Creature_Name = Fairy
Image_Caption = "Take the Fair Face of Woman…" by
Born = 105BC
Died = NA
AKA = Fay Fae Faerie Wee Folk Good Folk Fair Folk
all over the world
Habitat = march,woodland and gardens
First_Reported = In folklore
Status = Unconfirmed
A fairy (also fay, fey, fae, faerie; collectively, wee folk, good folk, people of peace, fair folk, and other euphemisms)Briggs, Katharine Mary (1976) "An Encyclopedia of Fairies". New York,
Pantheon Books. "Euphemistic names for fairies" p. 127 ISBN 0-394-73467-X] is a type of mythologicalbeing or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernaturalor preternatural.
The word "fairy" derives from the "fae" of medieval Western European (
Old French) folklore and romance, one famous example being Morgan le Fay. "Fae-ery" was therefore everything that appertains to the "fae", and so the land of "faes", all the "faes". Finally the word replaced its original and one could speak of "a faery or fairy", though the word "fey" is still used as an adjective.
Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term "fairy" offers many definitions. Sometimes the term describes any magical creature, including
goblins or gnomes: at other times, the term only describes a specific type of more creature.Briggs (1976) p. xi]
Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and having magical powers. Their origins are less clear in the folklore, being variously dead, or some form of
angel, or a species completely independent of humans or angels.Lewis, C. S. (1994 (reprint)) "The Discarded
] Folklorists have suggested that their actual origin lies in a conquered race living in hiding,Silver, Carole B. (1999) Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness. Oxford University Press. p.47 ISBN 0-19-512199-6] or in religious beliefs that lost currency with the advent of Christianity.Yeats, W. B. (1988) "Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry", in "A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore". Gramercy. p.1 ISBN 0-517-489904-X] These explanations are not always mutually incompatible, and they may be traceable to multiple sources.
Much of the folklore about fairies revolves about protection from their malice, by such means as
cold iron(fairies don't like iron and will not go near it) or charms of rowanand herbs, or avoiding offense by shunning locations known to be theirs. [Briggs (1976) p. 335–6] In particular, folklore describes how to prevent the fairies from stealing babies and substituting changelings, and abducting older people as well. [Briggs (1976) p.25] Many folktales are told of fairies, and they appear as characters in stories from medieval tales of chivalry, to Victorian fairy tales, and up to the present day in modern literature. Some tales tell of fairies having the ability to turn invisible. Once invisible, fairies are said to steal single socks from laundry baskets.
Although in modern culture they are often depicted as young, sometimes winged,
females of small stature, they originally were depicted much differently: tall, radiant, angelic beings or short, wizened trolls being some of the commonly mentioned. Diminutive fairies of one kind or another have been recorded for centuries, but occur alongside the human-sized beings; these have been depicted as ranging in size from very tiny up to the size of a human child.Briggs (1976) p. 98] Even with these small fairies, however, their small size may be magically assumed rather than constant.Yeats (1988) p.2]
Wings, while common in Victorian and later artwork of fairies, are very rare in the folklore; even very small fairies flew with magic, sometimes flying on ragwort stems or the backs of birds.Briggs (1976) p.148] Nowadays, fairies are often depicted with ordinary insect wings or
Various animals have also been described as fairies. Sometimes this is the result of
shapeshiftingon part of the fairy, as in the case of the selkie(seal people); others, like the kelpieand various black dogs, appear to stay more constant in form. [Briggs, K.M. (1967) "The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature". Chicago, University of Chicago Press. p.71]
Origin of fairies
One popular belief was that they were the dead, or some subclass of the dead.Lewis (1994) p. 136] The Irish
