I decided to go for a legend that is well known in the area I grew up, the Veluwe, although there are other places in the Netherlands where these creatures are known as well. They are also known in other places in Europe, although their name and characteristics can be a bit different. These creatures are Witte Wieven, which means white women. They dance around in forests, swamps and moorlands, but also hang around at old burial sites or old, desolate buildings. They are often connected to 'grafheuvels' (hills with graves in them) and 'hunebedden' (English: dolmen; a bunch of very larges stones stacked on top of each other) here in the Netherlands.
Witte Wieven are always female and are dressed in white clothes. I am not sure about how they look like, but they appear as ugly, old ladies most of the time, sometimes even with claws. I can't draw old people, so they appear younger in my drawing. 'Witte wieven' is also the name of those vertical columns of fog that can often be seen above water, and Witte Wieven are associated with them. I therefore drew them as if these women are born from the mists, ready to dance around in their forest.
They are not good or evil, but always wise; 'wit' means 'white', but can also come from the verb 'weten' which means 'to know'. People brought them gifts and they will help you in return, but they will haunt you if you harm them or do something else that's rather stupid. The best thing is to just leave them alone. Witte Wieven were turned evil rather than wise by the Christian Church, which wasn't very fond of local folklore. The church might also be responsible for the 'old ugly lady with claws' look
here is a short fairytale starring Witte Wieven. It's from a town called Zwiep, in the eastern part of the Netherlands.
The Witte Wieven live in a pit close Zwiep. They were not visible during the day, but they awake at night and fly around like banks of mist. There were also two children living in that town, Herbert and his sister, that came to visit the Witte Wieven quite often. The Witte Wieven never harmed them (maybe they even liked those kids hanging around there ) so the childeren were not afraid of the Witte Wieven, even when they turned into grown-ups. Herbert fell in love with Johanna, a girl living next to him (which was, unlike Herbert, very much afraid of the Witte Wieven). Unfortunatly, Herbert was a poor farmer's boy, while Johanna's family was wealthy. Chances that these two would get married were therefore small; a wealthy woman does not marry a poor man. The parents of Johanna picked a different guy for her, which they found more suitable; his name was Albrecht. He was the wealthiest man in the area, and the parents invited him to meet Johanna. Unfortunately for the parents, Johanna did not love him. Actually, she did not even like him, so their conversation must have been quite awkward. Until the subject of the conversation changed, because Scholte Loddink, Johanna's father, heard quite an interesting story about Herbert. Herbert's horse got scared by a the sudden movement and screams of a bird (stupid horse...) and ran away. Herbert did not fall off though, but only because the horse ran into the pit of the Witte Wieven. The oldest of the Wieven caught the horse and made him stop before Herbert could fall off. Herbert got home safe and sound, and asked his sister if she could bake a driekoningenkoek (no idea what that is in English, a three-kings-cake?) to give to the Witte Wieven to thank them. He placed the driekoningenkoek in the middle of the pit. He returned the next day and saw that the driekoningenkoek was gone; only the plate on which it was served remained. Johanna's face lightened up when she heard about Herbert and how brave he was; she would never go near the Witte Wieven! Scholte Loddink looked at his daughter and realized that she would be much happier with Herbert. His wife still prefered Albrecht though. The parents therefore came up with a challenge; both men must go to the Witte Wieven, throw a haarspit at them (again, no idea what this is in English; it is a metal pin thing that is used to sharpen scythes. I have also no idea why it has to be a haarspit and not just something simple like a brick). The one that would return to Johanna's home the fastest, would marry her. This was a test of bravery, which is more important than money. Albrecht and Herbert agreed, although Herbert wasn't very happy; his horse was old, while Albrecht had an expensive, fast horse. However, Albrecht turned out to be a pussy; he threw the haarspit in the bushes and turned around before he even got close to the Witte Wieven. Herbert on the other hand did get to the Witte Wieven and threw his haarspit at them. The Witte Wieven did not like this of course, and followed him. Herbert's old horse ran as fast as it could. Eventhough it was an old horse, it seemed that the Witte Wieven could not overtake him. Herbert arrived at Johanna's house, without getting caught. The Witte Wieven threw the haarspit at Herbert though, which almost hit him. Herbert and Johanna married each other, and they found out that the Witte Wieven left them a little wedding gift; there was a plate (used for the driekoningenkoek) with a haarspit on it in front of their house. Both the plate and haarspit were made of gold.