Folklore

Faerie: Home of the Fae #folklore

Folklore

Many have tried to reach Faerie, as shown in W.B. Yeats’ Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry.

HY-BRASAIL–THE ISLE OF THE BLEST

On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell,
A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell;
Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,
And they called it Hy-Brasail, the isle of the blest.
From year unto year on the ocean’s blue rim,
The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;
The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,
And it looked like an Eden, away, far away!
A peasant who heard of the wonderful tale,
In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail;
From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west,
For though Ara was holy, Hy-Brasail was blest.
He heard not the voices that called from the shore–
He heard not the rising wind’s menacing roar;
Home, kindred, and safety, he left on that day,
And he sped to Hy-Brasail, away, far away!
Morn rose on the deep, and that shadowy isle,
O’er the faint rim of distance, reflected its smile;
Noon burned on the wave, and that shadowy shore
Seemed lovelily distant, and faint as before;
Lone evening came down on the wanderer’s track,
And to Ara again he looked timidly back;
Oh! far on the verge of the ocean it lay,
Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away!
Rash dreamer, return! O, ye winds of the main,
Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again.
Rash fool! for a vision of fanciful bliss,
To barter thy calm life of labour and peace.
The warning of reason was spoken in vain;
He never revisited Ara again!
Night fell on the deep, amidst tempest and spray,
And he died on the waters, away, far away!

Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic by Thomas Wentworth Higginson [1898]

KING ARTHUR AT AVALON

Another traditional account which Tennyson has mainly followed in a poem, is this: The king bade Sir Bedivere take his good sword Excalibur and go with it to the water-side and throw it into the water and return to tell what he saw. Then Sir Bedivere took the sword, and it was so richly and preciously adorned that he would not throw it, and came back without it. When the king asked what had happened, Sir Bedivere said, “I saw nothing but waves and wind,” and when Arthur did not believe him, and sent him again, he made the same answer, and then, when sent a third time, he threw the sword into the water, as far as he could. Then an arm and a hand rose above the water and caught it, and shook and brandished it three times and vanished.

Then Sir Bedivere came back to the king; he told what he had seen. “Alas,” said Arthur, “help me from hence, for I fear I have tarried over long.” Then Sir Bedivere took King Arthur upon his back, and went with him to the water’s side. And when they had reached there, a barge with many fair ladies was lying there, with many ladies in it, and among them three queens, and they all had black hoods, and they wept and shrieked when they saw King Arthur.

“Now put me in the barge,” said Arthur, and the three queens received him with great tenderness, and King Arthur laid his head in the lap of one, and she said, “Ah, dear brother, why have ye tarried so long, until your wound was cold?” And then they rowed away, and King Arthur said to Sir Bedivere, “I will go unto the valley of Avalon to heal my grievous wound, and if I never return, pray for my soul.” He was rowed away by the weeping queens, and one of them was Arthur’s sister Morgan le Fay; another was the queen of Northgalis, and the third was the queen of Waste Lands; and it was the belief for years in many parts of England that Arthur was not dead, but would come again to reign in England, when he had been nursed long enough by Morgan le Fay in the island of Avalon.

The tradition was that King Arthur lived upon this island in an enchanted castle which had the power of a magnet, so that every one who came near it was drawn thither and could not get away. Morgan le Fay was its ruler (called more correctly Morgan la fée, or the fairy), and her name Morgan meant sea-born. By one tradition, the queens who bore away Arthur were accompanied in the boat by the bard and enchanter, Merlin, who had long been the king’s adviser, and this is the description of the island said to have been given by Merlin to another bard, Taliessin:–

“‘We came to that green and fertile island which each year is blessed with two autumns, two springs, two summers, two gatherings of fruit,–the land where pearls are found, where the flowers spring as you gather them–that isle of orchards called the “Isle of the Blessed.” No tillage there, no coulter to tear the bosom of the earth. Without labor it affords wheat and the grape. There the lives extend beyond a century. There nine sisters, whose will is the only law, rule over those who go from us to them. The eldest excels in the art of healing, and exceeds her sisters in beauty. She is called Morgana, and knows the virtues of all the herbs of the meadow. She can change her form, and soar in the air like a bird; she can be where she pleases in a moment, and in a moment descend on our coasts from the clouds. Her sister Thiten is renowned for her skill on the harp.’

“‘With the prince we arrived, and Morgana received us with fitting honour. And in her own chamber she placed the king on a bed of gold, and with delicate touch, she uncovered the wound. Long she considered it, and at length said to him that she could heal it if he stayed long with her, and willed her to attempt her cure. Rejoiced at this news, we intrusted the king to her care, and soon after set sail.'”

The Fairy Mythology Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries by Thomas Keightley [1870]

FAIRY LAND

AMONG all nations the mixture of joy and pain, of exquisite delight and intense misery in the present state, has led the imagination to the conception of regions of unmixed bliss destined for the repose of the good after the toils of this life, and of climes where happiness prevails, the abode of beings superior to man. …the romancer erected castles and palaces filled with knights and ladies in Avalon and in the land of Faerie…

The Feeries of romance may be divided into three kinds Avalon, placed in the ocean, like the Island of the Blest; those that, like the palace of Pan Banou, are within the earth; and, lastly, those that, like Oberon’s domains, are situate ‘in wilderness among the holtis hairy.’

Of the castle and isle of Avalon, [a] the abode of Arthur and Oberon, and Morgue lit faye, the fullest description is to be seen in the romance of Ogier le Danois, from which, as we know no sure quarter but the work itself to refer to for the part connected with the present subject, we will make some extracts. [b]

At the birth of Ogier several Fairies attended, who bestowed on him various gifts. Among them was Morgue la Faye, who gave him that he should be her lover and friend. Accordingly, when Ogier had long distinguished himself in love and war, and had. attained his hundredth year, the affectionate Morgue thought it was time to withdraw him from the toils and dangers of mortal life, and transport him to the joys and the repose of the castle of Avalon. In pursuance of this design, Ogier and king Caraheu are attacked by a storm on their return from Jerusalem, and their vessels separated. The bark on which Ogier was “floated along the sea till it came near the castle of loadstone, which is called the castle of Avalon, which is not far on this side of the terrestrial paradise, whither were rapt in a flame of fire Enock and Helias; and where was Morgue la Faye, who at his birth had endowed him with great gifts, noble and virtuous.”