banshee(Irish Gaelic "bean sí" or Scottish Gaelic"bean shìth", which both mean "fairy woman") is sometimes described as a ghost.Briggs (1976) p.15] The northern English Cauld Lad of Hylton, though described as a murdered boy, is also described as a household sprite like a brownie,Briggs (1976) p.68–9] much of the time a Barghestor Elf. [Henry Tegner, Ghosts of The North Country, 1991 Butler Publishing ISBN 0946928401] One tale recounted a man caught by the fairies, who found that whenever he looked steadily at one, the fairy was a dead neighbor of his.Briggs (1967) p.15] This was among the most common views expressed by those who believed in fairies, although many of the informants would express the view with some doubts.Briggs (1967) p.141]
Another view held that the fairies were an intelligent species, distinct from humans and angels.Lewis (1994) p.134] In
alchemyin particular they were regarded as elementals, such as gnomes and sylphs, as described by Paracelsus.Silver (1999) p.38 ] This is uncommon in folklore, but accounts describing the fairies as "spirits of the air" have been found popularly. [Briggs (1967) p.146]
A third belief held that they were a class of "demoted" angels. [Lewis (1994) p.135–6] One popular story held that when the angels revolted, God ordered the gates shut; those still in heaven remained angels, those in hell became devils, and those caught in between became fairies. [Briggs (1976) p.319] Others held that they had been thrown out of heaven, not being good enough, but they were not evil enough for hell. [Yeats (1988) p.9–10] This may explain the tradition that they had to pay a "teind" or
titheto Hell. As fallen angels, though not quite devils, they could be seen as subject of the Devil. [Briggs (1967) p.9]
A fourth belief was the fairies were devils entirely. [Lewis (1994) p.137] This belief became much more popular with the growth of Puritanism. [Briggs (1976) "Origins of fairies" p.320] The
hobgoblin, once a friendly household spirit, became a wicked goblin. [Briggs (1976) p.223] Dealing with fairies was in some cases considered a form of witchcraft and punished as such in this era.Briggs (1976) "Traffic with fairies" and "Trooping fairies" pp.409–12] Disassociating himself from such evils may be why Oberon, in " A Midsummer Night's Dream", carefully observed that neither he nor his court feared the church bells. [Lewis (1994) p.138]
The belief in their angelic nature was less common than that they were the dead, but still found popularity, especially in Theosophist circles.Briggs (1967) pp.143–7] Evans-Wentz, W. Y. (1966, 1990) "The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries". New York, Citadel. pp.167,243,457 ISBN 0-8065-1160-5] Informants who described their nature sometimes held aspects of both the third and the fourth view, or observed that the matter was disputed.
A less-common belief was that the fairies were actually humans; one folktale recounts how a woman had hidden some of her children from God, and then looked for them in vain, because they had become the hidden people, the fairies. This is parallel to a more developed tale, of the origin of the Scandinavian
A story of the origin of fairies appears in the 1906 Sir
J. M. Barrienovella " Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens", comprised of chapters sliced out of the novel " The Little White Bird" after the success of his re-imagining of the character into the play " Peter Pan" and then incorporated into the novel " Peter and Wendy". Barrie wrote, "…when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies." [J.M.Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter and Wendy, Oxford Press, 1999, page 32]
Many of the Irish tales of the
Tuatha Dé Danannrefer to these beings as fairies, though in more ancient times they were regarded as Goddesses and Gods. The Tuatha Dé were spoken of as having come from Islands in the north of the world, or, in other sources, from the sky. After being defeated in a series of battles with other Otherworldly beings, and then by the ancestors of the current Irish people, they were said to have withdrawn to the " sídhe" (fairy mounds), where they lived on in popular imagination as "fairies."
ources of beliefs
A hidden people
One common theme found among the
Celtic nationsdescribes a race of diminutive people who had been driven into hiding by invading humans. They came to be seen as another race, or possibly spirits, and were believed to live in an Otherworldthat was variously described as existing underground, in hidden hills (many of which were ancient burial mounds), or across the Western Sea.
