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What is a fairy?


Fairytale Writers

Famous fairies

Why are fairy tales so called?

What is a fairy?

Kinds of fairy

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Sometimes fairies would leave changeling babies behind. These babies would always be different from normal children. They would either be dressed in green, or found in a green cradle, or have green eyes. Sometimes they might even have green skin.

Fairies are usually beautiful, and live longer than humans. Fairies and humans could marry each other, but it was usually dangerous for the human, who could die.

Sometimes fairies are the same size as people; often they are smaller, maybe even as tiny as your thumb.

Some fairies can tell the future. Some can give gifts or pronounce curses over a baby when it is born. This is what happens to Sleeping Beauty - the good fairies give her beauty, intelligence, grace and other good qualities, but the wicked fairy says that she will prick her finger on a spindle when she is sixteen and die.

Some plants, such as St.-John's-wort and yarrow protect us from fairies. Other plants, such as hawthorn trees, ragwort and foxglove are special to fairies and protected by them - humans who spoil or injure these plants in any way may soon find strange and uncomfortable things happening to them.

Fairies have been around for many hundreds of years in some form or another. Though the term 'fairy' was first used in Europe only as late as the Middle Ages, similar beings have existed in both folklore and written literature for thousands of years. We have the Gandharvas of ancient India, the nymphs of ancient Greece, and the jinns and peris of Arabia. All of these beings have characteristics similar to the fairies of Europe.

Today fairylore is still popular in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

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

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