The vessel is wrecked against the rock; the provisions are divided among the crew, and it is agreed that every man, as his stock failed, should be thrown into the sea. Ogier’s stock holds out longest, and he remains alone. He is nearly reduced to despair, when a voice from heaven cries to him:

“God commandeth thee that, as soon as it is night, thou go unto a castle that thou wilt see shining, and pass from bark to bark till thou be in an isle which thou wilt find. And when thou wilt be in that isle thou wilt find a little path, and of what thou mayest see within be not dismayed at anything. And then Ogier looked, but he saw nothing.” [d]

When night came, Ogier recommended himself to God, and seeing the castle of loadstone all resplendent with light, he went from one to the other of the vessels that were wrecked there, and so got into the island where it was. On arriving at the gate he found it guarded by two fierce lions. He slew them and entered; and making his way into a hall found a horse sitting at a table richly supplied. The courteous animal treats him with the utmost respect, and the starving hero makes a hearty supper. The horse then prevails on him to get on his back, and carries him into a splendid chamber, where Ogier sleeps that night. The name of this horse is Papillon, “who was a Luiton, and had been a great prince, but king Arthur conquered him, so he was condemned to be three hundred years a horse without speaking one single word, but after the three hundred years he was to have the crown of joy which they wore in Faerie.” [e]

Next morning he cannot find Papillon, but on opening a door he meets a huge serpent, whom he also slays, and follows a little path which leads him into an orchard “tant bel et tant plaisant, que cestoit ung petit paradis a veoir.” He plucks an apple from one of the trees and eats it, but is immediately affected by such violent sickness as to be put in fear of speedy death. He prepares himself for his fate, regretting “le bon pays de France, le roi Charlemaigne… et principallement la bonne royne dangleterre, sa bonne espouse et vraie amie, ma dame Clarice, qui tant estoit belle et noble.” While in this dolorous state, happening to turn to the east, he perceived “une moult belle dame, toute vestue de blanc, si bien et si richement aornee que cestoit ung grant triumphe que de la veoir.”

Ogier, thinking it is the Virgin Mary, commences an Ave; but the lady tells him she is Morgue la Faye, who at his birth had kissed him, and retained him for her loyal amoureux, though forgotten by him. She places then on his finger a ring, which removes all infirmity, and Ogier, a hundred years old, returns to the vigour and beauty of thirty. She now leads him to the castle of Avalon, where were her brother king Arthur, and Auberon, and Mallonbron, “ung luiton de mer.”

“And when Morgue drew near to the said castle of Avalon, the Fays came to meet Ogier, singing the most melodiously that ever could be heard, so he entered into the hail to solace himself completely. There he saw several Fay ladies adorned and all crowned with crowns most sumptuously made, and very rich, and evermore they sung, danced, and led a right joyous life, without thinking of any evil thing whatever, but of taking their mundane pleasures.” [f] Morgue here introduces the knight to Arthur, and she places on his head a crown rich and splendid beyond estimation, but which has the Lethean quality, that whoso wears it,

Forthwith his former state end being forgets,
Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain;

for Ogier instantly forgot country and friends. He had no thought whatever ” ni de la dame Clarice, qui tant estoit belle et noble,” nor of Guyon his brother, nor of his nephew Gauthier, “ne de creature vivante.” His days now rolled on in never-ceasing pleasure. “Such joyous pastime did the Fay ladies make for him, that there is no creature in this world who could imagine or think it, for to hear them sing so sweetly it seemed to him actually that he was in Paradise; so the time passed from day to day, from week to week, in such sort that a year did not last a month to him.” [g]

But Avalon was still on earth, and therefore its bliss was not unmixed. One day Arthur took Ogier aside, and informed him that Capalus, king of the Luitons, incessantly attacked the castle of Faerie with design to eject king Arthur from its dominion, and was accustomed to penetrate to the basse court, calling on Arthur to come out and engage him. Ogier asked permission to encounter this formidable personage, which Arthur willingly granted. No sooner, however, did Capalus see Ogier than he surrendered to him; and the knight had the satisfaction of leading him into the castle, and reconciling him to its inhabitants.

Two hundred years passed away in these delights, and seemed to Ogier but twenty: Charlemagne and all his lineage had failed, and even the race of Ogier was extinct, when the Paynims invaded France and Italy in vast numbers; and Morgue no longer thought herself justified in withholding Ogier from the defence of the faith. Accordingly, she one day took the Lethean crown from off his head: immediately all his old ideas rushed on his mind, and inflamed him with an ardent desire to revisit his country. The Fairy gave him a brand which was to be preserved from burning, for so long as it was unconsumed, so long should his life extend. She adds to her gift the horse Papillon and his comrade Benoist. “And when they were both mounted, all the ladies of the castle came to take, leave of Ogier, by the command of king Arthur and of Morgue la Faye, and they sounded an aubade of instruments, the most melodious thing to hear that ever was listened to; then, when the aubade was finished, they sung with the voice so melodiously, that it was a thing so melodious that it seemed actually to Ogier that he was in Paradise. Again, when that was over, they sung with the instruments in such sweet concordance that it seemed rather to be a thing divine than mortal.” [h] The knight then took leave of all, and a cloud, enveloping him and his companion, raised them, and set them down by a fair fountain near Montpellier. Ogier displays his ancient prowess, routs the infidels, and on the death of the king is on the point of espousing the queen, when Morgue appears and takes him back to Avalon. Since then Ogier has never reappeared in this world.

Nowhere is a Faerie of the second kind so fully and circumstantially described as in the beautiful romance of Orfeo and Heurodis. There are, indeed, copious extracts from this poem in Sir Walter Scott’s Essay on the Fairies of Popular Superstition; and we have no excuse to offer for repeating what is to be found in a work so universally diffused as the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, but that it is of absolute necessity for our purpose, and that romantic poetry is rarely unwelcome.

Orfeo and Heurodis were king and queen of Winchester. The queen happening one day to sleep under an ymp [i] tree in the palace orchard, surrounded by her attendants, had a dream, which she thus relates to the king:

As I lay this undertide (afternoon)
To sleep under the orchard-side,
There came to me two faire knightes
Well arrayed allè rightes,
And bade me come without letting
To speaké with their lord the king;
And I answér’d with wordès bolde
That I ne durstè ne I nolde:
Fast again they can (did) drive,
Then came their kingè nil no blive (quick)
With a thousand knights and mo,
And with ladies fifty also,
And riden all on snow-white steedes,
And also whitè were their weedes.
I sey (saw) never sith I was borne
So fairè knightés me by forne.
The kingè had a crown on his head,
It was not silver ne gold red;

All it was of precious stone,
As bright as sun forsooth it shone.
All so soon he to me came,
Wold I, nold I he me name (took),
And made me with him ride
On a white palfrey by his side,
And brought me in to his palis,
Right well ydight over all ywis.
He showed me castels and toures,
Meadows, rivers, fields and flowres,
And his forests everiche ones
And sith he brought me again home.

