A FAIRY (also fay, fae, fair folk; from faery, faerie, "realm of the fays") is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore , a form of spirit , often described as metaphysical , supernatural , or preternatural .
* 1 Etymology * 2 Historical development * 3 Description
* 4 Origin
* 4.1 Christian mythology * 4.2 Demoted pagan deities * 4.3 Spirits of the dead * 4.4 A hidden people * 4.5 Elementals
* 5 Tuatha Dé Danann
* 5.1 Aos Sí
* 6 Characteristics * 7 Classifications * 8 Changelings * 9 Protective charms * 10 Legends * 11 Literature * 12 In art * 13 Cottingley Fairies * 14 See also * 15 Bibliography * 16 References * 17 External links
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Thomas Keightley , the word "fairy" derives from the
Latin fata, and is from the
Faie became Modern English fay. Faierie became fairy, but with that spelling now almost exclusively referring to one of the legendary people, with the same meaning as fay. The word "fairy" was used to represent an illusion, or enchantment; the land of the Faes; collectively the inhabitants thereof; or an individual such as a fairy knight.
To the word faie was added the suffix -erie ( Modern English -(e)ry), used to express either a place where something is found (fishery, nunnery) or a trade or typical activity engaged in (cookery, thievery). In later usage it generally applied to any kind of quality or activity associated with a particular type of person, as in English knavery, roguery , wizardry. In the sense "land where fairies dwell", the distinctive and archaic spellings Faery and Faerie are often used.
The latinate fay is not to be confused with the unrelated (Germanic) fey, meaning "fated to die".
Various folkloristic traditions refer to them euphemistically , by names such as wee folk , good folk, people of peace, fair folk (Welsh tylwyth teg ), etc.
Sometimes the term fairy is used to describe any magical creature,
including goblins or gnomes : at other times, the term describes only
a specific type of more ethereal creature or sprite . The concept of
"fairy" in the narrow sense is unique to
Fairies have their historical origin in the conflation of Celtic (Breton, Welsh) traditions in the Middle French medieval romances . Fairie was in origin used adjectivally, meaning "enchanted" (as in fairie knight, fairie queene ), but was used as a name for "enchanted" creatures from as early as the Late Middle English period. In English literature of the Elizabethan era, elves became conflated with the fairies of Romance culture, so that the two terms began to be used interchangeably.
The Victorian and Edwardian eras saw an increase in interest in
Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and having magical powers. 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. Even with these small fairies, however, their small size may be magically assumed rather than constant. Some fairies though normally quite small were able to dilate their figures to imitate humans. On Orkney they were described as short in stature, dressed in dark grey, and sometimes seen in armour.
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. Nowadays, fairies are often depicted with ordinary insect wings or butterfly wings. In some folklore, fairies have green eyes. Some depictions of fairies either have them wearing some sort of footwear and other depictions of fairies are always barefoot.
The early modern fairies do not have any single origin, representing a conflation of disparate elements of folk belief , influenced by literature and speculation. Their origins are less clear in the folklore, being variously dead, or some form of demon , or a species completely independent of humans or angels . The folkloristic or mythological elements combine Celtic , Germanic and Greco-Roman elements. Folklorists have suggested that their actual origin lies in religious beliefs that lost currency with the advent of Christianity. These explanations are not necessarily incompatible, and they may be traceable to multiple sources.
Title page of a 1603 reprinting of
According to King James in his dissertation
One other Christian belief held that fairies were a class of
"demoted" angels. One popular story described how, when the angels
DEMOTED PAGAN DEITIES
Another, perhaps incorrect, theory is that some fairies were originally worshiped as minor deities, such as nymphs or tree spirits , 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 invented Victorian writings. Victorian inventions 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. This entire Victorian view has been debunked and refuted and is now considered by scholars an antiquated and incorrect view.
Yet another belief was that the fairies were demons entirely. This belief became much more popular with the growth of Puritanism. The hobgoblin , once a friendly household spirit, became a wicked goblin. Dealing with fairies was in some cases considered a form of witchcraft and punished as such in this era. 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.
SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
One popular belief was that they were the dead. This noted that many
common points of belief, such as the same legends being told of ghosts
and fairies, the sídhe in actuality being burial mounds, it being
dangerous to eat food in both Fairyland and
A HIDDEN PEOPLE
1896 illustration of a fairy from Ernest Vincent Wright 's The Wonderful Fairies of the Sun
At one time it was a common belief that fairy folklore evolved from folk memories of a prehistoric race. It was suggested that newcomers drove out the original inhabitants, and the memories of this defeated, hidden people developed into the fairy beliefs we have today. Proponents of this theory claimed to find support in the tradition of cold iron as a charm against the fairies, which was viewed as a cultural memory of invaders with iron weapons displacing inhabitants who had only flint and were therefore easily defeated. Some 19th-century archaeologists thought they had found underground rooms in the Orkney islands resembling the Elfland in Childe Rowland . However the idea of a fallen vanquished race in hiding has fallen out of favour with scholars.
In popular folklore, flint arrowheads from the Stone Age were attributed to the fairies as "elf-shot ". 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.
Another belief is that the fairies were an intelligent species,
distinct from humans and angels. In alchemy in particular they were
regarded as elementals , such as gnomes and sylphs , as described by
TUATHA Dé DANANN
Main article: Tuatha Dé Danann
The Tuath(a) Dé Danann are a race of supernaturally-gifted people in
Irish mythology. They are thought to represent the main deities of
pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. Many of the Irish tales of the Tuatha
Dé Danann refer to these beings as fairies, though in more ancient
times they were regarded as goddesses and gods . The Tuatha Dé Danann
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
They are 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 Tir na nÓg (the Land of Youth).
Main article: Aos Si
The AOS Sí is the Irish term for a supernatural race in Irish and
Scottish , comparable to the fairies or elves . They are variously
said to be ancestors, the spirits of nature, or goddesses and gods. A
common theme found among the Celtic nations describes a race of
diminutive people who had been driven into hiding by invading humans.
In old Celtic fairy lore the
Aos Sí (fairy folk) are immortals living
in the ancient barrows and cairns. The Irish banshee (Irish Gaelic
bean sí or
In the 1691 The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, Reverend Robert Kirk , minister of the Parish of Aberfoyle, Stirling , Scotland, wrote:
These Siths or Fairies they call Sleagh Maith or the Good People...are said to be of middle nature between Man and Angel, as were Daemons thought to be of old; of intelligent fluidous Spirits, and light changeable bodies (lyke those called Astral) somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the sublety of Spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure
Much of the folklore about fairies revolves around protection from their malice, by such means as cold iron or charms of rowan and herbs , or avoiding offense by shunning locations known to be theirs. 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 behaviors 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. 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. Rowan trees are considered sacred to the fairies. Classic representation of a small fairy with butterfly wings commonly used in modern times. Luis Ricardo Falero , 1888.
Main article: Classifications of fairies
In Scottish folklore , fairies are divided into the Seelie Court, the more beneficently inclined (but still dangerous) fairies, and the Unseelie Court, the malicious fairies. While the fairies from the Seelie court enjoyed playing pranks on humans they were usually harmless affairs, compared to the Unseelie court that enjoyed bringing harm to humans as entertainment.
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 creatures mainly 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.
Main article: Changeling
A considerable amount of lore about fairies revolves around changelings , fairy children left in the place of stolen human babies. In particular, folklore describes how to prevent the fairies from stealing babies and substituting changelings , and abducting older people as well. The theme of the swapped child is common in medieval literature and reflects concern over infants thought to be afflicted with unexplained diseases, disorders, or developmental disabilities. In pre-industrial Europe, a peasant family's subsistence frequently depended upon the productive labor of each member, and a person who was a permanent drain on the family's scarce resources could pose a threat to the survival of the entire family.
In terms of protective charms, wearing clothing inside out, church
bells, St. John\'s wort , and four-leaf clovers are regarded as
effective. In Newfoundland folklore, the most popular type of fairy
protection is bread, varying from stale bread to hard tack or a slice
of fresh home-made bread. 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. “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
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 Court from the Unseelie Court , such that fairies use them to protect themselves from more wicked members of their race. Another ambiguous piece of folklore revolves about poultry: a cock's crow drove away fairies, but other tales recount fairies keeping poultry.
While many fairies will confuse travelers on the path, the will o\'
the wisp can be avoided by not following it. Certain locations, known
to be haunts of fairies, are to be avoided;
C. S. Lewis
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. Other brownies left households or farms because they heard a complaint, or a compliment. People who saw the fairies were advised not to look closely, because they resented infringements on their privacy. 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.
