I bet most of you think of fairies as teeny tiny magical creatures, very much like Disney’s “Tinker Bell”. But, what if you were told that there’s so much more to the fairy folk than what you first thought?! So, clip on your wings, dig out your fairy dust, and delve into the magical history with these 50 fantastical facts about fairies!
Fact 1: You can spell “fairy” any way you want.
- Aside from the conventional “fairy” found in dictionaries, lots of famous authors and poets actually spell the word “faerie” or “faery.”
Fact 2: Fairies speak in the language of gifts.
- Fairies love to give gifts and they love to receive them. Their favorites are small shiny objects! So If you want to befriend a fairy offer a gift first.
Fact 3: W. Y. Evans-Wentz, in his “The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries” (1911) presents a living testimony of fairies.
- The book contains details about fairy theories from Celtic times, and it examines if fairy life could be a reality.
Fact 4: One of the earliest claims of a person making contact with a fairy was recorded in 1907.
- Lady Archibald Campbell interviewed an old blind man and his wife, who claimed to have caught a fairy and kept it captive for 2 weeks before it escaped.
Fact 5: The most famous case of ‘fairy contact’ was in 1917. The claim came from Elsie Wright, age 16, and Frances Griffiths, 10, who lived in the small Yorkshire village of Cottingley, England.
- The 2 children claimed they saw and played with fairies near a brook in the local countryside. No one believed them, so they borrowed a camera and produced photographs of their fairies.
Fact 6: Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths’ pictures later came to the attention of the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and became the basis of his book ‘The Coming of the Fairies’ (1922).
- Doyle accepted the girls’ story, and accepted the photos were genuine, although there was a large community who thought the photos were a load of nonsense!
Fact 7: Everyone’s favorite pixie is Tinker Bell from Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’, she is one of the most famous fictional faeries of all time.
- It’s been a tradition on stage and in movies to have Tinker Bell around but her role is a non-verbal one.
Fact 8: Disney used a real model as a basis for “Tinker Bell”.
- The temperamental tiny blonde’s looks were based on an actress named Margaret Kerry, who was hired by the animators to be a live-action reference.
Fact 9: In traditional faerie lore, fairies are allergic to iron and hide even at the sight of it.
- This deterrent is used as a way to protect one’s self from faeries in Melissa Marr’s “Wicked Lovely” series.
Fact 10: In Celtic mythology, the ‘Daonine Sidhe’ are the Faerie Folk who were defeated by the ‘Milesians’ (aka the Gaels) in an epic battle.
- The ‘Milesians’ claimed all of Ireland for themselves, and the Faeries were forced to make their abodes in mounds that existed under the hills.
Fact 11: Some legends say there are 2 faerie courts: the ‘Seelie’ and ‘Unseelie Sidhe’.
- In Scottish folklore, the ‘Seelie Fey’ are the aristocrats of the faery world, while the ‘Unseelie Fey’ are more nightmarish and malicious.
Fact 12: In the 19th century, England’s Theosophist circles believed in the “angelic” nature of the fairies.
- Fairies were referred to as Earthbound Devas who guided many of nature’s processes such as evolution, and growth of plants.
Fact 13: ‘Clurichauns’ are best known for liking to drink and party.
- ‘Clurichauns’ are similar to Leprechauns, the biggest difference between the two is that ‘Clurichauns’ party hard, while Leprechauns are cobblers.
Fact 14: One of Ireland’s most famous poets, W.B. Yeats was strongly influenced by traditional Irish lore and often wrote about the faery folk.
- Yeats even went so far as traveling around Ireland in order to write down people’s experiences with the Fey and other supernatural beings.
Fact 15: Faerie lore goes hand in hand with traditional Arthurian stories.
- After the battle of Camlann when Arthur was mortally wounded, 4 Faerie Queens took him to Avalon to help him recover.
Fact 16: The ‘Leanhaum-Shee’ was essentially a vampiric fairy who preyed on men on the Isle of Man.