The fairy-king orders her, under a dreadful penalty, to await him next morning under the ymp tree. Her husband and ten hundred knights stand in arms round the tree to protect her,

And yet amiddés them full right
The queenè was away y-twight (snatched);
With Faery forth y-nome (taken);
Men wist never where she was become.

Oribo in despair abandons his throne, and retires to the wilderness, where he solaces himself with his harp, charming with his melody the wild beasts, the inhabitants of the spot. Often while here,

He mightè see him besides
Oft in hot undertides
The king of Faery with his rout
Come to hunt him all about,
With dim cry and blowing,
And houndes also with him barking.
Ac (yet) no beastè they no nome,
Ne never he nist whither they become;
And other while he might them see
As a great hostè by him. te. [j]
Well atourned ten hundred knightes
Each well y-armed to his rightes,
Of countenancè stout. and fierce,
With many displayéd bannérs,
And each his sword y-drawè hold;
Ac never he nistè whither they wold.
And otherwhile ho seigh (saw) other thing,
Knightès and levedis (ladses) come dauncing

In quaint attire guisely,
Quiet pace and softely.
Tabours and trumpès gede (went) him by,
And allè manere minstracy.
And on a day he neigh him beside
Sixty levedis on horse ride,
Gentil and jolif as brid on ris (bird on branch),
Nought o (one) man amonges hem ther nis,
And each a faucoun on hond bare,
And riden on hauken by o rivér.
Of game they found well good haunt,
Mallardes, heron, and cormeraunt.
The fowlès of the water ariseth,
Each faucoun them well deviseth,
Each faucoun his preyè slough [k] (slew).

Among the ladies he recognises his lost queen, and he determines to follow them, and attempt her rescue.

In at a roche (rock) the levedis rideth,
And he after and nought abideth.
When he was in the roche y-go
Well three milès other (or) mo,
Re came into a fair countráy
As bright soonne summers day,
Smooth and plain and allè grene,
Hill ne dale nas none y-seen.
Amiddle the lond a castel he seigh,
Rich and real and wonder high.
Allè the utmostè wall
Was clear and shinè of cristal.
An hundred towers there wore about,
Deguiselich and batailed stout.
The buttras come out of the ditch,
Of reds gold y-arched rich.
The bousour was anowed all
Of each manere diverse animal.
Within there were widè wones
All of precious stones.
The worstè pillar to behold
Was all of burnished gold.
All that lond was ever light,
For when it should be therk (dark) and night,
The richè stones lightè gonne (yield [l])
Bright as doth at nonne the sonne,
No man may tell ne think in thought
The richè work that there was wrought.

Orfeo makes his way into this palace, and so charms the king with his minstrelsy, that he gives him back his wife. They return to Winchester, and there reign, in peace and happiness.

Another instance of this kind of Feerie may be seen in Thomas the Rymer, but, restricted by our limits, we must omit it, and pass to the last kind.

Sir Thopas was written to ridicule the romancers; its incidents must therefore accord with theirs, and the Feerie in it in fact resembles those in Huon de Bordeaux. It has the farther merit of having suggested incidents to Spencer; and perhaps of having given the idea of a queen regnante of Fairy Land. Sir Thopas is chaste as Graelent.

Full many a maidè bright in bour
They mourned for him par amour;
When hem were bete to slepe;
But he was chaste and no lechour,
And sweet as is the bramble flour
That bereth the red hepe.

He was therefore a suitable object for the love of a gentle elf-queen. So Sir Thopas one day “pricketh through a faire forest” till he is weary, and he then lies down to sleep on the grass, where he dreams of an elf-queen, and awakes, declaring

An elf-queen wol I love, ywis.

All other women I forsake,
And to an elf-queen I me take
By dale and eke by down.

He determines to set out in quest of her.

Into his sadel he clombe anon,
And pricked over style and stone,
An elf-quene for to espie;
Till be so long had ridden and gone,
That he found in a privee wone
The countree of Faerie, [m]

Wherein he soughtè north and south,
And oft he spied with his mouth
In many a forest wilde;
For in that countree n’as there none
That to him dorst ride or gon,
Neither wif ne childe.

The “gret giaunt” Sire Oliphaunt, however, informs him that

Here is the quene of Faerie,
With harpe and pipe and simphonie,
Dwelling in this place.

Owing to the fastidiousness of “mine hoste,” we are unable to learn how Sir Thopas fared with the elf-queen, and we have probably lost a copious description of Fairy Land.


[a] Avalon was perhaps the Island of the Blest, of Celtic mythology, and then the abode of the Fees, through the Breton Korrigan. Writers, however, seem to be unanimous in regarding it and Glastonbury as the same place, called an isle, it is stated, as being made nearly such by the “river’s embracement.” It was named Avalon, we are told, from the British word Aval, an apple, as it abounded with orchards and Ynys gwydrin; Saxon Glaytn-ey, glassy isle; Latin, Glastonia, from the green hue of the water surrounding it.

[b] see Tales and Popular Fictions, ch. ix., for a further account of Ogier.

[c] Tant nagea en mer qu’il arriva pres du chastel daymant quon nomme Ie chastean davallon, qui nest gueres deca paradis terrestre la ou furent ravis en une raye de feu Enoc et Helye, et la ou estoit Morgue la faye, qui a sa naisance lui avoit donne de grands dons, nobles et vertueux.

[d] Dieu te mande que sitost que sera nuit que tu allies en ung chasteau que tu verras luire, et passe de bateau en bateau tant que tu soies en une isle que tu trouveras. Et quand tu seras en lisle tu trouveras une petite sente, et de chose que tu voies leans ne tesbahis de rien. Et adonc Ogier regarda mais il ne vit rien.

[e] Lequel estoit luiton, et avoit este ung grant prince; mais le roi Artus le conquist, si fust condampne a estre trois cens ans cheval sans parler ung tout seul mot; mais apres lea trois cens ans, il devoit avoir la couronne de joye do laquelle ils usuient en faerie.

[f] Et quand Morgue approcha du dit chasteau, les Faes vindrent an devant dogier, chantant le plus melodieusement quon scauroit jamais ouir, si entra dedans in salle pour me deduire totallement. Adonc vist plusieurs dames Faees sournees et toutes courrunnees de couronnes tressomptueusement faictes, et moult riches, et tout jour chantoient, dansoient, et menoient vie treajoyeuse, sans penser a nulle quelconque meschante chose, fors prandre leurs moudains plaisirs.