In old Celtic faery lore the (fairy folk) are immortals living in the ancient barrows and cairns. The
Tuatha de Danaanare associated with several Otherworld realms including " Mag Mell" (the Pleasant Plain), "Emain Ablach" (the Fortress of Apples or the Land of Promise or the Isle of Women), and one of the most well known " Tir na nÓg" (the Land of Youth). [http://books.google.ie/books?id=qxIptQd-pNkC&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=spirits+otherworld+hidden+%22western+sea%22&source=web&ots=WF7Rp5XLNM&sig=4x29kyvkuVccSHoDuXq8fSPsO7I&hl=en]
The concept of the Otherworld is also associated with the Isle of Apples, known as
Avalonin the Arthurian mythos (often equated with "Ablach Emain"). Here we find the " Silver Bough" that allowed a living mortal to enter and withdraw from the Otherworld. According to legend, the Faery Queen sometimes offered the branch to worthy mortals, granting them safe passage and food during their stay.
Some 19th century archaeologists thought they had found underground rooms in the Orkney islands resembling the Elfland in
Childe Rowland. [Yolen, Jane (2000) "Touch Magic". p.49 ISBN 0-87483-591-7] In popular folklore, flint arrowheads from the Stone Age were attributed to the fairies as "elf-shot".Froud, Brian and Lee, Alan (1978) "Faeries". New York, Peacock Press ISBN 0-553-01159-6] The fairies fear of iron was attributed to the invaders having iron weapons, whereas the inhabitants had only flint and were therefore easily defeated in physical battle. Their green clothing and underground homes were credited to their need to hide and camouflage themselves from hostile humans, and their use of magic a necessary skill for combating those with superior weaponry. In Victorian beliefs of evolution, cannibalism among "ogres" was attributed to memories of more savage races, still practicing it alongside "superior" races that had abandoned it. [Silver (1999) p.45] Selkies, described in fairy tales as shapeshifting seal people, were attributed to memories of skin-clad "primitive" people traveling in kayaks. African pygmies were put forth as an example of a race that had previously existed over larger stretches of territory, but come to be scarce and semi-mythical with the passage of time and prominence of other tribes and races. [Silver (1999) p.50]
Christianised pagan deities
Another theory is that the fairies were originally worshiped as gods, but with the coming of Christianity, they lived on, in a dwindled state of power, in folk belief. In this particular time, fairies were reputed by the church as being 'evil' beings. Many beings who are described as deities in older tales are described as "fairies" in more recent writings. Victorian explanations of mythology, which accounted for all gods as metaphors for natural events that had come to be taken literally, explained them as metaphors for the night sky and stars. [Silver (1999) p.44] According to this theory, fairies are personified aspects of nature and deified abstract concepts such as ‘
love’ and ‘victory’ in the pantheon of the particular form of animistic nature worshipreconstructed as the religion of Ancient Western Europe. [ [http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/rac/rac14.htm The Religion of the Ancient Celts: Chapter XI. Primitive Nature Worship ] ]
pirits of the dead
A third theory was that the fairies were a folkloric belief concerning the dead. This noted many common points of belief, such as the same legends being told of ghosts and fairies, the
sídhein actuality being burial mounds, it being dangerous to eat food in both Fairyland and Hades, and both the dead and fairies living underground. [Silver (1999) p.40–1]
Fairies in literature and legend
The question as to the essential nature of fairies has been the topic of myths, stories, and scholarly papers for a very long time. [
Terri Windling, " [http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrfairies.html Fairies in Legend, Lore, and Literature] "]
Practical beliefs and protection
When considered as beings that a person might actually encounter, fairies were noted for their mischief and malice. Some pranks ascribed to them, such as tangling the hair of sleepers into "Elf-locks", stealing small items or leading a traveler astray, are generally harmless. But far more dangerous behaviours were also attributed to fairies. Any form of sudden death might stem from a fairy kidnapping, with the apparent corpse being a wooden stand-in with the appearance of the kidnapped person. [Briggs (1976) p.25] Consumption (
tuberculosis) was sometimes blamed on the fairies forcing young men and women to dance at revels every night, causing them to waste away from lack of rest. [Briggs (1976) p.80] Fairies riding domestic animals, such as cows or pigs or ducks, could cause paralysis or mysterious illnesses.
