Atkinson Grimshaw Introduction Etymology Characteristics Classification Origins Earlier Deities and Populations Nature, Folklore and Fairy Tales Fairies, Ancestors and the Dead Fairyland References and Sources Consulted Introduction The term ‘fairy’ is used to loosely describe a type of legendary or mythical being of romance and folklore.
These unsubstantial creatures are often of diminutive size (Edwards, 1974).
As spiritual entities fairies are considered to be supernatural, preternatural or metaphysical beings in possession off unbounded magical powers.
In European folklore and fairy tales they are described as typically invisible or non-substantial spirits who live on earth in proximity to, or in association with mortal human beings.
Fairies are presumed to possess knowledge of hidden natural powers which therefore “…corresponds with their power of making time appear long or short to those mortals who are lured into their company.” (Mac Culloch, 1912).
A characteristic and distinctive feature is their whimsicality and mischievous and prankish behaviour (Hartland, 1891).
Fairies can be of benevolent or malevolent, exerting good or bad influences over the lives of humans.
Their magical attributes endow them with the ability to appear or disappear at will, or change shape into animal forms (Sayce, 1934).
Fairy entities, in their restricted sense are unique in English folklore, though these non-human spirits abound Celtic and Germanic folk beliefs.
Among European folk and fairy tales the fairies of French and Celtic romances are often merged with the elves of Teutonic myth.
Similar stories of fairy-like creatures occur in other European traditions including the Latin and the Slavic, as well as their historical origin distilled from Celtic, Welsh and Breton medieval French romances and tradition.
In many regions, including China, India, and Arabia with the , there are found beliefs in the existence of supernatural, sometimes dwarfish or pygmy-like ethereal entities.