[g] Tant de joyeulx passetemps lui faisoient les dames Faees, quil nest creature en ce monde quil le sceust imaginer ne penser, car les ouir si doulcement chanter il lui sembloit proprement quil fut en Paradis, si passoit temps de jour en jour, de sepmaine en sepmaine, tellement que ung an ne lui duroit pas ung mois.

[h] Et quand ils furent tous deux montes, toutes les dames du chasteau vindrent a Ia departie dogier, par le commandement du roi Artus et de Morgue la fae, et sonnerent une aubade dinstrumeus, la plus melodieuse chose a ouir que on entendit jamais; puis, l’aubade achevee, chanterent de gorge si melodieusement que cestoit une chose si melodieuse que il sembloit propremont a Ogier quil estoit en Paradis. De rechief, cela fini, ils chanterent avecques les instrumens par si doulce concordance quil sembloit mieulx chose divine que humaine.

[i] Imp tree is a grafted tree. Sir W. Scott queries if it be not a tree consecrated to the imps or fiends. Had imp that sense so early? A grafted tree had perhaps the same relation to the Fairies that the linden in Gennany end the North had to the dwarfs.

[j] Te or tao (Dayton, Poly-Olb. xxv.) is to draw, to march …

[k] Beattie probably knew nothing of Orfeo and Heurodis, and the Fairy Vision in the Minstrel (a dream that would never have occurred to any minstrel) was derived from the Flower and the Leaf, Dryden’s, not Chaucer’s, for the personages in the latter are not called Fairies. In neither are they Elves.

 [l] Günnen, Germ.

[m] The “countrie of Faerie,” situated in a “privee wone,” plainly accords rather with the Feeries of’ Huon de Bordeaux than with Avalon, or the region into which Dame Heurodis was taken.

Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend by Donald Alexander Mackenzie [1917]

You can read the rest of the chapter “Exiles from Fairyland” here.

The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies by Robert Kirk and Andrew Lang [1893]

IV. FAIRYLAND AND HADES.

Thus, to my mind at least, the Subterranean Inhabitants of Mr. Kirk’s book are not so much a traditional recollection of a real dwarfish race living underground (a hypothesis of Sir Walter Scott’s), as a lingering memory of the Chthonian beings, “the Ancestors.” A good case in point is that of Bessie Dunlop, of Dalry, in Ayrshire, tried on 8th November 1576 for witchcraft. She dealt in medicine and white magic, and obtained her prescriptions from Thomas Reid, slain at Pinkie fight (1547), who often appeared to her, and tried to lead her off to Fairyland. She, like Alison Pearson, was “convict and burnt” (Scott’s Demonology, p. 146, and Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials). Both ladies knew the Fairy Queen, and Alison Pearson beheld Maitland of Lethington, and Buccleugh, in Fairyland, as is recounted in a rhymed satire on Archbishop Adamson (Dalzell’s Scottish Poems, p. 321). These are excellent proofs that Fairyland was a kind of Hades, or home of the dead.

Mr. Kirk, who speaks of the Sleagh Maith as confidently as if he were discussing the habits of some remote race which he has visited, credits them, as the Greek gods were credited, with the power of nourishing themselves on some fine essential part of human sacrifice, of human food, “some fine spirituous Liquors, that peirce like pure Air and Oil, on the poyson or substance of Corns and Liquors.” Others, more gross, steal the actual grain, “as do Crowes and Mice.” They are heard hammering in the howes: as Brownies they enter houses and cleanse the hearths. They are the Domovoys, as the Russians call them. John Major, in his exposition of St. Matthew (1518, fol. xlviii.), gives perhaps the oldest account of Brownies, in a believing temper. Major styles them Fauni or brobne. They thrash as much grain in one night as twenty men could do. They throw stones about among people sitting by the fire. Whether they can predict future events is doubtful (see Mr. Constable in Major’s Greater Britain, p. xxx. Edinburgh, 1892). To us they seem not much remote from the Roman Lares–spirits of the household, of the hearth. In all these creatures Mr. Kirk recognises “an abstruse People,” who were before our more substantial race, whose furrows are still to be seen on the hill-tops. They never were, to his mind, plain palpable folk; they are only visible, in their quarterly flittings, to men of the second sight. That gift of vision includes not only power to see distant or future events, but the viewless forms of air. To shun the flittings, men visit church on the first Sunday of the quarter: then they will be hallowed against elf-shots, “these Arrows that fly in the dark.” As is well known, superstition explained the Neolithic arrow-heads as Fairy weapons; it does not follow that a tradition of a Neolithic people suggested the belief in Fairies. But we cannot deny absolutely that some such memory of an earlier race, a shy and fugitive people who used weapons of stone, may conceivably play its part in the Fairy legend.

The dwellings of these airy shadows of mankind are, naturally, “Fairie Hills.” There is such a hill, the Fairy Hill at Aberfoyle, where Mr. Kirk resided: Baillie Nicol Jarvie describes its legends in an admirable passage in Rob Roy. Mr. MacRitchie says, “How much of this ‘howe’ is artificial, or whether any of it is, remains to be discovered.” It is much larger than most artificial tumuli. According to Mr. Kirk, the Highlanders “superstitiously believe the souls of their Predecessors to dwell” in the fairy-hills. “And for that end, say they, a Mote or Mount was dedicate beside every Churchyard, to receive the souls till their adjacent bodies arise, and so become as a Fairy hill.” Here the Highland philosophers have conspicuously put the cart before the horse. The tumuli are much older than the churches, which were no doubt built beside them because the place had a sacred character. Two very good examples may be seen at Dalry, on the Ken, in Galloway, and at Parton, on Loch Ken. The grassy howes are large and symmetrical, and the modern Presbyterian churches occupy old sites; at Parton there are ruins of the ancient Catholic church. Round the tumulus at Dalry, according to the local form of the Märchen of Hesione, a great dragon used to coil in triple folds, before it was killed by the blacksmith. Nobody, perhaps, can regard these tumuli, and many like them, as anything but sepulchral. On the road between Balantrae, in Ayrshire, and Stranraer, there is a beautiful tumulus above the sea, which at once recalls the barrow above the main that Elpenor in the Odyssey, asked Odysseus to build for him, “the memorial of a luckless man.” In the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius, the ghost of a hero who fell at Troy appears to the adventurers on a tumulus like this of the Ayrshire coast. In speaking of these barrows Mr. Kirk tells how, during a famine about 1676, two women had a vision of a treasure hid in a fairy-hill. This they excavated, and discovered some coins “of good money.” The great gold corslet of the British Museum is said to have been found in Wales, where tradition spoke of a ghost in golden armour which haunted a hillock. The hillock was excavated, and the golden corslet, like the Shakespearian bricks, is “alive to testify” to the truth of the story.