As a consequence, practical considerations of fairies have normally been advice on averting them. In terms of protective charms,
cold ironis the most familiar, but other things are regarded as detrimental to the fairies: wearing clothing inside out, running water, bells (especially church bells), St. John's wort, and four-leaf clovers, among others. Some lore is contradictory, such as Rowan trees in some tales been sacred to the fairies, and in other tales being protection against them. In Newfoundland folklore, the most popular type of fairy protection is bread, varying from stale bread to hard tackor a slice of fresh home-made bread. The belief that bread has some sort of special power is an ancient one. Bread is associated with the home and the hearth, as well as with industry and the taming of nature, and as such, seems to be disliked by some types of fairies. On the other hand, in much of the Celtic folklore, baked goods are a traditional offering to the folk, as are cream and butter.Evans-Wentz (1990)]
“The prototype of food, and therefore a symbol of life, bread was one of the commonest protections against fairies. Before going out into a fairy-haunted place, it was customary to put a piece of dry bread in one’s pocket.” [Briggs (1976) p. 41]
Bells also have an ambiguous role; while they protect against fairies, the fairies riding on horseback — such as the fairy queen — often have bells on their harness. This may be a distinguishing trait between the
Seelie Courtfrom the Unseelie Court, such that fairies use them to protect themselves from more wicked members of their race. [Briggs (1976) "Bells" p.20] Another ambiguous piece of folklore revolves about poultry: a cock's crow drove away fairies, but other tales recount fairies keeping poultry. [Briggs (1967) p.74] In County Wexford, Ireland, in 1882, it was reported that “if an infant is carried out after dark a piece of bread is wrapped in its bib or dress, and this protects it from any witchcraft or evil.” [Opie, Iona and Tatem, Moira (eds) (1989) "A Dictionary of Superstitions" Oxford University Press. p. 38] While many fairies will confuse travelers on the path, the will o' the wispcan be avoided by not following it. Certain locations, known to be haunts of fairies, are to be avoided; C. S. Lewisreported hearing of a cottage more feared for its reported fairies than its reported ghost. [Lewis (1994) p.125] In particular, digging in fairy hills was unwise. Paths that the fairies travel are also wise to avoid. Home-owners have knocked corners from houses because the corner blocked the fairy path, [Silver (1999) p.155] and cottages have been built with the front and back doors in line, so that the owners could, in need, leave them both open and let the fairies troop through all night. [Lenihan, Eddie and Green, Carolyn Eve (2004) "Meeting The Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland". p.146–7 ISBN 1-58542-206-1] Locations such as fairy forts were left undisturbed; even cutting brush on fairy forts was reputed to be the death of those who performed the act. [Lenihan (2004) p.125] Fairy trees, such as thorn trees, were dangerous to chop down; one such tree was left alone in Scotland, though it prevented a road being widened for seventy years. [Silver (1999) p.152] Good house-keeping could keep brownies from spiteful actions, because if they didn't think the house is clean enough, they pinched people in their sleep. Such water hags as Peg Powlerand Jenny Greenteeth, prone to drowning people, could be avoided by avoiding the bodies of water they inhabit.