- This fairy would disguise herself as an attractive young woman to seduce her victim. If she succeeded, the man would become her lover. However, if the man somehow managed to resist, she would violently kill him and consume his blood.
Fact 17: In Ireland and Scotland, a ‘Gan Ceanach’, which means “love talker,” was a diminutive Don Juan, who spent most of his time in secluded places in search of female conquests.
- Once he found a suitable target, this fairy would seduce the woman until she became hopelessly in love with him. After the seduction was complete and culminated in a kiss, the ‘Gan Ceanach’ would suddenly vanish and leave the unlucky woman obsessing over him until she died.
Fact 18: The menfolk also got the raw end of the deal when encountering a ‘Gan Ceanach’.
- A mere encounter with a ‘Gan Ceanach’ would encourage the menfolk to go off and waste their hard-earned entire fortune on buying baubles, and other expensive presents for their women.
Fact 19: The ‘Bendith Y Mamau’ was a clan of Welsh fairies engaged in one particularly nasty pastime: kidnapping.
- These fairies kidnapped human babies and left their own deformed progeny, called “crimbils,” in their place.
Fact 20: To drive away the ‘’Bendith Y Mamau’, people left milk outside their homes and spoke of the fairies with great honour, thus trying to stay in the faires’ good books.
- In fact, Bendith’s were originally called ‘Melliths’ (“mother’s curse”) but the people avoided calling them that to ensure that they didn’t offend them.
Fact 21: The ‘Bannik’ was a fairy who loved to bathe.
- The ‘Bannik’ was depicted as a somewhat grumpy old man in Slavic folklore, who went to bathhouses (like a sauna today).
Fact 22: In Scottish tales, the ‘Fachan’ were fairies who appeared so monstrously hideous that the mere sight of them could allegedly stop a man’s heart.
- The ‘Fachan’ were covered head-to-toe in fur, and possessed singular body parts which were placed across their bodies.
Fact 23: In Scottish stories, the ‘Sluagh’ was composed of fairies who were thought to be the souls of evil people, and those who died without being baptized.
- This malevolent swarm usually flew at night, fighting amongst themselves and hunting for victims.
Fact 24: To fend off the ‘Sluagh’, people closed their windows that faced west, as the swarm usually arrived from that direction.
- The ‘Sluagh’s’ malodorous corpse-like stench also gave people advanced notice of their impending arrival.
Fact 25: The ‘Berberoka’ were a dangerous race of fairies that lived in swamps and rivers in the Philippines, who preyed primarily on fishermen who visited the water.
- To catch their prey, the ‘Berberoka’ would ingest all the water in a specific area, which made all the fish visible, luring in fishermen for them to kill.
Fact 26: ‘Red Caps’ also originated in Scotland and were like the Jason Voorhees of the fairy world.
- Red Caps were depicted as gaunt old men but were armed with sharp claws and teeth. As if that wasn’t scary enough, they also carried around a scythe.
Fact 27: The fairy embodiment of death in Celtic folklore, ‘Ankou’, used to be an unnamed prince who loved hunting and taking risks.
- Whilst out on a hunt one day he made a wager with Death and lost. Since that day the prince has been condemned by Death to collect souls.
Fact 28: The ‘Ankou’ roams the Earth with a horse-drawn cart, ready to gather the souls of the dead.
- He is depicted as an eerie figure who is dressed in black robes with his face hidden. In some versions, the ‘Ankou’ is accompanied by skeleton helpers, who hurl the newly collected souls into the cart.
Fact 29: The ‘Storm Hag’ was a fairy who lived in Lake Erie and was believed to be responsible for the many shipwrecks in that area.
- She appears as a very ugly woman with greenish skin and teeth, jaundiced eyes, and sharpened facial features.
Fact 30: ‘Brownies’ and other ‘hobgoblins’ are guardian fairies who do housework and odd jobs around the house.
- In Aberdeenshire, Scotland, ‘Brownies’ are hideous to look at, and have no spaces between their toes and fingers.
Fact 31: ‘Banshees’ are sinister fairies that usually only appear to foretell a tragedy.