“Where is fairyland?

Invisible lands across the sea, hollow hills that raise themselves up on legs at full moon, revealing the twinkling lights of the fairy homes within, underwater palaces and castles in the sky, streams, lakes, mountains, forests, woods, trees, and flowers, under a rock or at the bottom of the garden – fairyland, like fairies themselves, comes in many different guises.”

Much more about fairyland can be read in the book: The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper.

Elfland

I love this explanation of Faerie from Theresa Bane’s Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology.

Variations: Alfheim, Alfheimr (“Elf home”), Fairyland

Elfland is one of the many names given to the mythical homeland of the elves and fairies; it is very often associated with the land of the dead. According to folklore descriptions, there is no sun or moon, no day or night, only perpetual twilight. All cultures have elves and fairies in their mythology also have an equivalent of Elfland.

On vary rare occasions the fay will invite a human there and treat them well, as an honored guest. Of those who make the trip to Elfland, few do it of their own free will. Typically mortals who enter into Elfland are kidnapped and taken there or have been tricked in going. Humans who are taken are only released if they are able to perform some task or valuable service for the fairies. Few make the trip back home. Sightings of people who have died and ghosts are said to be from Elfland.

Those who visit are subject to a distorted sense of time, what seemed to be the passing of a few minutes or an evening is later revealed to have been hours, weeks, or even years. Most unfortunate is once a human leaves Elfland, the lost time catches up to them, ageing them appropriately, even if they are to turn instantly to dust.

There are many and varied stories describing the entrance to Elfland as being both celestial and terrestrial; the entry is speculated to be located in a “other-space”, in-between dimensions, or in a parallel dimension. The actual doorway to Elfland has been in numerous places, in the forest, the hills, upon stone, up in the mountains, off on an island, over the sea, beneath the earth, and under the water.

Elfland itself has been described as a land of unequalled beauty. The nobility’s court is a splendid place, filled with music and dancing.

Sources: Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 413; Guiley, Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy, 99; Henderson, Scottish Fairy Belief, 44-7; Vallee, Other Worlds, Other Universes, 84-6.

You can read all about Alfheim, Avalon, Fairy Fort, Fairy Island, Fairyland and other variations of Faerie in the book.

My favourite take on how Faerie and its denizens operate:

Frank Craig - Goblin market - Google Art Project

Goblin Market BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI [1862]

Morning and evening 
Maids heard the goblins cry: 
“Come buy our orchard fruits, 
Come buy, come buy: 
Apples and quinces, 
Lemons and oranges, 
Plump unpeck’d cherries, 
Melons and raspberries, 
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches, 
Swart-headed mulberries, 
Wild free-born cranberries, 
Crab-apples, dewberries, 
Pine-apples, blackberries, 
Apricots, strawberries;— 
All ripe together 
In summer weather,— 
Morns that pass by, 
Fair eves that fly; 
Come buy, come buy: 
Our grapes fresh from the vine, 
Pomegranates full and fine, 
Dates and sharp bullaces, 
Rare pears and greengages, 
Damsons and bilberries, 
Taste them and try: 
Currants and gooseberries, 
Bright-fire-like barberries, 
Figs to fill your mouth, 
Citrons from the South, 
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; 
Come buy, come buy.” 

Evening by evening 
Among the brookside rushes, 
Laura bow’d her head to hear, 
Lizzie veil’d her blushes: 
Crouching close together 
In the cooling weather, 
With clasping arms and cautioning lips, 
With tingling cheeks and finger tips. 
“Lie close,” Laura said, 
Pricking up her golden head: 
“We must not look at goblin men, 
We must not buy their fruits: 
Who knows upon what soil they fed 
Their hungry thirsty roots?” 
“Come buy,” call the goblins 
Hobbling down the glen. 

“Oh,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura, 
You should not peep at goblin men.” 
Lizzie cover’d up her eyes, 
Cover’d close lest they should look; 
Laura rear’d her glossy head, 
And whisper’d like the restless brook: 
“Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie, 
Down the glen tramp little men. 
One hauls a basket, 
One bears a plate, 
One lugs a golden dish 
Of many pounds weight. 
How fair the vine must grow 
Whose grapes are so luscious; 
How warm the wind must blow 
Through those fruit bushes.” 
“No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no; 
Their offers should not charm us, 
Their evil gifts would harm us.” 
She thrust a dimpled finger 
In each ear, shut eyes and ran: 
Curious Laura chose to linger 
Wondering at each merchant man. 
One had a cat’s face, 
One whisk’d a tail, 
One tramp’d at a rat’s pace, 
One crawl’d like a snail, 
One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry, 
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry. 
She heard a voice like voice of doves 
Cooing all together: 
They sounded kind and full of loves 
In the pleasant weather. 

Laura stretch’d her gleaming neck 
Like a rush-imbedded swan, 
Like a lily from the beck, 
Like a moonlit poplar branch, 
Like a vessel at the launch 
When its last restraint is gone. 

Backwards up the mossy glen 
Turn’d and troop’d the goblin men, 
With their shrill repeated cry, 
“Come buy, come buy.” 
When they reach’d where Laura was 
They stood stock still upon the moss, 
Leering at each other, 
Brother with queer brother; 
Signalling each other, 
Brother with sly brother. 
One set his basket down, 
One rear’d his plate; 
One began to weave a crown 
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown 
(Men sell not such in any town); 
One heav’d the golden weight 
Of dish and fruit to offer her: 
“Come buy, come buy,” was still their cry. 
Laura stared but did not stir, 
Long’d but had no money: 
The whisk-tail’d merchant bade her taste 
In tones as smooth as honey, 
The cat-faced purr’d, 
The rat-faced spoke a word 
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard; 
One parrot-voiced and jolly 
Cried “Pretty Goblin” still for “Pretty Polly;”— 
One whistled like a bird. 

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste: 
“Good folk, I have no coin; 
To take were to purloin: 
I have no copper in my purse, 
I have no silver either, 
And all my gold is on the furze 
That shakes in windy weather 
Above the rusty heather.” 
“You have much gold upon your head,” 
They answer’d all together: 
“Buy from us with a golden curl.” 
She clipp’d a precious golden lock, 
She dropp’d a tear more rare than pearl, 
Then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red: 
Sweeter than honey from the rock, 
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine, 
Clearer than water flow’d that juice; 
She never tasted such before, 
How should it cloy with length of use? 
She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more 
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; 
She suck’d until her lips were sore; 
Then flung the emptied rinds away 
But gather’d up one kernel stone, 
And knew not was it night or day 
As she turn’d home alone. 

