A to Z Challenge Folklore

Solitary Fae #folklore #AtoZChallenge

S is for Solitary

Learn more here.

Fae wandering the world on their own, doing things without others — they have to be weird, right? After all, humans who do things on their own are considered weird — especially writers.

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Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats, [1888]


The trooping fairies wear green jackets, the solitary ones red. On the red jacket of the Lepracaun, according to McAnally, are seven rows of buttons–seven buttons in each row. On the western coast, he says, the red jacket is covered by a frieze one, and in Ulster the creature wears a cocked hat, and when he is up to anything unusually mischievous, he leaps on to a wall and spins, balancing himself on the point of the hat with his heels in the air. McAnally tells how once a peasant saw a battle between the green jacket fairies and the red. When the green jackets began to win, so delighted was he to see the green above the red he gave a great shout. In a moment all vanished and he was flung into the ditch.

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“The name Lepracaun,” Mr. Douglas Hyde writes to me, “is from the Irish leith brogi.e., the One-shoemaker, since he is generally seen working at a single shoe. It is spelt in Irish leith bhrogan, or leith phrogan, and is in some places pronounced Luchryman, as O’Kearney writes it in that very rare book, the Feis Tigh Chonain.”

The LepracaunCluricaun, and Far Darrig. Are these one spirit in different moods and shapes? Hardly two Irish writers are agreed. In many things these three fairies, if three, resemble each other. They are withered, old, and solitary, in every way unlike the sociable spirits of the first sections. They dress with all unfairy homeliness, and are, indeed, most sluttish, slouching, jeering, mischievous phantoms. They are the great practical jokers among the good people.

The Lepracaun makes shoes continually, and has grown very rich. Many treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time, has he now for his own. In the early part of this century, according to Croker, in a newspaper office in Tipperary, they used to show a little shoe forgotten by a Lepracaun.

The Cluricaun, (Clobhair-ceann, in O’Kearney) makes himself drunk in gentlemen’s cellars. Some suppose he is merely the Lepracaun on a spree. He is almost unknown in Connaught and the north.

The Far Darrig (fear dearg), which means the Red Man, for he wears a red cap and coat, busies himself with practical joking, especially with gruesome joking. This he does, and nothing else.

The Fear-Gorta (Man of Hunger) is an emaciated phantom that goes through the land in famine time, begging an alms and bringing good luck to the giver.

There are other solitary fairies, such as the House-spirit and the Water-sheerie, own brother to the English Jack-o’-Lantern; the Pooka and the Banshee–concerning these presently; the Dallahan, or headless phantom–one used to stand in a Sligo street on dark nights till lately; the Black Dog, a form, perhaps, of the Pooka. The ships at the Sligo quays are haunted sometimes by this spirit, who announces his presence by a sound like the flinging of all “the tin porringers in the world” down into the hold. He even follows them to sea.

The Leanhaun Shee (fairy mistress), seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth–this malignant phantom.

Besides these are divers monsters–the Augh-iska, the Water-horse, the Payshtha (píast = bestia), the Lake-dragon, and such like; but whether these be animals, fairies, or spirits, I know not.

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The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

In Fairy and Folk tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) WB Yeats divided the fairies of British folklore into solitary fairies and trooping fairies. As their name suggests, solitary fairies tended to prefer a life of solitude… Generally speaking, solitary fairies were considered more fearsome and less pleasant than trooping fairies… solitary fairies were not generally playful, and were of a darker, more somber disposition.

*More can be read in the book.

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Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

In British and Irish fairy lore, there are essentially two groups of fay, the solitary fairies and the trooping fairies. Although there are a few brownies and nature spirits who are counted among the solitary fay, they are, generally speaking, ominous, outcasts, malicious renegade fairies who wear brown, grey, or red clothing. Many solitary fay are individual, one-of-a-kind beings associated with a certain place. These fairies are quick to anger and have a heightened sense of entitlement; they are known to bestow bad luck on people, consume human flesh, steal babies and leave changelings in their place, and take people for slaves. Solitary fairies do not participate in fairy dances but would rather prefer to interact with a human on a one-on-one basis. When these fairies give a mortal a gift, it is not always a trick, but the receiver would be advised to proceed with caution.

*More can be read in the book.

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The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Solitary fairies

Folkloric figures. In Irish and Scottish folklore fairies appeared either as trooping fairies, who spent their time with others of their kind, dancing and making merry, or solitary fairies, who preferred their own company to that of others and were typically ill-natured. The most famous solitary fairy was the leprechaun, the miserly fairy shoemaker who hid his wealth away.

*More can be read in the book.

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Further Reading:

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Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

William Butler Yeats decided that there are two types of faeries: solitary faeries and trooping faeries. Trooping faeries, as we’ve already discussed, prefer Court life. Solitary faeries, though, prefer living alone and are inclined to be malicious.

The most notable of Solitary fae is the leprechaun. He makes shoes, according to legend, and this has made him very rich. He has hidden his treasure in crocks all across the countryside. Other Solitary fae include the banshee, brownie, phouka and leannan sìth.

According to Yeats, all Solitary fae like to play tricks on people – some a bit more malicious than others.

As long as you leave them alone, they won’t bother you. Right?

Learn more about Brownies here, Banshee here, and the Leannan Sìth here.

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Solitary Fae in Modern Culture

In the Wicked Lovely universe, there are various types of Solitary fey.

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Sionnach (shy-knock) is a fox faery who is co-alpha of the Solitary fey in the Mojave Desert.

Learn more here.

Leanansidhe (Lea) is the Queen of Exiles (a self-proclaimed title), the Dark Muse, and a muse of music and art. 

Learn more here.
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‘Alphonse remained lying on his back, blade in front of him, ready to counter whatever attack was to come next. But could he? Could he defend himself from high fae?
I was able to keep my bow in my grasp, nocking it now once again.
“Stop it! Stop it both of you!” I cried out.
This isn’t how things were supposed to be.’

The books lied.

Fae were not benevolent. They did not grant wishes. Penelope Rose is captured by the courtless creatures. Solitary faeries that live beyond the rule of Seelie Queens and Unseelie Lords. She must assimilate into their society until she is returned home to Orléa.

To her surprise, Penelope finds friendship with some, a kinship with few, and her feelings for Vethari seem to blossom beyond control. When the humans finally come for her, she will be forced to choose a side.

But which one is the right choice?

Check it out on Goodreads.

Solitary Fae in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Solitary Fae
When the Rift happened, many fae were displaced into the mortal realm – along with pockets of Faerie. Some fae decided to leave Court affiliations behind and became Solitary. After the great battle caused by Morrígan that led to the Tithe, these Solitary Fae had to choose a Court to pay their tithes to in return for protection and the right to live on Court lands (all of the mortal realm was divided between the two Courts).
Solitary Fae come in many forms and sizes. And though interfering in the lives of mortals isn’t advisable (the Compact makes things tricky), some enjoy toying with humans.

solitary fae translation english afrikaans
Learn more here.

Where did you hear about Solitary Fae for the first time? What do you think of this classification of fae? Any folklore about Solitary Fae you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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