk out for the pictsies they'll break into your house and take everything in the drinks cabinet.
The role of the kelda is, essentially, to do the thinking. The Big Man is responsible for commanding his fellow Feegles and trying to maintain some semblance of order, but in truth the kelda decides what will be done and the Big Man works out the fine (for a Feegle's plans) details--although no Big Man shown so far would go on a serious expedition and not bring along the clan gonnagle (who tend to be much brighter than the other male Feegles and have a fund of lore, stories, and ideas they can draw upon). Male Feegles are in dread of losing their kelda because there will be no one 'tae take care o' us'. To help her with this, she is given, before leaving her birth clan, a bottle of water from her mother's leather cauldron - which, of course, contains some of the water from her mother's cauldron, and so on. Theoretically (and on the Discworld theories of this nature tend to work, even if they aren't actually right, owing to narrative causality), the bottle contains water from the cauldrons of Nac Mac Feegle keldas since before history. By mixing a little of the water into her own cauldron, and drinking the result, the kelda can connect with the memories of those who have gone before her - and, more mysteriously, with those who are yet to come. (Compare with Reverend Mothers from Dune.)
The males of the clan don't question this, accepting that keldaring is full of secrets (hiddlins) they aren't expected to understand. They are warriors, hunters and foragers; Nac Mac Feegle foraging consists of taking anything that isn't nailed down (if it is nailed down, they will take the nails as well), up to and including quite large cows if enough foragers can be gathered to do the lifting (given their strength, one for each hoof). If one were to see a sheep rise off the ground six inches and move backward rapidly, four Feegles are sure to be responsible.
Among the warriors of each clan is a gonnagle, or war-poet, whose job is to create terrible poetry that is recited during battles to demoralise the enemy (see William McGonagall). A well-trained gonnagle can even make the enemy's ears explode and is equipped with "mousepipes" (bagpipes made from mouseskin, often with the ears still attached). In "A Hat Full of Sky" the gonnagle Awf'lly Wee Billy Bigchin can play the mousepipes so sadly that it will start to rain outside. A gonnagle tends to be somewhat more intelligent and level-headed than other male Feegles, and often acts as advisor to the Big Man. Some of them travel from clan to clan, making sure the old songs and stories are still remembered and sharing the new ones.
The Nac Mac Feegle language is a mix of Morporkian (English) and the Glaswegian dialect: "Crivens! Whut aboot us, ye daftie". In Carpe Jugulum, their speech is almost undecipherable and has to be translated by Nanny Ogg; however by the time they meet Tiffany Aching, they are (somewhat) more understandable to "big-jobs". See the "Sayings" section below.
Nac Mac Feegle tend to have human names, usually abbreviated and with some sort of modifier (Rob Anybody, Daft Wullie, Big Aggie, No'-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock Jock).
The Nac Mac Feegle clans that have appeared in the books are the Long Lake Clan, who settled in Lancre in Carpe Jugulum (but weren't named until A Hat Full of Sky) and the Chalk Hill Clan who feature in the Tiffany Aching books. The Chalk Hill Clan had, until the arrival of a new kelda (Jeannie) from Long Lake, a superstition that anything written down could be used against you in a court of law, and each of them carried swords that glowed blue in the presence of lawyers. The Long Lake Clan have similar superstitions about writing and lawyers, but believe it's possible to beat them at their own game and are famed for their "verra com-plic-at-ed documents".
Nac Mac Feegle clans tend to occupy ancient burial mounds. They avoid "big jobs" (humans) if at all possible, as they are worried this might lead to folklorists and archaeologists invading their privacy and writing things down. Since they can move approximately ten times faster than a human, they find it easy to go unseen when they wish to do so.
The Nac Mac Feegle males treat witches with a nervous mix of fear and respect. All witches, regardless of age, are called 'hags'. A very important witch, such as Granny Weatherwax, is acknowledged as the 'hag o' hags'. Feegles seem to know enough about witches to spot and respect a good one, and just as they accept their keldas know things they do not, they are willing to believe that "the haggin'" has its own secrets. They comically dread witches who know about them, with large amounts of dread being reserved for 'the Crossin' o' the Arms', 'the Pursin' o' the Lips, and the 'Tappin' o' the Feets', followed by 'the Explainin'' (at the mention of which the Feegles tear out their hair, bang their heads on threes, run around in general confusion, or, in the case of Daft Wullie call out and cry ,"Oh, waily, waily, waily! Ohhhhhhh! Aaarrgh! The Pursin' ...o'...the...")and one witch nearly panicking them when she began to harangue them in their own dialect, which they called 'the knowin' of the speakin'.
The fearlessness of Nac Mac Feegle warriors in combat is derived from their religious belief that they cannot be killed, because they are already dead; they believe that they are in the afterlife, and that any Feegle who is killed has simply been reincarnated. They reason that Discworld, with the sunshine, flowers, birds, trees, things to steal and people to fight, must be some sort of heaven, because a world that good couldn't be open to just anybody. Despite carrying swords, their preferred weapons are the boot and the head; this results in most Feegles' noses being broken.
The battle cries of a charging Feegle army can be rather intimidating. They're so highly individualistic, they all scream out different things.