A fairy is a small, supernatural creature that dwells in a magical
place. In folklore fairies are usually in human form but they are
known to disguise themselves well when needed. There
are a wide variety of earth spirits, from the elves and gnomes of the
deep forest - to the pixies and fairies of flower gardens and
meadow lands. Undines, nymphs and sprites
are water creatures and sylphs are air spirits.
Belief in fairies is universal among almost all cultures.
Scholars attribute fairies to the sirens of Homer, the nymphs
of the Iliad, celestial singers in Sanscrit poetry, spirits of the
Pacific Islands, and Hathors of ancient Egypt. In more recent folk
culture, you will find leprechauns - wee folk of Ireland, the
brownies of Britain and the kobold from the faerie realm of Germany.
Fairies live in their own enchanted realm but they also have
been sighted among the flowers, woodlands, hills and streams
- sometimes riding on their fairy steeds or flitting from flower to flower.
When fairies gather together to sing and dance,
you might find a fairy ring of toadstools / mushrooms after they have left.
Thomas Croker (1789-1854) in his collection of Irish Fairy Tales,
described fairies as being
"a few inches high, airy and almost
transparent in body; so delicate in their form that a dew drop,
when they chance to dance on it, trembles, indeed, but never breaks."
Shakespeare wrote of Oberon, a fairy King in "A Midsummer
Night's Dream" and told of the fairy Queen Mab in "Romeo and Juliet."
An English folk song, Tamlin, tells of a young knight bewitched by a fairy queen.
In folklore, fairies are mainly felt to be charitable to humans.
They are known however to be playful and love to play tricks
on mere mortals. They must be spoken well of and treated with respect, or you may
rouse their anger. Folklore speaks of leaving small trinkets as gifts to fairies,
such as small beads and dainty deserts, to gain their favour.