Other actions were believed to offend fairies. Brownies were known to be driven off by being given clothing, though some folktales recounted that they were offended by inferior quality of the garments given, and others merely stated it, some even recounting that the brownie was delighted with the gift and left with it. [Briggs (1976) "Brownies" p.46] Other brownies left households or farms because they heard a complaint, or a compliment. [Briggs (1967) p.34] People who saw the fairies were advised not to look closely, because they resented infringements on their privacy. [Briggs (1976) "Infringement of fairy privacy" p.233] The need to not offend them could lead to problems: one farmer found that fairies threshed his corn, but the threshing continued after all his corn was gone, and he concluded that they were stealing from his neighbors, leaving him the choice between offending them, dangerous in itself, and profiting by the theft. [Briggs (1976) "Fairy morality" p.115]
Millers were thought by the Scots to be "no canny" due to their ability to control the forces of nature, such as fire in the kiln, water in the burn, and for being able to set machinery a-whirring. Superstitious communities sometimes believed that the miller must be in league with the fairies. In Scotland fairies were often mischievous and to be feared. No one dared to set foot in the mill or kiln at night as it was known that the fairies brought their corn to be milled after dark. So long as the locals believed this then the miller could sleep secure in the knowledge that his stores were not being robbed. John Fraser, the miller of Whitehill claimed to have hidden and watched the fairies trying unsuccessfully to work the mill. He said he decided to come out of hiding and help them, upon which one of the fairy women gave him a "gowpen" (double handful of meal) and told him to put it in his empty "girnal" (store), saying that the store would remain full for a long time, no matter how much he took out.Gauldie, E. (1981) "The Scottish Miller 1700 – 1900". Edinburgh, John McDonald. p.187]
It is also believed that to know the name of a particular fae could summon it to you and force it to do your bidding. The name could be used as an insult towards the Faerie in question, but it could also rather contradictorily be used to grant powers and gifts to the user.
A considerable amount of lore about fairies revolves around
changelings, fairy children left in the place of stolen human babies. Older people could also be abducted; a woman who had just given birth and had yet to be churched was regarded as being in particular danger. [Silver (1999) p.167] A common thread in folklore is that eating the fairy food would trap the captive, as Persephonein Hades; this warning is often given to captives who escape by other people in the fairies' power, who are often described as captives who had eaten and so could not be freed. [Briggs (1976) pp.62–66] Folklore differed about the state of the captives: some held that they lived a merry life, others that they always pined for their old friends. [Yeats (1988) p.47]
"Trooping fairies" refer to fairies who appear in groups and might form settlements. In this definition, "fairy" is usually understood in a wider sense, as the term can also include various kinds of
mythical creaturesmainly of Celtic origin; however, the term might also be used for similar beings such as dwarves or elves from Germanic folklore. These are opposed to solitary fairies, who do not live or associate with others of their kind.Briggs (1976) "Traffic with fairies" and "Trooping fairies" pp.409-12]
In many legends, the fairies are prone to kidnapping humans, either as babies, leaving
changelings in their place, or as young men and women. This can be for a time or forever, and may be more or less dangerous to the kidnapped. In the 19th Century Child Ballad, " Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight", the elf-knight is a Bluebeardfigure, and Isabel must trick and kill him to preserve her life.Child, Francis "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads"] Child Ballad " Tam Lin" reveals that the title character, though living among the fairies and having fairy powers, was in fact an "earthly knight" and, though his life was pleasant "now", he feared that the fairies would pay him as their teind (tithe) to hell. " Sir Orfeo" tells how Sir Orfeo's wife was kidnapped by the King of Faerie and only by trickery and excellent harping ability was he able to win her back. " Sir Degare" narrates the tale of a woman overcome by her fairy lover, who in later versions of the story is unmasked as a mortal. " Thomas the Rhymer" shows Thomas escaping with less difficulty, but he spends seven years in Faerie. Oisínis harmed not by his stay in Faerie but by his return; when he dismounts, the three centuries that have passed catch up with him, reducing him to an aged man. [Briggs (1967) p.104] King Herla also visited Fairy and returned three centuries later; although only some of his men crumbled to dust on dismounting, Herla and his men who did not dismount were trapped on horseback, this being one folkloric account of the origin of the Wild Hunt. [Briggs (1967) p.50–1]
