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American Gods Wiki

Essie MacGowan (series), or Essie Tregowan (novel), was an indentured servant who believed in faerie folk and brought them to America.


A Prayer for Mad Sweeney[]

Mr. Ibis writes a story about criminals being transported to the Americas as indentured servants. He tells how hundreds of years prior, Mad Sweeney approached the porch of a former indentured servant, Essie MacGowan of Ireland.

When Essie was a child, she would wait for her father's ship to return while her grandmother told her stories of faeries, púcas, banshees, and leprechauns. She warns Essie about the leprechauns who are too busy guarding their gold to do anything else but they should still leave the leprechauns gifts to receive their blessings.

As Essie grows older, she continues to leave gifts for the leprechauns while passing along the tales of the merry folk to the children in the house where she works. She shares a story about a time she was walking to a lighthouse and heard a hammering noise. She follows after it and becomes lost in the moors. She offers her bread to the leprechauns and falls asleep. When she wakes up, the bread is gone and she can see the lighthouse.

One time, Essie steals some bread and takes it out to the moors. She cuts a strand of hair and wraps it around the bread before she places a gold coin on top. She is giving an offering to the leprechauns in order to ask a favor of them. After she leaves, Mad Sweeney appears to receive the offering.

Essie begins an affair with Bartholomew, the son of the house, who is about to leave to Oxford. He gives her his grandmother's ring and promises to return at Christmas. The other maids catch her admiring her ring and tell the lady of the house who promptly accuses Essie of theft. When Bartholomew returns, his mother asks if he gave the ring to Essie. He doesn't admit to it so Essie is taken away and tried for theft. She is sentenced to seven years Transportation to the Carolinas.

While Essie is on the ship to the Americas, she leaves a crumb for the leprechauns. To escape being held captive with the other prisoners, she starts an affair with Captain Clark and convinces him to take her back to London. They marry and the Captain brings her home before leaving again eight weeks later. Once he leaves, Essie gathers all the valuables to sell and becomes a thief.

In London, Essie has established herself as a shoplifter and thief. She continues to to leave gifts for the leprechauns who still visit her. As she grows wealthier, the more she forgets to leave gifts. One day, she is caught stealing lace and sent to Newgate, where she is charged for returning from Transportation and for theft.

While in prison, Essie strikes up a conversation with Mad Sweeney who is in the neighboring cell. Essie leaves a portion of her bread for the leprechauns as they chat about Transportation to the Americas. Sweeney reveals that he once had his share of gold and made sure the "King" received his share on time. Essie mentions a woman she met in the Americas named Susan even though that was not her original name. In America, everyone can be whoever they want. Essie longs for a content life with a home and someone to share it with. She tells Sweeney he should go to the Americas and "deliver gold to their king" even though the Americas doesn't have a king yet.

When Essie awakens the next morning, the cell next to her is empty. The warden offers her good food over the next twelve weeks before her trial in exchange for sex and she accepts. She is pregnant by the time she goes before the judge and is spared the noose and sent to the Americas instead. The ship ride over is miserable as people die around her. Essie gives birth to a son and becomes a wet nurse and maid for John Richardson. He is a Virginia farmer whose wife had died, leaving behind a baby daughter. As Essie nurses the babies, she tells them tales of the faerie folk.

On the farm, Essie regales the two toddlers with stories about spirits and why they leave food for the leprechauns to keep for their blessings. John has developed feelings for her but she refuses him because even though she has feelings for him, she is his indentured servant. He frees her from her indenture and they marry. They have a son and Essie passes on her tales of leprechauns to their three children. John dies from a fever ten years later, leaving Essie to care for the farm on her own.

Over the years, Essie continues to leave food out for the leprechauns and shares her stories of leprechauns with her grandchildren. The tales frighten them and Essie is told to keep the stories to herself. One evening while Essie is sitting on her porch, a man arrives.

Mad Sweeney approaches an elderly Essie MacGowan on her porch. She doesn't recognize him at first so he tells her how he was brought to the New World by her and others like her. He shows her the gold coin she left for him long ago and offers her his hand. She accepts it and dies. Mr. Ibis finishes writing the tale of Essie and closes his journal.

Chapter Four[]


Mr. Ibis writes in his journal about how many of the early immigrants to America were indentured servants and deported criminals. He recounts the tale of Essie Tregowan from Cornwall who was a con artist, thief, and prostitute and believed her good luck was from leaving a saucer of milk out for the piskies. She is eventually caught for her crimes and escapes hanging because she is pregnant and is transported to America instead.

In America, she marries the widowed father who bought her indenture, raising his daughter and her son and having another son together, all the while teaching them about the piskies and other myths of her old country. Eventually, her husband died, one of her sons killed the other and ran away, and she remained on the land with her daughter and grandchildren. One day, while she was shucking peas, "Cousin Jack" from the old world came to visit and she took his hand and passed away.

Physical appearance[]


Notes and trivia[]

  • Much of Essie's story is similar to that of Jenny Diver, an eighteenth century Irish woman who grew to notoriety in London as a leader of a gang of pickpockets. She was twice transported to the Americas and bribed her way back to London both times. When she was arrested a third time, she claimed she was pregnant but her sentence was not commuted and she was executed.
  • When asked why the television series renamed Essie Tregowan "MacGowan", Neil Gaiman explained that it was because the producing team wanted to replace the piskie of Essie's story with Mad Sweeney. Neil Gaiman then insisted that Essie's nationality had to be changed from Cornish to Irish, because a leprechaun couldn't have appeared in Cornwall, and so Essie's name was changed from the Cornish "Tregowan" to the Irish "MacGowan". [1]
  • Bryan Fuller and Michael Green explained they decided to have Laura Moon/Series and Essie being played by the same actress in order to contrast the two characters, Essie being a woman whose life is fulfilled by spirituality and a belief in something greater than herself that makes her existence richer, and Laura a woman without belief. While the sense and meaning of the life and the world keeps eluding Laura, Essie instinctively "got it" by listening to the tales of her family and believing in her country's folklore, leading her to have a longer and better life than those in her position at the same era.[2]