Lizzie met her at the gate 
Full of wise upbraidings: 
“Dear, you should not stay so late, 
Twilight is not good for maidens; 
Should not loiter in the glen 
In the haunts of goblin men. 
Do you not remember Jeanie, 
How she met them in the moonlight, 
Took their gifts both choice and many, 
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers 
Pluck’d from bowers 
Where summer ripens at all hours? 
But ever in the noonlight 
She pined and pined away; 
Sought them by night and day, 
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey; 
Then fell with the first snow, 
While to this day no grass will grow 
Where she lies low: 
I planted daisies there a year ago 
That never blow. 
You should not loiter so.” 
“Nay, hush,” said Laura: 
“Nay, hush, my sister: 
I ate and ate my fill, 
Yet my mouth waters still; 
To-morrow night I will 
Buy more;” and kiss’d her: 
“Have done with sorrow; 
I’ll bring you plums to-morrow 
Fresh on their mother twigs, 
Cherries worth getting; 
You cannot think what figs 
My teeth have met in, 
What melons icy-cold 
Piled on a dish of gold 
Too huge for me to hold, 
hat peaches with a velvet nap, 
Pellucid grapes without one seed: 
Odorous indeed must be the mead 
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink 
With lilies at the brink, 
And sugar-sweet their sap.” 

Golden head by golden head, 
Like two pigeons in one nest 
Folded in each other’s wings, 
They lay down in their curtain’d bed: 
Like two blossoms on one stem, 
Like two flakes of new-fall’n snow, 
Like two wands of ivory 
Tipp’d with gold for awful kings. 
Moon and stars gaz’d in at them, 
Wind sang to them lullaby, 
Lumbering owls forbore to fly, 
Not a bat flapp’d to and fro 
Round their rest: 
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast 
Lock’d together in one nest. 

Early in the morning 
When the first cock crow’d his warning, 
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy, 
Laura rose with Lizzie: 
Fetch’d in honey, milk’d the cows, 
Air’d and set to rights the house, 
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat, 
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat, 
Next churn’d butter, whipp’d up cream, 
Fed their poultry, sat and sew’d; 
Talk’d as modest maidens should: 
Lizzie with an open heart, 
Laura in an absent dream, 
One content, one sick in part; 
One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight, 
One longing for the night. 

At length slow evening came: 
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook; 
Lizzie most placid in her look, 
Laura most like a leaping flame. 
They drew the gurgling water from its deep; 
Lizzie pluck’d purple and rich golden flags, 
Then turning homeward said: “The sunset flushes 
Those furthest loftiest crags; 
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags. 
No wilful squirrel wags, 
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.” 
But Laura loiter’d still among the rushes 
And said the bank was steep. 
And said the hour was early still 
The dew not fall’n, the wind not chill; 
Listening ever, but not catching 
The customary cry, 
“Come buy, come buy,” 
With its iterated jingle 
Of sugar-baited words: 
Not for all her watching 
Once discerning even one goblin 
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling; 
Let alone the herds 
That used to tramp along the glen, 
In groups or single, 
Of brisk fruit-merchant men. 

Till Lizzie urged, “O Laura, come; 
I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look: 
You should not loiter longer at this brook: 
Come with me home. 
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc, 
Each glowworm winks her spark, 
Let us get home before the night grows dark: 
For clouds may gather 
Though this is summer weather, 
Put out the lights and drench us through; 
Then if we lost our way what should we do?” 

Laura turn’d cold as stone 
To find her sister heard that cry alone, 
That goblin cry, 
“Come buy our fruits, come buy.” 
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit? 
Must she no more such succous pasture find, 
Gone deaf and blind? 
Her tree of life droop’d from the root: 
She said not one word in her heart’s sore ache; 
But peering thro’ the dimness, nought discerning, 
Trudg’d home, her pitcher dripping all the way; 
So crept to bed, and lay 
Silent till Lizzie slept; 
Then sat up in a passionate yearning, 
And gnash’d her teeth for baulk’d desire, and wept 
As if her heart would break. 

Day after day, night after night, 
Laura kept watch in vain 
In sullen silence of exceeding pain. 
She never caught again the goblin cry: 
“Come buy, come buy;”— 
She never spied the goblin men 
Hawking their fruits along the glen: 
But when the noon wax’d bright 
Her hair grew thin and grey; 
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn 
To swift decay and burn 
Her fire away. 

One day remembering her kernel-stone 
She set it by a wall that faced the south; 
Dew’d it with tears, hoped for a root, 
Watch’d for a waxing shoot, 
But there came none; 
It never saw the sun, 
It never felt the trickling moisture run: 
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth 
She dream’d of melons, as a traveller sees 
False waves in desert drouth 
With shade of leaf-crown’d trees, 
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze. 

She no more swept the house, 
Tended the fowls or cows, 
Fetch’d honey, kneaded cakes of wheat, 
Brought water from the brook: 
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook 
And would not eat. 
Tender Lizzie could not bear 
To watch her sister’s cankerous care 
Yet not to share. 
She night and morning 
Caught the goblins’ cry: 
“Come buy our orchard fruits, 
Come buy, come buy;”— 
Beside the brook, along the glen, 
She heard the tramp of goblin men, 
The yoke and stir 
Poor Laura could not hear; 
Long’d to buy fruit to comfort her, 
But fear’d to pay too dear. 
She thought of Jeanie in her grave, 
Who should have been a bride; 
But who for joys brides hope to have 
Fell sick and died 
In her gay prime, 
In earliest winter time 
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter time. 

Till Laura dwindling 
Seem’d knocking at Death’s door:
Then Lizzie weigh’d no more 
Better and worse; 
But put a silver penny in her purse, 
Kiss’d Laura, cross’d the heath with clumps of furze 
At twilight, halted by the brook: 
And for the first time in her life 
Began to listen and look. 