A common feature of the fairies is the use of magic to disguise appearance. "Fairy gold" is notoriously unreliable, appearing as
goldwhen paid, but soon thereafter revealing itself to be leaves, gorseblossoms, gingerbreadcakes, or a variety of other useless things. [Lenihan (2004) p.109–10]
These illusions are also implicit in the tales of "
fairy ointment". Many tales from the British islands tell of a mortal woman summoned to attend a fairy birth — sometimes attending a mortal, kidnapped woman's childbed. Invariably, the woman is given something for the child's eyes, usually an ointment; through mischance, or sometimes curiosity, she uses it on one or both of her own eyes. At that point, she sees where she is; one midwife realizes that she was not attending a great lady in a fine house but her own runaway maid-servant in a wretched cave. She escapes without making her ability known, but sooner or later betrays that she can see the fairies. She is invariably blinded in that eye, or in both if she used the ointment on both. [Briggs (1976) "Fairy ointment" p.156]
Fairies appeared in medieval romances as one of the beings that a
knight errantmight encounter. A fairy lady appeared to Sir Launfaland demanded his love; like the fairy bride of ordinary folklore, she imposed a prohibition on him that in time he violated. Sir Orfeo's wife was carried off by the King of Faerie. Huon of Bordeauxis aided by King Oberon.Lewis (1994) p.129–30] These fairy characters dwindled in number as the medieval era progressed; the figures became wizards and enchantresses.Briggs (1976) "Fairies in medieval romances" p.132] Morgan Le Fey, whose connection to the realm of faerie is implied in her name, in " Le Morte d'Arthur" is a woman whose magic powers stem from study. [Briggs (1976) "Morgan Le Fay" p 303] While somewhat diminished with time, fairies never completely vanished from the tradition. " Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a late tale, but the Green Knight himself is an otherworldly being. Edmund Spenserfeatured fairies in " The Faerie Queen". [Briggs (1976) "Faerie Queen", p. 130] In many works of fiction, fairies are freely mixed with the nymphs and satyrs of classical tradition; [Briggs (1967) p. 174] while in others (e.g. Lamia), they were seen as displacing the Classical beings. Fifteenth century poet and monk John Lydgatewrote that King Arthurwas crowned in "the land of the fairy", and taken in his death by four fairy queens, to Avalonwhere he lies under a "fairy hill", until he is needed again. ["The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies", Anna Franklin, Sterling Publishing Company, 2004, p 18]
Fairies appear as significant characters in
William Shakespeare's " A Midsummer's Night Dream", which is set simultaneously in the woodland, and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon. [cite book|title=The Arden Shakespeare "A Midsummer Nights Dream"|last=Shakespeare |first=William| editor=Harold F. Brooks| publisher=Methuen & Co. Ltd.|year=1979|pages=cxxv |isbn=0415026997] and in which a disturbance of Nature caused by a fairy dispute creates tension underlying the plot and informing the actions of the characters. According to Maurice Hunt, Chair of the English Department at Baylor University, the blurring of the identities of fantasy and reality makes possible “that pleasing, narcotic dreaminess associated with the fairies of the play”. [Hunt, Maurice. "Individuation in A Midsummer Night's Dream." South Central Review 3.2 (Summer 1986): 1–13.]
Michael Draytonfeatures fairies in his "Nimphidia"; from these stem Alexander Pope's sylphs of " The Rape of the Lock", and in the mid 1600s, " précieuses" took up the oral tradition of such tales to write fairy tales; Madame d'Aulnoyinvented the term "contes de fée" ("fairy tale"). [Zipes, Jack (2000) "The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm". W. W. Norton. p.858 ISBN 0-393-97636-X] While the tales told by the "précieuses" included many fairies, they were less common in other countries' tales; indeed, the Brothers Grimmincluded fairies in their first edition, but decided this was not authentically German and altered the language in later editions, changing each "Fee" (fairy) to an enchantress or wise woman. [Tatar, Maria (2003) "The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales". Princeton University Press. p.31 ISBN 0-691-06722-8] J. R. R. Tolkiendescribed these tales as taking place in the land of Faerie. [Tolkien, J. R. R. "On Fairy-Stories", "The Tolkien Reader", p.10–11] Additionally, not all folktales that feature fairies are generally categorized as fairy tales.
