The mythical creature typically known as a Fairy is a specific class of magical being that hearkens back to European folklore. The title is sometimes spelled “Faerie”. The plural is Fay or Fae. Here are some details about this classic creature.
Quick Facts about Fairies
- Traditionally, fairies were often thought of as evil or mean.
- Sometimes, they were believed to swap their offspring for human babies.
- These beings are uniquely different from pixies and sprites.
- They are almost always described as having wings.
- They can be as tall as humans or small like pixies.
- There are thousands of ancient forts called "Fairy Forts" throughout Ireland.
- A magical fairy sanctuary called "Northwood Trail" is located near York, England.
- In the 1940 Disney film "Pinocchio", the Blue Fairy brings the puppet to life.
- In one of the original versions of Sleeping Beauty, an overlooked fairy curses Briar Rose to eventually prick her finger.
What do Fairies look like?
According to European folklore and literature, fairies have had a wide variety of appearances. Some are beautiful and others are hideous. Others are a bit of both.
Today fairies are generally described as feminine in appearance. They are attractive and often have wings like a butterfly or other airborne insect. Other mythical creatures traditionally considered fairies that do not fit this description tend to be referred to by other more specific titles.
Where did Fairies originate?
Fairies do not have a single origin. They are a product of a compilation of folk beliefs from numerous sources. Some folk theories suggest a Christian-like concept of these creatures being demoted demons or angels.
Pagans and Pre-Christian Europeans theorized they were lesser deities or spirits. Following the spread of Christianity, belief in fairies decreased. They were often thought only to be another race of beings who lived alongside humans. Others considered them to be prehistoric precursors to humans, spirits of nature, or even spirits of the dead.
What types of powers do Fairies have?
Some of the more popular powers fairies have include the following:
- Animal Communication: Numerous fairies have the power to understand animals’ emotions or even to communicate with them. They can call upon animals to protect them as well.
- Flight: While iconic modern-day fairies such as Disney’s Tinker Bell can fly, Traditionally, few fairies can fly and the don’t always have wings. Flight is traditionally used more as a form of defense and not a standard form of transportation.
- Healing: Fairies are also healers. They are able to cure both plants and human beings. They are even able to heal both the body and the spirit.
- Photokinesis: Fairies are able to control natural light and thus have power over nature. Some have the power to generate light from their own bodies too.
- Shapeshifting: Fairies can control and alter their appearances. They can even appear human-like. On a related note, if a bad fairy is using the power of Glamour to make itself look attractive and a human learns the truth, that fairy will never be able to hide its true appearance from that person again.
- Invisibility: Not only can fairies control how they appear to others, they can also choose to not allow anyone to see them. Some fairies even have the ability to merge into shadows. Although most fairies are normally invisible to the human eye. Gift-giving fairies can also make people invisible.
Fairy powers can also include the ability to make others lucky or unlucky, and they often are so nimble they are able to dodge anything and never be hit. Some are able to grant humans the temporary gift of being able to see the hidden realm of fairies or see into the future. They are also nearly invulnerable and heal within one day. Finally, most fairies have enhanced senses.
What is the difference between Fairies and Pixies?
One of the main differences between fairies and pixies is that fairies have wings and pixies generally do not.
Fairies tend to have more magical abilities and can be as tall as humans. They are also able to fly. In many cultures, fairies are actually mean or evil.
Pixies are small, have pointed ears, and instead of being evil are mischievous and playful.
They are also similar in ways too. They are both elusive to humans, and also both have a magical aura about them.
What are some stories about Fairies?
Fairies were perhaps first described in the 13th-century by the historian Gervase of Tilbury. In literature, fairies often appeared in medieval romances in encounters with a wandering knight errant. As the medieval period progressed, fairies were often replaced with enchantresses and wizards.
In the 1485 novel “Le Morte d'Arthur,” the antagonist is Morgan le Fay. While her powers are reported to stem from study, her very name implies a relationship to fairies. Thus, while there was a move away from fairies, they had not totally disappeared.
Indeed, in 1596, fairies appeared as important characters in English author William Shakespeare's play “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” which simultaneously takes place in the realm of Fairyland and the moonlit woodland. In the 1800s the German Brothers Grimm originally included various fairies in their work. They later decided fairies were not authentically German and rewrote later editions, relabeling them as wise women or enchantresses. Nevertheless, initially the fairies were there.
Perhaps the most famous example of the modern-day fairy was born in Scottish novelist J. M. Barrie's 1902 book, “The Little White Bird.” In a chapter on his famous Peter Pan character, he includes a tale of the actual origin of fairies. He would include fairies such as the world-famous Tinker Bell in future works like 1911’s “Peter and Wendy.” To this day Tinker Bell remains a pop culture icon.