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Fairies: In folklore, a diminutive supernatural creature, generally in human form, dwelling in an imaginary region called fairyland; and the stories of its interventions through magic in mortal affairs. The term fairy is also loosely applied to such beings as brownies, gnomes, elves, nixies, goblins, trolls, dwarfs, pixies, kobolds, banshees, sylphs, sprites, and undines. The folk imagination not only conceives of fairyland as a distinct domain, but also imagines fairies as living in everyday surroundings such as hills, trees, and streams and sees fairy rings, fairy tables, and fairy steeds in natural objects.
The belief in fairies was an almost universal attribute of early folk culture. In ancient Greek literature the sirens in Homer's Odyssey are fairies, and a number of the heroes in his Iliad have fairy lovers in the form of nymphs. The Gandharvas (celestial singers and musicians), who figure in Sanskrit poetry, were fairies, as were the Hathors, or female genii, of ancient Egypt, who appeared at the birth of a child and predicted the child's future.
The traditional characteristics of fairies are depicted in European literature in such works as Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet (in Mercutio's "Queen Mab" speech); The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser; L'Allegro and Comus by John Milton; Contes de ma mère l'oye, known in English as Tales of Mother Goose, by Charles Perrault; Kinder-und Hausmärchen, known in English as Grimm's Fairy Tales, by the brothers Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and Wilhelm Karl Grimm; a fairy-tale series by Andrew Lang, for example, The Blue Fairy Tale Book and The Red Fairy Tale Book; and representative collections of Irish stories such as Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland by Thomas Crofton Croker and Irish Fairy Tales by William Butler Yeats.
Croker has described fairies as being "a few inches high, airy and almost transparent in body; so delicate in their form that a dewdrop, when they chance to dance on it, trembles, indeed, but never breaks." In folklore fairies are generally considered beneficent toward humans. They are sensitive and capricious, however, and often inclined to play pranks; so if their resentment is not to be aroused, they must be spoken well of and always treated with deference. Bad fairies are thought to be responsible for such misfortunes as the bewitching of children, the substitution of ugly fairy babies, known as changelings, for human infants, and the sudden death of cattle.
Folktales are a generic term for the various kinds of narrative prose literature found in the oral traditions of the world. One of the many forms of folklore, folktales are heard and remembered, and they are subject to various alterations in the course of retellings. As they are diffused (transmitted through a culture), some folktales may pass in and out of written literature (for example, the "Rip Van Winkle" story), and some stories of literary origin may cross over into oral tradition (for example, the anecdote about George Washington and the cherry tree). Nevertheless, an essential trait of folktales—and all folk literature—is their diffusion, and their passage from one generation to another, by word of mouth.
The principal kinds of folktales are myths, legends, and Märchen, or fairy tales. In common usage, these terms are interchangeable; they refer to any highly imaginative concept or narrative and usually carry an implication of falsehood and incredibility. To folklorists, however, each of the three represents a distinct form of the folktale. Other forms include animal tales and fables, tall tales, formula tales, jokes and anecdotes, as well as cante fables (folk stories partly in song or verse).,
When strictly defined, myths are folktales that are religious and explain the universe and its inhabitants. Such stories are considered true by both the narrator and the audience and tell of the creation and regulation of the world—tasks usually performed by a deity (god or goddess) who exists in chaos, in a void, or in some other world. With a series of offspring and companions, the deity gives form to the world and introduces life to it, then proceeds on a series of adventures and struggles in which he or she does such things as liberating the sun, the moon, water, or fire; regulating the winds; originating corn, beans, or nuts; defeating monsters; and teaching mortals how to hunt and plow.
Called a culture hero, the being who performs these tasks may take the form of a human (as does Zeus in ancient Greek myths) or an animal (as do Coyote and Raven in Native American tales). He or she may frequently change shape. Some mythologies, such as those of the Native Americans and the West Africans, involve whole cycles in which the culture hero is a trickster who is small and resourceful, as well as greedy, pretentious, deceitful, and stupid—a paradoxical creature who is tricked or tricks himself as often as tricking others. Thus, Anansi the Spider, the trickster-hero of a great body of West African folktales, seems both to instruct human beings in what not to do and to illustrate the price of such rebellion from the proper way. Analogous figures in folktales of other cultures are Brer Rabbit in African-American folktales, as well as Coyote, Raven, and Hare in North American tales.
