My Thoughts

The Truth About Fairies

 

When you think of fairies, what do you picture? A cute, friendly little Disney-fied creature with translucent wings, flitting from flower to flower?

When I wrote Reflection of the Gods, my goal was to create characters as close as possible to the fairies of Irish folklore. Before writing anything, I spent a year researching Irish folklore and stories of the “fair folk”. Turns out “fair folk” is a euphemism used by fearful humans to avoid offending the nasty creatures.

Because most Irish fairies aren’t friendly. And they definitely aren’t cute. What’s more, there are dozens of different types, each with their own distinctive appearance and personality.

The Banshee

(or Bean-Sidhe, or Ban-Sidhe) To North Americans, the Ban-Sidhe is one of the more familiar denizens of Irish folklore. She screams when someone is about to die. Traditionally, she screamed only for members of five major Irish families, including the O’Neills (as in Grania and Mary), and her screams are featured in the opening scene of Reflection of the Gods. She often appears as an old hag in a hooded cloak, but may also appear as a lone woman washing clothes in a woodland stream. You do not want to happen upon her on your daily walk.

Leprechauns

The most famous of all Irish fairies. What most people don’t know, however, is that leprechauns are shoemakers by trade, and the gold they guard isn’t theirs. And St. Patrick’s Day greeting cards aside, leprechauns actually dress much like Paul Revere, complete with tricorn hat, knee breeches, and buckled shoes. A type of leprechaun, called a cluricaun, is famous for raiding larders, wine cellars and farmyards during the night. Although not a focus of the story, a leprechaun does make a cameo appearance in Reflection of the Gods.

Changelings

It is known that fairy women have a difficult time in childbirth. Many of the surviving children are deformed, or stunted. Adult fairies, having a high sense of esthetics, are repulsed by these offspring, and have a habit of trading one of these for a healthy human baby. The changeling itself is often an ugly, wizened creature with the power to do great evil in the household. In Reflection of the Gods, Aislinn becomes a changeling as punishment for her transgressions against the Sidhe.

Other Irish fairies include the Pooka, so horrifying in appearance the mere sight will stop hens from laying and cows from giving milk; the Grogoch, who intends to be helpful by performing domestic chores, but who can become quite a nuisance; Merrows, Irish mermaids who neither sing nor long to be human, and who have been known to act as messengers of doom and death; and the Dullahan, who rides horseback around the countryside while holding his head in his hand (if he catches you watching him, he may hurl a basin of blood in your face).

In short, you do not want these fairies in your home or in your garden, where you might accidentally trip over them and incur their wrath. Be particularly careful during the “tween times,” dusk and dawn, when the fairy host is roaming about, lest you come upon some unawares.

4 Comments

  • Theresa

    1

    So are there no cute fairies at all?

    • Lisa

      2

      In Ireland, very few. The idea of fairies as tiny human females with wings is largely a Victorian invention. In Irish stories, the nobility of the fairy kingdom, the Sidhe, are very tall and quite beautiful. They are known to be capricious and dangerous to humans, but it could be due to the fact that they lack understanding of pain and death, being unable to experience those things themselves. However, I primarily researched Irish fairies. Fairy folk tales are found all over the world, and there are many kind, benevolent fairies. The Welsh Gwragedd Annwn, for example, are very beautiful and are known as skilled herbal healers. The Brownies (from Scotland, I believe), are happy to help out with domestic chores, although they are not attractive to look at, and can be easily offended. According to the legends.

  • nanana

    3

    do you know anything about feral fairies?

    • Lisa

      4

      As in untamed fairies? That would be all of them.