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Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

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Elements of Fantasy: Fairies

The types of spirits known as fairies exceeded the number of ways the word was spelled. Fairy godmothers were given human dimensions, oftentimes without wings. Tinkerbell was tiny with dragonfly qualities. Puck was mischievous and emotional. At a first glance, fairies lacked a particular identity.

Many people adamantly believed in fairies. In Scotland, land developers followed restrictions to avoid disturbing fairy nests located under rocks. Many Iceland residents swore their landscapes were highly populated with fairies capable of entering solid rocks to reach their homes. The credibility of people claiming to see ghosts made the likelihood of additional paranormal creatures, such as fairies, feasible.

The first account of fairies dated back to the original word spoken by God. According to Scottish folklore, after Lucifer and the fallen angels were cast out of heaven, the gates remained open. Additional heavenly beings tumbled within in the wake of Lucifer’s downward spiral. When God realized many innocent beings had slipped from heaven, he sealed the gates permanently.

“Let those who are out stay out, and those who are in stay in,” God announced. God sent the fallen angels to hell. All other heavenly beings locked outside the gates made their homes on earth.

Thus arose different tribes and races of fairies. Some tribes lived in boisterous communities with political systems, such as a king, queen and advisors. Social fairies sang and danced and held joyful banquets. Solitary fairies preferred residing in human households. Over the years, the races disputed over territories, which created natural disasters.

Another theory as to the origin of fairies evolved from Norse folklore. Adam and Eve had many children after Cain and Abel and Seth. So many, Eve didn’t have time to bath all her children when God paid a house-call. Ashamed of her dirty children, Eve hid them.

“What man hides from God, God will hide from man,” God said. He transformed her dirty children so that they became invisible. The invisible children fled into the hills. Their descendants chose to remain invisible to humans.

Forest Fae by AmethystanaEve’s wood spirit fairies protected nature. They appreciated humans who respected the environment by cleaning waterways, picking up litter and adapting a vegan diet. As a matter of fact, modern day believers, such as Doreen Virtue, advised such actions for developing the ability to see fairies. The magical creatures revealed themselves to deserving humans.

Greeks believed fairies were spiritual beings that evolved from idols worshipped by pagans. Christians invaded cities where pagan worship was prominent and banned idolatry. Since the dead pagans were never baptized, their spirits weren’t allowed into heaven. Hell declined admittance of the pagan spirits because they weren’t evil. Thus, the pagan spirits resided in the netherworld as fairies.

Celtic lore suggested fairies were actually small humans who settled in the Otherworld to hide from violent attacks. The fairies despised the iron weapons used by clans to kill their families. Helpless against the forceful warfare, the small people developed magic for defending themselves in battles. They dressed in green and camouflaged their homes, which were located on the sides of hills and in caves.

Unlike traditional heavenly beings, fairies were known for being mischievous. Their most common offense was stealing babies. They replaced innocent infants with changelings. Parents became alarmed when they noticed their healthy child grew sickly. If chanting in front of a fireplace caused the baby to climb up the chimney, it was deemed to be a changeling. Many believed death resulted when fairies forced abducted persons to dance to the point of exhaustion. Fairies tangled the hair of sleeping humans and gave incorrect instructions to travelers. If a fairy sat on the back of any livestock, the animal died. Death resulted for any human who disturbed the home of a fairy. If house dwelling fairies felt humans didn’t keep up their homes well enough, they pinched them in the middle of the night.

Blue Fairy by Mr DumblebeeHumans avoided entering woodlands for fear of coming across a clan of fairies. To protect themselves from harm, people wore their clothes inside out. The custom of carrying bread in one’s pocket for good-luck began with homemade bread being used to drive away fairies. Other protections against fairies included, running water and ringing bells. St. John’s wort and four leaf clovers keeps fairies at bay, as well.

If a person learned the name of a particular fairy, he gained control over the magical creature. Fairies possessed the rare ability to turn gold gifted to travelers, into leaves or some type of useless object after the travelers continued on their journeys.