- In Highland tradition, a ‘Banshee’ appears as a web-footed, bucktoothed hag, and is only seen washing blood-stained clothes when men are about to meet a violent death.
Fact 32: ‘Black Annis’, is a blue-faced hag, that haunts the Dane Hills in Leicestershire, and ‘Gentle Annie’ governs storms in the Scottish Lowlands.
- ‘Black Annis’ descended from the Celtic goddess ‘Danu’, who is said to be the mother of Ireland’s cave fairies.
Fact 33: The ‘Jack-o-Lantern’s’ flame is due to Marsh gas that creates the flickering flame as they hover over marshy ground.
- ‘Jack-o-Lanterns’, or ‘Will-o-the-Wisps’, are highly dangerous fairies that haunt marshy grounds, luring unwary travellers to their death in the bogs.
Fact 34: In 1962, a Somerset farmer’s wife, told reporters how she lost her way home on the Berkshire Downs and was put on the right track by a small man in green, who appeared suddenly at her elbow and then disappeared.
- This shows that believing in fairies hasn’t completely died out, but nobody really knows if this report is accurate!
Fact 35: Another eye-witness account in the 20th century involved a woman on holiday in Cornwall with her daughter. According to the ladies, they happened to come across a small green man with a pointed hood and ears.
- They were so alarmed that they ran for the ferry, cold with terror.
Fact 36: The oldest record of seeing or meeting a fairy in England was made written in the 13 centuary, by the historian, Gervase of Tilbury.
- When true belief in fairies was common, most people didn’t like to mention them by name, so they referred to them as the “Little People” or the “Hidden People”.
Fact 37: In folklore, fairies are rarely have wings.
- However, they are often depicted with wings in Victorian artworks.
Fact 38: There was once a belief that a sorcerer and a witch, in the medieval period, owned a ‘Familiar Spirit’, which could have taken the form of a fairy.
- A ‘Familiar Spirit’ is a supernatural entity that is said to assist witches.
Fact 39: Some writings depict deities as fairies.
- This tends to come up in Slavic mythology and usually revolves around the idea of fairies foretelling the future.
Fact 40: Fairies were considered as demons in Puritanism.
- Before ‘hobgoblins’ were known as wicked goblins, people considered them as friendly household spirits.
Fact 41: A “Changeling” is a fairy child who takes the place of a human baby, who the fairies think is being fussed over too much.
- The baby is then used to “strengthen” the fairy race.
Fact 42: In King James’ Daemonologie, fairies were referred to as illusory spirits (demonic entities).
- The fairies would consort and transport the people that they were serving around.
Fact 43: Icelandic fairies look like beautiful girls from the front, but have cow tails at the back.
- This type of fairy demonstrates that beauty is only one part of something or someone.
Fact 44: In Arabian folklore, the ‘Jinnis’ are spirits that possess supernatural powers and can appear in many shapes and sizes.
- They may be good or evil, depending on their Master, and live in unusual places like empty bottles.
Fact 45: ‘Menehunes’ are hard-working Hawaiian fairies who work at night building bridges and roads.
- ‘Menehunes’ appear as small, dark-eyed creatures with shaggy eyebrows and deep, gruff voices.
Fact 46: The ‘Monaciello’ is an Italian fairy that is dressed in a hooded robe.
- It comes out at night to lead poor and needy people to hidden treasure.
Fact 47: The term ‘fairy’ comes from the Latin word “fata” and “fatum” (fate).
- Fairies were known as “fays” in the British Isles and Europe.
Fact 48: The strongest tradition of fairies are those of the British Isles and Europe.
- But belief in fairies has also been found in Asia, America, and Africa.
Fact 49: In 1976, Katharine Briggs, a modern speaker on the subject of fairies published her book “A Dictionary of Fairies”.
- The book features a comprehensive list of different fairies and creatures.
Fact 50: In the 17th century, Rev. Robert Kirk investigated the fairies of Aberfoyle, in Scotland.
- In his book, “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies” (1691), Kirk confidently describes the life, occupations, and activities of the fairies in their subterranean world.