Laugh’d every goblin 
When they spied her peeping: 
Came towards her hobbling, 
Flying, running, leaping, 
Puffing and blowing, 
Chuckling, clapping, crowing, 
Clucking and gobbling, 
Mopping and mowing, 
Full of airs and graces, 
Pulling wry faces, 
Demure grimaces, 
Cat-like and rat-like, 
Ratel- and wombat-like, 
Snail-paced in a hurry, 
Parrot-voiced and whistler, 
Helter skelter, hurry skurry, 
Chattering like magpies, 
Fluttering like pigeons, 
Gliding like fishes,— 
Hugg’d her and kiss’d her: 
Squeez’d and caress’d her: 
Stretch’d up their dishes, 
Panniers, and plates: 
“Look at our apples 
Russet and dun, 
Bob at our cherries, 
Bite at our peaches, 
Citrons and dates, 
Grapes for the asking, 
Pears red with basking 
Out in the sun, 
Plums on their twigs; 
Pluck them and suck them, 
Pomegranates, figs.”— 

“Good folk,” said Lizzie, 
Mindful of Jeanie: 
“Give me much and many: — 
Held out her apron, 
Toss’d them her penny. 
“Nay, take a seat with us, 
Honour and eat with us,” 
They answer’d grinning: 
“Our feast is but beginning. 
Night yet is early, 
Warm and dew-pearly, 
Wakeful and starry: 
Such fruits as these 
No man can carry: 
Half their bloom would fly, 
Half their dew would dry, 
Half their flavour would pass by. 
Sit down and feast with us, 
Be welcome guest with us, 
Cheer you and rest with us.”— 
“Thank you,” said Lizzie: “But one waits 
At home alone for me: 
So without further parleying, 
If you will not sell me any 
Of your fruits though much and many, 
Give me back my silver penny 
I toss’d you for a fee.”— 
They began to scratch their pates, 
No longer wagging, purring, 
But visibly demurring, 
Grunting and snarling. 
One call’d her proud, 
Cross-grain’d, uncivil; 
Their tones wax’d loud, 
Their looks were evil. 
Lashing their tails 
They trod and hustled her, 
Elbow’d and jostled her, 
Claw’d with their nails, 
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking, 
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking, 
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots, 
Stamp’d upon her tender feet, 
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits 
Against her mouth to make her eat. 

White and golden Lizzie stood, 
Like a lily in a flood,— 
Like a rock of blue-vein’d stone 
Lash’d by tides obstreperously,— 
Like a beacon left alone 
In a hoary roaring sea, 
Sending up a golden fire,— 
Like a fruit-crown’d orange-tree 
White with blossoms honey-sweet 
Sore beset by wasp and bee,— 
Like a royal virgin town 
Topp’d with gilded dome and spire 
Close beleaguer’d by a fleet 
Mad to tug her standard down. 

One may lead a horse to water, 
Twenty cannot make him drink. 
Though the goblins cuff’d and caught her, 
Coax’d and fought her, 
Bullied and besought her, 
Scratch’d her, pinch’d her black as ink, 
Kick’d and knock’d her, 
Maul’d and mock’d her, 
Lizzie utter’d not a word; 
Would not open lip from lip 
Lest they should cram a mouthful in: 
But laugh’d in heart to feel the drip 
Of juice that syrupp’d all her face, 
And lodg’d in dimples of her chin, 
And streak’d her neck which quaked like curd. 
At last the evil people, 
Worn out by her resistance, 
Flung back her penny, kick’d their fruit 
Along whichever road they took, 
Not leaving root or stone or shoot; 
Some writh’d into the ground, 
Some div’d into the brook 
With ring and ripple, 
Some scudded on the gale without a sound, 
Some vanish’d in the distance. 

In a smart, ache, tingle, 
Lizzie went her way; 
Knew not was it night or day; 
Sprang up the bank, tore thro’ the furze, 
Threaded copse and dingle, 
And heard her penny jingle 
Bouncing in her purse,— 
Its bounce was music to her ear. 
She ran and ran 
As if she fear’d some goblin man 
Dogg’d her with gibe or curse 
Or something worse: 
But not one goblin scurried after, 
Nor was she prick’d by fear; 
The kind heart made her windy-paced 
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste 
And inward laughter. 

She cried, “Laura,” up the garden, 
“Did you miss me? 
Come and kiss me. 
Never mind my bruises, 
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices 
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you, 
Goblin pulp and goblin dew. 
Eat me, drink me, love me; 
Laura, make much of me; 
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.” 

Laura started from her chair, 
Flung her arms up in the air, 
Clutch’d her hair: 
“Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted 
For my sake the fruit forbidden? 
Must your light like mine be hidden, 
Your young life like mine be wasted, 
Undone in mine undoing, 
And ruin’d in my ruin, 
Thirsty, canker’d, goblin-ridden?”— 
She clung about her sister, 
Kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her: 
Tears once again 
Refresh’d her shrunken eyes, 
Dropping like rain 
After long sultry drouth; 
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain, 
She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth. 

Her lips began to scorch, 
That juice was wormwood to her tongue, 
She loath’d the feast: 
Writhing as one possess’d she leap’d and sung, 
Rent all her robe, and wrung 
Her hands in lamentable haste, 
And beat her breast. 
Her locks stream’d like the torch 
Borne by a racer at full speed, 
Or like the mane of horses in their flight, 
Or like an eagle when she stems the light 
Straight toward the sun, 
Or like a caged thing freed, 
Or like a flying flag when armies run. 

Swift fire spread through her veins, knock’d at her heart, 
Met the fire smouldering there 
And overbore its lesser flame; 
She gorged on bitterness without a name: 
Ah! fool, to choose such part 
Of soul-consuming care! 
Sense fail’d in the mortal strife: 
Like the watch-tower of a town 
Which an earthquake shatters down, 
Like a lightning-stricken mast, 
Like a wind-uprooted tree 
Spun about, 
Like a foam-topp’d waterspout 
Cast down headlong in the sea, 
She fell at last; 
Pleasure past and anguish past, 
Is it death or is it life? 

Life out of death. 
That night long Lizzie watch’d by her, 
Counted her pulse’s flagging stir, 
Felt for her breath, 
Held water to her lips, and cool’d her face 
With tears and fanning leaves: 
But when the first birds chirp’d about their eaves, 
And early reapers plodded to the place 
Of golden sheaves, 
And dew-wet grass 
Bow’d in the morning winds so brisk to pass, 
And new buds with new day 
Open’d of cup-like lilies on the stream, 
Laura awoke as from a dream, 
Laugh’d in the innocent old way, 
Hugg’d Lizzie but not twice or thrice; 
Her gleaming locks show’d not one thread of grey, 
Her breath was sweet as May 
And light danced in her eyes. 

Days, weeks, months, years 
Afterwards, when both were wives 
With children of their own; 
Their mother-hearts beset with fears, 
Their lives bound up in tender lives; 
Laura would call the little ones 
And tell them of her early prime, 
Those pleasant days long gone 
Of not-returning time: 
Would talk about the haunted glen, 
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men, 
Their fruits like honey to the throat 
But poison in the blood; 
(Men sell not such in any town): 
Would tell them how her sister stood 
In deadly peril to do her good, 
And win the fiery antidote: 
Then joining hands to little hands 
Would bid them cling together, 
“For there is no friend like a sister 
In calm or stormy weather; 
To cheer one on the tedious way, 
To fetch one if one goes astray, 
To lift one if one totters down, 
To strengthen whilst one stands.”