Readers granted flexible interpretations of fairies. As long as the ethereal being isn’t a ghost or human, it could be presented in a fairy-form. Whether fairies truly existed as heavenly spirits or mischievous magicians, paranormal beings lived side by side with humans. Showing respect to our environment certainly was a logical manner in which to live, particularly if fairies punish humans for damaging earth elements. Man’s imagination sprouted the spirits of the dead into something very real.



  1. Really great article, Janie. I have a race of fairy-like creatures in my book, and I gave them some of these very attributes you talked about. The great thing about fairies, as you mention, is that the legends are widespread and inclusive enough that you can build your own fairy system. 🙂

    Thanks for the well-researched article!


    • Janie Bill says:

      Hi Amy,

      The older I get, the more I believe fairies have a real-life history. I so much want them to be alive. Doreen Virtue insists we will see fairies if we life a vegan lifestyle and respect nature. In my research, I saw a video where a Scottish woman considered ghosts to be less likely to exist than fairies. I realized there wasn’t any reason for them not to be real.

      Stay in touch!


  2. What a fun thing about fairies 🙂 I love learning about where things like this come from. Thank you so much for sharing the information 🙂

    • Janie Bill says:

      Hi Chelsea:

      It is interesting that fairies might have been dwarfs surviving in the woodlands. Perhaps they have magical abilities from ancient rituals.


  3. Khaldun says:

    Wow. This was an awesome article. I don’t know that I would ever even have considered making my characters wear their clothes inside out to ward off faeries. Thanks!

  4. Janie Bill says:

    Supersitious are intriguing. I plan to incorporate bread into confrontation scenes. Even I sometimes open opposing doors in my home to clear out negative energy and I hadn’t even heard of such a thing.

    Cheers! Janie

  5. Jeff Blackmer says:

    Fascinating article Janie!
    The quote from Hamlet comes to mind: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Me thinks there is much more going on than people see. 😉

  6. Janie Bill says:

    You are observant, Jeff. You made an excellent parallel. I love the idea there our world is not limited to what we see. Interacting with the unseen is the focus of my writing.

    Keep writing!


  7. kathleen says:

    Great focus. I’ve always loved fairy stories!

    • Janie Bill says:

      Thanks, Kathleen.

      I wish fairies lived in my yard, flitting about whenever I went outside. I always take a double check on the dragon flies darting around me.

      Happy Reading!


  8. Elfy says:

    Excellent article, Janie. The bit about fairies being a race of small people who hated iron because of what it did to their kind and hiding in caves on hillsides brought back memories of Parke Godwin’s books, where the author dealt with that belief in a way I’d never seen before. I wouldn’t mind having some of those fairies that clean your house and do your laundry while you sleep.

  9. elo612 says:

    love it the first pic i have as a tattoo

  10. Faerie says:

    To say that I enjoyed this site, and your lovely faerie write, would be an understatement.

    In a world where so much is seen, but not understood or appreciated . . . isn’t it a grand thing to ponder other more enchanting realms? You may not (as yet) have seen faeries in your yard, but they are aware of you. When the time is right, I believe they will reveal themselves to you . . . perhaps in the form of muses — to aid you in writing more beautiful faerie pieces. Bright Blessings! Faerie

  11. Elspeth says:

    that was a magnificent article

  12. John says:

    If i get one, i will hook with her till long. I hope they are stunning. lol

  13. Hawa says:

    i never even thought of the origins of fairies before… interesting

  14. Chris Derby says:

    Hi Janie,
    I am making my first attempt at writing a children’s book about a barn brownie. I began this adventure in 2012, and spent hours researching brownies. Thanks for your comprehensive article on the subject. My question to you is, does this information need to be footnoted, or is it considered in the public domain? I am sort of making up my own legend of the first New England barn brownie, even though he will have deep rooted Scottish ties. I have read the Boggart series, along with Palmer Cox’s stories, and any book that I can find that discusse

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