Fairies in literature took on new life with
Romanticism. Writers such as Sir Walter Scottand James Hoggwere inspired by folklore which featured fairies, such as the Border ballads. This era saw an increase in the popularity of collecting of fairy folklore, and an increase in the creation of original works with fairy characters. [ Briggs, (1967) pp. 165–7] In Rudyard Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill", Puckholds to scorn the moralizing fairies of other Victorian works. [Briggs (1967) p.203] The period also saw a revival of older themes in fantasyliterature, such as C.S. Lewis's Narniabooks which, while featuring many such classical beings as fauns and dryads, mingles them freely with hags, giants, and other creatures of the folkloric fairy tradition. [Briggs (1967) p.209] Victorian flower fairieswere popularized in part by Queen Mary’s keen interest in fairy art, and by British illustrator and poet Cicely Mary Barker's series of eight books published in 1923 through 1948. Imagery of fairies in literature became prettier and smaller as time progressed. ["Lewis p.129-130"] Andrew Lang, complaining of "the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms" in the introduction to " The Lilac Fairy Book", observed that "These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed." [Lang, Andrew " [http://www.mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/lilac.htm Preface The Lilac Fairy Book] ]
Fairies are seen in
Neverland, in the novel "Peter and Wendy", the version of James Barrie's famous Peter Panstories that was published in 1911. In the part of the story where Peter Pan and the lost boys had built a house for Wendy on Neverland, he stays up late that night to guard her from the pirates, but then the story says: "After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter's nose and passed on." [J.M.Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens as well Peter and Wendy, Oxford Press, 1999, page 132]
Fairies in art
Images of fairies have appeared as illustrations, often in books of
fairy tales, as well as in photographic-based media and sculpture. Some artists known for their depictions of fairies include:
Cicely Mary Barker
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Victorian erawas particularly noted for fairy paintings. The Victorian painter Richard Daddcreated paintings of fairy-folk with a sinister and malign tone. Other Victorian artists who depicted fairies include John Atkinson Grimshaw, Joseph Noel Paton, John Anster Fitzgeraldand Daniel Maclise. [Windling, Terri, " [http://www.endicott-studio.com/gal/galvctf.html Victorian Fairy Paintings] "] Interest in fairy-themed art enjoyed a brief renaissance following the publication of the Cottingley Fairies photographs in 1917 and a number of artists turned to painting fairy themes. Following in the footsteps of this trend, and utilizing modern digital technology, fantasyphotographers like J. Corsentinocreated a new sub-genre of "fairy photography". [ cite web|url=http://www.faeriechronicles.com |title=The Faerie Chronicles |accessdate=2007-02-19 |last=Dean |first=Margaret]
Fairies in popular culture
Fairies are often depicted in books, stories, and movies. A number of these fairies are from adaptations of traditional tales.
Engelbert Humperdinck's 1893 opera "Hänsel und Gretel" features the Dew Fairy in Act 3 who wakens the title characters from their sleep. Although the role is a small one, it serves to highlight the supernatural character of the woods in which the children find themselves, which is also the home of a cannibalistic witch and her gingerbread house.
Perhaps some of the most well-known fairies were made by Disney.
Tinkerbell, from the Peter Panstories by J.M. Barrie[cite book |author=J. M. Barrie; illustrated by Michael Hague |title=Peter Pan |publisher=H. Holt |location=New York |year=2003 |pages= |isbn=0-8050-7245-4 |oclc= |doi=] and the Disney adaptation. Also the Fairy Godmother in Disney's adaptation of "Cinderella" and the fairies in "Sleeping Beauty". In Carlo Collodi's tale " Pinocchio" a wooden boy receives the gift of real life from a fairy described as the "lovely maiden with azure hair", [cite book |author=Carlo Collodi |title=Pinocchio |publisher=Tor Books |location=New York |year= |pages= |isbn=0-7653-0591-7 |oclc= |doi=] who was dubbed the "Blue Fairy" for Disney's adaptation.