Legends are folk history, and even when dealing with religious subject matter they differ from myth in that they tell about what has happened in the world after the period of its creation is over. They are believed by both narrator and audience and encompass a great variety of subjects: saints; werewolves, ghosts, and other supernatural creatures; adventures of real heroes and heroines; personal reminiscences; and explanations of geographical features and place-names (called local legends).
Urban legends are contemporary stories that are set in an urban environment and reported as true (sometimes in newspapers) but that contain patterns and motifs that reveal their legendary character. The context of these legends may be contemporary, but the stories reflect timeless concerns about urban living, including privacy, death, decay, and vermin.
Fairy tales, or Märchen (the German word preferred by scholars to designate this genre), are fiction. Taking place in a wonderland filled with magic and strange characters, they are believed by neither narrator nor audience. Although the supernatural abounds in Märchen, few of them have to do with fairies (see Fairy and Fairy Tale). Although Märchen deal with a great range of subject matter (as stories such as "Cinderella," "Snow White," or "Little Red Riding Hood" demonstrate), a typical plot involves an underdog hero or heroine who is put through great trials or must perform seemingly impossible tasks, and who with magical assistance secures his or her birthright or a suitable marriage partner. Frequently, such stories begin "Once upon a time" and end "And they lived happily ever after." Often (especially in the United States) called "Jack Tales" after the name commonly given to the hero, Märchen have become popular stories for children, although originally adults and children alike enjoyed them.
Tristram Potter Coffin
Charles H. Long
Faeries in Witchcraft
Element: Air (airy fairy)
Metal: iron repels fairies
For: enchantment - gifts - flower magic - tempests - raising magic mists
I started listening to Tori's music at the end of last year. I noticed in her booklet to Little Earthquakes that she thanked the "faeries". I wondered why. I soon got on the Internet and found that Tori uses faerie majick in her everyday life. They're like her "girls", her songs. I've always liked fairy's, the cute little creatures that inhabit enchanted gardens, but I never figured they could be used in everyday life. I always felt like sort of a child when I'd see pictures or graphics of faeries and get an excited light in my eyes. Now I don't care, because if a great grandmother from A Fairy World can believe in them, so can an 18 year old. I have a site dedicated to Tori Amos also here. Please check it out and sign the guestbook and the petition. Thanks.
Some quotes by Tori on her faeries
"I would get lonely sometimes when other children didn't want to come and play with me. I had millions of friends from the other world. As a little girl, you play with who you can, and if they're not in human form, they're still very real to you. Let's put it this way. It's never lonely in my Toyota 4-runner."
Tori Amos, from Rolling Stone, Jul 98
"I think that people who can't believe in faeries aren't worth knowing. I just think alternate realities make you a good writer. If your work is any more than one dimension, you believe in faeries."
Tori Amos, from Spin, March 1996
"I don't care what you offer me right now, if the fairies don't sprinkle their little wee on my head, it's not gonna happen. I can't make it happen. Now, say I'm walking down the street, eating a banana, and something happens; four bars, with a sketchy lyric. If you give me two weeks, maybe I could develop it, just on my skills and craft alone. I'm not telling you it could be great. It might be passable. But there are certain songs I look at and say, I would not change a breath."
"It goes back to studying mythology and really getting fascinated with a race of people who were driven underground. They were called faeries in later lore, but they've become this whole caricature. This is difficult to explain to people, when all they can think about is Tinkerbell."
"I want to torture the people who don't understand the world of faeries. You'll get some reporter from Vogue who doesn't know what she's talking about, who paints me as some insipid tinker bell character. Well, tinker-bell ain't up my strasse, baby. I'm not some shivering waif in the forest. Sometimes I want to grab these bitches by the hair and take them to the world of faerie and say, 'would you repeat that?'"
Tori Amos, from Rolling Stone, Jul 98
"I don't play for races or religions. You know, I'm into faeries!"
Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes Video Collection
Image © Anne Geddes 1999-00. Image printed with permission.
This is Tori, my adopted fairy from The Site Fightsand Talula, my adopted fairy in a bottle from A Fairy World
Faerie Friendly Links to Visit
The Faerie Encyclopedia
Sarah's Fairy Collection
A Fairy World
Fiona's Fairy Cottage