The name Velns is translated as the Devil in English. Still, there are two versions of this creature.
There are usually two ways to describe the appearance of Velns:
- He will be dressed up, his looks resembling those of a fine gentleman - clothes after the latest fashion, fine hat etc. Yet you will still be able to see the hoof of a horse or a cow on one of his legs, because Velns can't hide it no matter how much he tries. This is also a way to recognize him in the dark - the man will be limping a bit. However, this kind of Velns was introduced after the crusades and will appear mostly in teikas about evil squires.
- He will be more resembling to the way the people usually think of the Devil - horns, cow's tail, messy hair, a face that is more like an animals than a humans. This one will be dressed in poor peasant clothes and is usually found in the swamps or forests. This Velns is Latvian native, he is more closer to the peasants than the barons.
- The fine gentleman is described in teikas as sometimes being allied with the landlords, but for his help he usually asks the well-known tribute to him - the soul which often includes death also - after Devil has done something for the squire, the man has to drown or hang himself so the prince of darkness could get his soul. This Velns is smart, tricky and sometimes evil, but he almost never threatens the lives of innocent people, though he sometimes could try to saduce some peasant into fight with him, but he will always run away after hearing the name of God or Jesus.
- The native Velns from fairytales is always treated as stupid and a fool. He is strong, but locks the mind of his cousin Devil. Even a simple farm boy or a herdsman can trick him into giving away his secrets and/or money. He is never evil, just a bit naughty. He has fondness for money, sometimes he can be seen sitting on a stone counting it. He also is able to appeare in broad daylight and does not run away when God or Jesus are mentioned.
So, teikas are that, what is called myths in English.
Teikas about Velns from Germany are very often to be found. These are the ones, that you will hear first, when asking some expert. In these tales, the action usually takes place on a road late into the night. There is always some peasant who is coming home or going somewhere. He usually hears a carriage closing him and steps aside to let it pass. Then the carriage stops, its door opens and a fine squire invites the poor man to get in and drive a bit with him. The squire will then inquire about the mans family and tell some mysterious things about where he is going himself - like, that there is a hen somewhere in a bush of osier (it always means that some girl somewhere has hanged herself) and he is going to get it for supper. As the peasant steps out of the carriage, the squire will tell him to go and thank the horses and not him. The horses then turn out to be barons, priests and squires.
The Devil is also closing deals with the landlords, asking their souls in return. There are also teikas that some barons have even known the way to the Hell and have been going there once a week. After the death they were usually hidden away in tombs so the Devil could not come and take their bodies.
In fairytales, Velns is usually living in some swamp and often coming out to warm himself in the sunlight. Then it is very easy to outwitt him. For example, a herdsman sometimes puts sticks in the ground and ties woolen strings on them. Then Velns usually comes out and asks, what is going on. The boy always says he wants to pull the swamp or the pound together. The foolish Velns then offers him a hatful of money just to leave his home untouched. After this, the poor stupid has to pay a holefull of money, because the hat is always put on a hole and has a hole itself. So Velns often spends a few days trying to fill it...
It is speculated, that the native Velns does not come from christianity, he comes from a creature in Latvian mythology that is known as Jodu māte or Jods, the opposite of Pērkons, the Thunder.
Some artists from Latvia have tried to capture the real being of Velns in their paintings, artworks and books.
- One of the best tale of Velns comes from an author named Kārlis Skalbe - in his tale The Dragon he sees Velns at a swamp sitting very solemny and looking really pittyful. The Dragon then explanes that Velns was thrown out of his own swamp by the Great German Master and is now gathering blueberries.
- In the whole country, you can find a lot of Velna alas ( Velns' caves ), Velna akmeņus ( Velns' stones ) and other places, where Velns was and by some people still is thought to be living