Illustration to Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market by Winifred Knights

Free Further Reading:

The Science of Fairy Tales, An Enquiry Into Fairy Mythology by Edwin Sidney Hartland [1891]

Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales by Sir George Douglas [1901]

The Welsh Fairy Book by W. Jenkyn Thomas [1908]

Faerie in Folk Tales

After you’ve read Rossetti’s Goblin Market, you might ask yourself: why do people waste away, craving for things they’ve only seen in their dreams?

Well, I’ll answer that one: have you read the description of Faerie in The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm?

“…they found themselves in a magnificent avenue of trees where all the leaves were made of silver, glittering and glinting.”

“Then they came to an avenue of trees where all the leaves were of gold, and then to a third where they were of pure diamond…”

“…on the far side of the water there stood a splendid, brightly lit castle resounding with the gay music of drums and trumpets.”

Exactly.

Faeries love to offer gifts. You know the story of Rumpelstiltskin by the Brothers Grimm.

“When the girl was alone the little man came for a third time and said, ‘What’ll you give me if I spin this straw yet again?’

‘I’ve nothing more to give,’ answered the girl.

‘Then promise me your first child if you get to be queen.’”

So you know that there’s always a price to pay. Even one you never thought you would…

Faerie in modern culture

Books

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

In the Wicked Lovely book series by Melissa Marr, only the High Court truly resides within Faerie. You can read all about them here.

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

In the Wings book series by Aprilynne Pike, Avalon can be reached through magic gates kept safe by Spring Faeries and they can only opened by Winter Faeries.

Tithe by Holly Black

In the Modern Faerie Tale book series by Holly Black, the Fae live in mounds and entrances to Faerie can be found at the bottom of trees…

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

In the Iron Fey book series by Julie Kagawa, Faerie is called the Nevernever. You can read more about it here.

Television/Movies

Winx Club

In the animated Italian series, Faerie has various locations.

There is Magix, the centre of the Magic Dimension where the three major magic schools are located:


Alfea, where the Winx go to school.

Cloud Tower, where witches and the Trix go to school.

Red Fountain, where the heroes train.

And many more locations.

Merlin

Isle of the Blessed

This is the heart of the Old Religion. In appearance it is much like the fabled Isle of the Blest.

The Lake of Avalon

This is the home of the Sidhe. Also where Arthur is taken when he is mortally injured.

Tinkerbell

Pixie Hollow

Situated in Never Land, this is the home of the Never Fairies.

Never Land

A magical island filled with fantastic creatures and fueled by the imagination of children.

The Lord of the Rings

Rivendell

Dominion of Elrond and his elves.

Woodland Realm

Kingdom of the Silvan Elves.

Faerie in my writing

Perhaps the way I’ve imagined Faerie to be isn’t so different from the writers before me or the way that it’s imagined in folklore.

And that’s not a bad thing at all.

The Fae have whispered stories of their home to all of us, telling some of the burghs in hills and others of islands belonging to different Courts.

Though this isn’t a complete description – the Fae continually whisper of new places – it’s as comprehensive as they’ll allow for now.

Origin of the Fae: Faerie

Before the Rift (a millennium or so ago), Faerie was one, whole.
Now there’s the Seelie Realm (Avalon), Borderlands within the human world (though humans are smart enough to stay away from what belongs to the Fae) where Solitary Fae live at a price (a Tithe is paid every seven years to either the Seelie Queen or the Unseelie King), the Unseelie Realm with the Dark King’s castle in the middle of it all, the Wildwood that connects everything and where magic is unpredictable, and the Sea of Discord which divides all realms.
Though Faery Circles and Faery Rings are quite capable of taking the user to where they wish to go within the realms, some still use the old passages between realms (though only the foolish or desperate do so). The old passages were created before the Rift and are no longer uninhabited or reliable.
Balance no longer exists in Faerie. After the Rift, the light no longer tempers the darkness in the Unseelie Fae and the Seelie no longer appreciates the light, for there is no darkness in their world (they no longer realise when they are being cruel or callous).
Some Fae have escaped to magical parts of the human realm – places touched by Faerie during the Rift – and made homes there. Usually this dwelling is disguised as a small hill or something uninteresting and best avoided (like a burial mound).
Though scattered, all Fae are still ruled by the Seelie Queen (Faery Queen) and the Unseelie King (Dark King). Whether that’s by doing the Court’s bidding outside of the seat of power (Seelie Realm/Unseelie Realm) or by paying a Tithe for Court privileges (like living on Court land, under the protection of that Court).
The Fae who choose to have nothing to do with the Courts have a hard life. They either live in the untamed wilderness (the Wildwood or the Sea of Discord) and go mad, or on Court land as prey, or in the Mortal Realm, cut off from their magic. (Only the two Fae monarchs, the Assassin, the King of the Dead and Cù Sìth can command the Mist. Everyone else have to draw and store Glamour from the Mist for their own use – and they can only do that in places where magic is strong.)
Time runs differently in Faerie than in the Mortal Realm. Hours there can be weeks in the human world.
Humans shouldn’t eat food from Faerie: once they do, they belong to the Fae. Only the one who offered the food can break the spell. And usually they don’t: Fae love mortal playthings. Also, Faerie food holds an enchantment that makes food from the Mortal Realm unpalatable to humans, causing an addiction to Faerie food. (You’ve been warned: don’t take sweets/fruits/cakes/drinks or anything else a stranger offers you.)
Making deals with the fair folk from Faerie invariably leads to trouble. Rumpelstiltskin isn’t the only Fae who collects debts, he’s just the most notorious.
Faerie changes to suit the will of the Faery Queen. Her power is strongest in Avalon.
The Dark King prefers to toy with perception and light/dark (illumination or lack thereof) around him.
To enter the land of the Fae (Faerie) is to give up all power of where you are and what you see/hear/feel/smell/taste.

Here’s a quick sketch I made of the layout of Faerie:

Here’s an extract of how Faerie can operate:

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You can find out more about Faerie on my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject. When did you learn about Faerie the first time? Have you read any of the books or seen any of the movies/TV shows mentioned above? Do you have a favourite portrayal of Faerie?

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2 thoughts on “Faerie: Home of the Fae #folklore”

  1. What a thorough discussion! I didn’t know Yeats wrote about fairies. I’ve read much of his poetry and love some of it (others, too dark).

    And the fairies banned from their community–what an interesting premise, that it brings them to human companionship.

    Lovely post.

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