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What is a fairy?
Fairytales


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Why are fairy tales so called?


What is a fairy?


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In folklore, fairies are magical beings who often meddle in human affairs, sometimes in a friendly way, sometimes mischievously.

Fairies are now usually associated with children's stories, and are kind, beautiful and tiny. But that was not always so. Fairies in the past were feared as dangerous and powerful beings who could often be very cruel.

Yallery Brown is one such cruel fairy. He is rescued from under a rock by a kind, hardworking farmhand who hears him weeping. He promises to stay with the farmhand and help him with his work as long as he is never thanked. But things begin to go wrong for the farmhand from the moment Yallery Brown comes into his life. His friends begin to avoid him and fear him as they see his chores being done by an invisible creature. In a desperate attempt to get rid of Yallery Brown, the farmhand thanks him. This makes Yallery Brown furious - he begins to ruin everything the farmhand does, and haunts him constantly, singing:

         'Loss and mischance and Yallery Brown
         You've let yourself out from under a stone.'

The farmhand becomes poorer and poorer each day. He finally dies, alone and miserable.

Fairies would also carry off children and adults to fairyland. Fairyland was often very frightening and not as beautiful and magical as it is in stories today. People could not return from fairyland if they ate or drank anything there.

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Find out more:   Why are fairytales so called?  |   Kinds of fairies

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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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