As would be expected, fairies appear in other media as well, including novels, video games, role playing games and music. A comprehensive list is beyond the scope of this article, but one recent and notable example is Susanna Clarke's novel "
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell", which revolved about two magicians with close connections to the fairy world; [Luc Reid, [http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20040927/jonathanstrange-r.shtml "Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: Magic Chuses To Reemerge in Regency England"] ] it won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. [ [http://www.interaction.worldcon.org.uk/pressr47.htm "Press Release #47 – 2005 Hugo Winners Announced"] ] Clarke drew heavily on British folklore for this work and her collection of short stories "The Ladies of Grace Adieu", including retelling the story of " Tom Tit Tot" as her "On Lickerish Hill". [Susanna Clarke "The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories", p 62 ISBN 1-59691-251-0]
As fairy art, folklore and music inspired by it has continued to thrive in popular culture, various fantasy faires and conventions dedicated to everything fairy have sprung up around the country, such as
Faerieworlds, Faeriecon and fairy festivals at Sproutwood Farm. Recording artist Gary Stadlerreleased a series of fairy-influenced music CDs on Sequoia Records, beginning with "Fairy of the Woods" in 1994, and including "Fairy HeartMagic", that appeared on Billboard's top 25 New Age musicchart in 2000, and featuring fairy artwork by Katlyn Breene of Zingaia.
Many children television programs such as "
The Fairly Oddparents" (whose title puns on "fairy godparents") also feature fairies and magic.
Fairies are a companion and helper of Ofelia and the
faunin the Spanish movie " Pan's Labyrinth" by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. They originally look like large insects but shapeshift after Ofelia shows them a picture of what a fairy is supposed to look like.
The Fae are a playable race of characters in the
MMORPG EverQuest 2, as of the release of the expansion pack Echoes of Faydwer. Their characteristics draw from many archetypes common to those found in North America. In the role playing game by White WolfStudios called Changeling the Lostyou play a human who has been stolen by the Fae, but who escapes and is supernaturally changed by the experience.
Harry Potterscenario, unusually, fairies are depicted as non- sentientand reproducing by egg and larvaand pupalike insects do. ["Fantastic beasts & where to find them", publ. Bloomsbury2001, ISBN 0 7475 5466 8, written allegedly by Newt Scamanderbut probably actually by J.K.Rowling]
Artemis Fowlseries, faires are depicted as wingless creatures who can "mesmerize" humans and live underground.
Fairies are a prominent figure in the
Fablehavenseries, written by Brandon Mull. At the end of Book 1, several are magically transformed to human size, enabling them to save Fablehaven from a demon set on destroying it. They revere the "Fairy Queen" who is considered the most powerful being in the Fairy world.
*D. L. Ashliman, "Fairy Lore: A Handbook" (Greenwood, 2006)
Brian Froudand Alan Lee, "Faeries", (Peacock Press/Bantam, New York, 1978)
Ronan Coghlan"Handbook of Fairies" (Capall Bann, 2002)
Lizanne Hendersonand Edward J. Cowan, " (Edinburgh, 2001; 2007)
C. S. Lewis, "The Discarded
*Patricia Lysaght, "The Banshee: the Irish Supernatural Death Messenger" (Glendale Press, Dublin, 1986)
*Peter Narvaez, "The Good People, New Fairylore Essays" (Garland, New York, 1991)
*Eva Pocs, "Fairies and Witches at the boundary of south-eastern and central Europe" FFC no 243 (Helsinki, 1989)
*Diane Purkiss, "Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories" (Allen Lane, 2000)
*Tomkinson, John L. [http://www.anagnosis.gr/index.php?pageID=74&la=eng "Haunted Greece: Nymphs, Vampires and other Exotika,"] (Anagnosis, 2004) ISBN 960-88087-0-7
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20060511.shtml Academic discussion] on
BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, May 11, 2006(streaming and podcast)
* [http://www.archive.org/details/DaleJarvisTheHouseOnTheFairyPath Audio recording of a traditional fairy story from Newfoundland, Canada] (streaming and downloadable formats)
* [http://onewomansmind.net/west/irishfaery.html Brief Essay] Away With the Faery: Exploring the Irish Gentry by Paula Vaughan
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