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Any good resources about Faeries?

Discussion in 'Research' started by kdl121, May 11, 2017.

  1. kdl121

    kdl121 Dreamer

    So I started writing a story a few months ago (probably almost a year ago), and just reread it a couple days ago ... I still like the idea, not entirely sure where I was going with it, but I'll get back there. ANYWAYS, I've been trying to find some resources for more info because I want to get my facts straight. I only remember one thing from last year ... I read somewhere that the difference (at least one difference) between a fairy and a faerie is that fairies are small and pixie-like, like Tinkerbell, whereas faeries are human-size ... I can't find any websites at the moment to back up that fact, so maybe I made it up?

    If anyone has any good sites that could help me with my research, I would greatly appreciate it!
    My main character is human-sized, lives a regular high school life (at least at the start), so I'm really hoping I got my information right on that one.
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    Truth is, I think there are no hard rules on this. The Fae is kind of a term that means just about anything from Elves, to leprechauns, to brownies, to pixies. In some contexts that would mean they are all fairies. To add distinction and say Fairies are different than Fae, or rather, a type of Fae, but different than say elves, is fine. I have seen that done many times as well. Faeries and Fairies are essentially the same creatures though. The distinction comes if you choose to have one.
    Last edited: May 11, 2017
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Both fairy and faerie originally referred to a place. Faerie, fairy-land, elf-land... basically just a term for the realm of the fantastic and supernatural. It is a place of pure imagination and dream. Later it came to also be applied to the denizens of such a place, whatever they may be. As far as I can tell, the terms "faerie" and "fairy" have no connection with any specific mythology. The words themselves come from French which got them from Latin. They seem to be a purely medieval development, no older than that. ( Online Etymology Dictionary )

    The mythologies to which these terms are often applied today (Celtic and Germanic) did not use this term. The Irish had the aes sidhe or just sidhe (the Scottish equivalent was Sith, both pronounced Shee) or peoples of the mounds (the eponymous sidhe) which is where these supernatural people were believed to live, within underground kingdoms accessed by certain raised mounds commonly found around the land. Celtic Sidhe were both immensely beautiful and alluring as well as mischievous and sometimes sinister. There were various forms of Sidhe, including the tall and lovely Tuatha de Danann (or what still remained of them), the small and miserly Leprechauns, and the ill-omened Banshee. Germanic mythology gave us the term alp which eventually became elf in English. Early scholarship of texts mentioning elves interpreted them as small, possibly even invisible, able to cause mischief without anyone seeing them. However, more recent scholarship supports the idea that elves were more or less like people in appearance, but, like the Tuatha de Danann, supernaturally beautiful and possessing supernatural powers able to either harm or help humans. A common belief was that these elves were a frequent cause of illness if not appeased.

    It seems that ideas of elves and fairies as diminutive winged creatures or benevolent shoemakers are quite modern. Tolkien, who studied languages and Anglo-Saxon texts (where the earliest written references to elves come from) professionally, believed that these modern interpretations were a form of rationalization. As the Age of Discovery progressed and as the world was more known there seemed to be less and less room for fantastic creatures. And, presumably, people began to feel rather silly for having believed in things that evidently weren't there. Thus modern man began to trivialize all things of "faerie" and declare that obviously these things were for children. Only children could possibly believe in them. Tolkien naturally rebelled against this trend. His major accomplishment was to revive the old dignity and splendor of the faerie races in the minds the public.

    Thus we entered the age of fantasy fiction wherein ever other book features some author's clever new imagining of elves and faeries. Sometimes they are inspired my the old mythologies, sometimes they are pure fantasy, sometimes a bit of both. But basically, there are no hard rules or facts when it comes to fairies or faerie. Both terms refer ultimately to a place or people of imagination and dream. When it comes down to it, you can do whatever you like with that concept. They can be big or small or medium sized or anything you can think of and it will have just as much basis in truth as any other imagining does.
    skip.knox and Lisselle like this.
  4. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    Ya, I don't really think that is a "fact". As has been said, Faerie / Fairy generally referred to a place: Elfland, the Kingdom of Fairy, etc. I don't think there is, anymore, a specific image to go with a specific name. In other words, in the folklore of the last couple centuries, I don't think there is any one shape or form that a Fairy must take. Looking at 19th and early 20th century artwork depicting Fairies will be very educational along those lines --- Kinstry's The Fairy Alphabet as Used by Merlin is a good example. Doyle's In Fairyland is another. Also, keep in mind what a profound effect Professor Tolkien has had on our 20th & 21st perceptions of Elfland and its inhabitants. Diznee tried to hammer home the wee ickle pixie image of Fairies, but Tolkien certainly resurrected and ensured the splendour and grace of Elfkind.

    Some Fairies are indeed "wee folk", "pixielike" in nature; others are tall fair folk indeed. Some have butterfly or moth or dragonfly wings, others have feathered wings, still others have no wings at all. They wear all kinds of clothing or no clothing at all. Whatever articles of clothing they do wear, be it but a scarf or a cape or britches, appears to be entirely decorative rather than entirely functional. Some are beautiful, some are grotesque. Some are lumpy, some are graceful. Some are mischievous others are kind and honorable. In other words, people just like the rest of us!

