Root Beer, Harry Potter, and Browns football: How Brownie the Elf unites them all

Browns, Brownie the Elf. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Browns, Brownie the Elf. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns brought Brownie the Elf back to prominence in 2022 but where exactly does this old-school mascot come from?

When the Cleveland Browns brought Brownie the Elf back into the mix this past season, some eyebrows were raised.

Longtime Cleveland football fans knew of Brownie but those who didn’t follow the team were wondering why they had an elf mascot. And if we’re being honest, many of us who were aware of Brownie might not know the whole story behind him being the mascot.

While digging into the history, things become very interesting. Jake Trotter of ESPN did his homework early in the 2022 campaign and found ties to an old Root Beer advertisement, a fairy tale from the 1500s, and Dobby the House elf from Harry Potter.

He also found who benched Brownie, and it was a villain who might be as despised in Cleveland as He Who Must Not Be Named is in the Wizarding World. Former team owner Art Modell was quick to get rid of the elf, even having some choice words for him on the way out.

"“My first official act as owner of the Browns,” Modell told newspaper reporters at the time, “will be to get rid of that little f—er.”"

Who is Brownie?

Easily the most interesting thing about Trotter’s research is the revelation that the term “Brownie” has nothing to do with the name of the football team. Instead, Brownies are actually elf-like creatures from British fairy tales dating back to the 16th century. John T. Kruse is a British fairy tale buff and described the creatures via Trotter.

"“He’s a small, hairy … creature that lives in houses and farms with people,” Kruse told ESPN of the mythical beings. “He undertakes a range of domestic and agricultural chores on the understanding that he gets free board and lodging from the humans.”"

Not only does the elf do chores and get paid in room and board, but they detest clothes. They apparently won’t work if given clothes, going as far as to make the house messy again.

Brownie and Dobby, one and the same

If that sounds familiar, it could be due to the fact that J.K. Rowling based one of her more popular characters on Brownies. In the Harry Potter books, Dobby is a house elf who originally serves a family by working in their home. He’s freed when he gets clothes as a gift, and other house elves are mortified by the fact that Dobby actually likes clothes.

How did the Browns end up with the elf?

One possible connection between Brownie and the Browns is a Root Beer company from Detroit. Atlas Beverage Company produced a Brownie caramel cream root beer in 1929 and had an elf on their bottles. They also had an advertisement on a building in Massillon, Ohio.

Cleveland’s first coach was Paul Brown, who the team was named after. Before joining the pro team, he coached a high school in Massillon where they had a Tiger by the name of Obie who had a similar pose to the one we know with Brownie.

That’s clearly no coincidence as Brown seems to have been the one to okay the mascot, and was likely influenced by the advertisement he saw during his high school coaching days.