Millers were thought by the Scots to be "no canny", owing 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, 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.
It is also believed that to know the name of a particular fairy could summon it to you and force it to do your bidding. The name could be used as an insult towards the fairy in question, but it could also rather contradictorily be used to grant powers and gifts to the user.
Before the advent of modern medicine, many physiological conditions were untreatable and when children were born with abnormalities, it was common to blame the fairies.
Sometimes fairies are described as assuming the guise of an animal. In Scotland it was peculiar to the fairy women to assume the shape of deer; while witches became mice, hares, cats, gulls, or black sheep. In "The Legend of Knocksheogowna", in order to frighten a farmer who pastured his herd on fairy ground, a fairy queen took on the appearance of a great horse, with the wings of an eagle, and a tail like a dragon, hissing loud and spitting fire. Then she would change into a little man lame of a leg, with a bull's head, and a lambent flame playing round it.
In the 19th-century child ballad " Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight ", the elf-knight is a Bluebeard figure, and Isabel must trick and kill him to preserve her life. 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
Thomas the Rhymer
A common feature of the fairies is the use of magic to disguise
These illusions are also implicit in the tales of fairy ointment .
Many tales from Northern
There have been claims by people in the past, like
The word "fairy" was used to describe an individual inhabitant of Faerie before the time of Chaucer.
Fairies appeared in medieval romances as one of the beings that a knight errant might encounter. A fairy lady appeared to Sir Launfal and 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 Bordeaux is aided by King Oberon . These fairy characters dwindled in number as the medieval era progressed; the figures became wizards and enchantresses.
The oldest fairies on record in England were first described by the historian Gervase of Tilbury in the 13th century.
Morgan le Fay
Fairies appear as significant characters in William
Michael Drayton features fairies in his
Nimphidia; from these stem
The modern depiction of fairies was shaped in the literature of
A story of the origin of fairies appears in a chapter about Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie
See also: Fairy painting At that moment she was changed by magic to a wonderful little elf by John Bauer .
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
The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, MI are small doors installed into local buildings. Local children believe these are the front doors of fairy houses, and in some cases, small furniture, dishes, and various other things can be seen beyond the doors.
This section MAY STRAY FROM THE TOPIC OF THE ARTICLE. Please help improve this section or discuss this issue on the talk page . (July 2013)
Main article: Cottingley Fairies
Cottingley Fairies photographs in 1917 (revealed by the
"photographers" in 1981 to have been faked) were originally publicized
by Theosophists, many of whom believed them to be real. In the
E. L. Gardner likened fairies to butterflies, but whose function was to provide an essential link between the energy of the sun and plants in order to stimulate growth. "That growth of a plant which we regard as the customary and inevitable result of associating the three factors of sun, seed, and soil would never take place if the fairy builders were absent." He described them as having "...no clean-cut shape normally, and one can only describe them as small, hazy, and somewhat luminous clouds of colour with a brighter spark-like nucleus."
Artemis Fowl (series)
* D. L. Ashliman,
* ^ A B C Kready, Laura. A Study of
* ^ Briggs, K. M. (1967) The Fairies in English Tradition and
Literature. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. p. 71.
* ^ Croker, Thomas Crofton. "The Legend of Knocksheogowna", Fairy
Legends and Traditions, 1825
* ^ A B Child, Francis The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.
* ^ "The Child Ballads: 37. Thomas Rymer". Sacred-texts.com.
* ^ Briggs (1967) p. 104.
* ^ Briggs (1967) pp. 50–1.
* ^ De Nugis Curiallium by Walter Map, Edited by F. Tupper & M.B
Ogle (Chatto & Windus, London 1924)
* ^ Lenihan (2004) pp. 109–10.
* ^ Northumberland Folk Tales, by Rosalind Kerven (2005) Antony
Rowe Ltd, p. 532.
* ^ Narváez, Peter (1997) The Good People: New Fairylore Essays.
University Press of Kentucky. pp. 126
* ^ Briggs (1976) "
* v * t * e
ROYALTY IN FOLKLORE
ROYALTY IN LITERATURE
FAIRYLANDS IN FOLKLORE
FAIRIES IN CULTURE
FAIRIES IN FOLKLORE
* Alp Luachra
FAIRY-LIKE BEINGS IN FOLKLORE
* Bagiennik ">CELTIC
* See also: PORTAL CATEGORY LIST OF BEINGS REFERRED TO A