    For a good scholarly look at Faerie and its various inhabitants, I think you can hardly go wrong with Thomas Keightly's The Fairy Mythology (1880), but reprinted in 1978 with the terribly unwieldy title of The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People. Keightly delves deep into the lore of Faerie indeed, and you'll find yourself travelling well beyond the familiar territory of England and Ireland!

    You could also take a look at the wonderful images and descriptions in Frond & Lee's 1978 Faeries.

    An otherwise normal highschool girl who is actually an Elf or a Fay or a Per?i --- No worries there!
  5. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    In all my years of researching fae, I have never crossed the idea that fairies are small and faeries are human-size. It's an idea that can work well (in a printed story, less well for audio-book), but it is either your own idea or the idea of just a few people. It is not a widely accepted fact.

    Many people in modern storytelling focus on either the human-size type for YA Fantasy or the Tinkerbell type for Children's literature, so they don't need to distinguish the terms. If you were going to use both this is a reasonable way to distinguish them. Most Victorian paintings freely use both as does Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, so you're in good company if you decide to go that route.
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
  6. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    I know I mixed up my usage of Faerie and Fairy in my own reply, but the issue I'd have of such a usage as is proposed (Fairy is wee, Faerie is tall) is that it really isn't borne out in either the English lexicon (and as writers, I'm sure everyone here is aware a) that words have meaning and b) of the perils of adding your own meaning to an established word without real basis) or the common understanding of the words.

    As I see it, mixing types or kinds of fair folk isn't an issue That certainly goes way back.

    Using what is essentially the same word spelled two different ways to name two distinct types of fairy folk I think might be pushing things a bit. I'd worry that readers who are ignorant of the actual meanings of the words might become confused by the novel usage and then might assume it's good usage only to have that backfire later. Also, that readers who dó know will condemn the novel usage as foolishness and ignorance on the author's part!

    If you do go down that road, just tread carefully and explain well!
  7. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    I hear your concern elemtilas, you have a valid point, but my experience with reading YA Fantasy is that the fae have been used in a huge variety of ways by a plethora of authors. Among some readers your warning would be accurate, but among many others the waters are so muddied already few would even notice. Many readers just want a good story and could care less about the innovations to folklore the writer makes or even like them.

    As far as common usage, I'd have to politely and in all humbleness disagree. Most Children's books with wee fairies use that spelling. Most YA Fantasy and Supernatural Romances get fancy for their tall faeries and change the spelling to reflect the throwback to early beliefs in the fae (similar to Tolkein's elves) rather than 20th century stories of fairyland and the little winged pixies types. It's a way to try to avoid some confusion.

    Personally, I'd find the two spellings method of distinguishing them adequate in print, but distinctly lacking in audio or for book discussions and would try to find a clearer way, but that's just me. Or I'd make some backstory explanation of the divergence in spellings and have alternate names mixed in for the convenience of readers to discuss the story
    elemtilas likes this.
  8. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    Appreciated! I didn't really say all that very well, for which apologies!

    And yes, you do make a valid counter point: the waters are so muddied, many folks wouldn't even notice! (Though you could use the opportunity to educate!)

    If it's a thing that you've noticed in YA vs kiddy-lit, then I sit duly corrected!! ^_^
  9. kdl121

    kdl121 Dreamer

    Thank you for all these posts! I feel like I've learned a lot already ... I will definitely do some more research before continuing with the story, maybe change the main character to an elf to avoid confusion.

    And thank you A.E. for the book recommendations! I'll see if my local library has any of those :) and if anyone has any more recommendations, for books or maybe even websites, I'd still appreciate some more resources.

    (Ps: I did the quiz on your website A.E., "Which Faerie Rising Character Are You?" ... apparently I'm Brian MacDowell)
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  10. Fairies 101 by Doreen Virtue is useful for facts, but may not be what you expect.
  11. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Love it! Brian is a great character. :D
  12. Tholepin

    Tholepin Dreamer

    Folkloric Forays, despite its name, is a solid resource. And not just for wee folk. Ms. Carolyn Emerick has been teaching and researching folklore for years and has built a staggering amount of data. It's all free as well.

    Best of luck.
    skip.knox likes this.
  13. Lorna Smithers

    Lorna Smithers Scribe

    Here are some books on fairies, mainly focusing on the Celtic traditions (particularly Welsh), that have been useful to me:

    Diane Purkiss, Troublesome Things, (Penguin 2001)
    Katherine Briggs, The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, (Routledge, 1967)
    John Rhŷs, Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (Oxford, 1901)
    Wirt Sikes, British Goblins, (Lightning Source, 1880)
    W. Jenkyn Thomas, The Welsh Fairy Book, (Dover Publications, 2001)
    W. Y. Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, (Colin Smythe Limited, 1977)

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