A to Z Challenge Folklore

Zipping Sprites #folklore #AtoZChallenge

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Tiny winged faeries dressed all in green. This is the traditional view of sprites — an umbrella term for various fae.

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Folklore

Celtic Myth and Legend by Charles Squire, [1905]

–a land of perpetual pleasure and feasting, described variously as the “Land of Promise” (Tir Tairngiré), the “Plain of Happiness” (Mag Mell),

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

HALF-WAY up the ascent from Llangollen to Dinas Bran, or Bran’s Fortress (the wicked man who called it Crow Castle ought to have been hanged, drawn and quartered), lies a hollow known by the name of Nant yr Ellyllon, the Elves’ Dell. Once upon a time a young man, who was known as Tudur ap Einion Gloff, used to pasture his master’s sheep in this hollow. One summer night Tudur was preparing to return to the lowlands with his woolly charge, when he suddenly saw, perched on a stone near him, a little man in moss breeches with a fiddle under his arm. He was the tiniest wee specimen of humanity imaginable. His coat was made of birch leaves, and he wore upon his head a helmet consisting of a gorse flower, while his feet were encased in shoes made of beetles’ wings. He ran his fingers over his instrument, and the music made Tudur’s hair stand on end. “Nos dawch, nos dawch,” said the little man (this means in English, “Good night to you, good night to you.”) “Ac i chwithau,” replied Tudur, which is, being interpreted, “The same to you.” Then continued the little man, “You are fond of dancing, Tudur: and if you but tarry awhile you shall behold some of the best dancers in Wales. I,” added the little man, swelling his chest out, “I am a musician.” “Where is your harp?” asked Tudur, “a Welshman cannot dance without a harp.” “Harp?” repeated the wee being scornfully, “I can discourse better music for dancing upon my fiddle.” “Is it a fiddle,” rejoined Tudur, “that you call that stringed wooden spoon in your hand?” He had never seen such an instrument before. And now Tudur beheld through the dusk hundreds of pretty little sprites converging from all parts of the mountain towards the spot where they stood. Some were dressed in white and some in blue and some in pink, and some carried glow-worms in their hands as torches. So lightly did they tread that not a blade of grass nor any flower was crushed beneath their weight, and all made a curtsey or a bow to Tudur as they passed. Tudur was not to be outdone in politeness, and he doffed his cap and bowed to each in return.

Presently the little minstrel drew his bow across the strings of his instrument, and the music produced was so enchanting that Tudur stood transfixed to the spot. Then at the sound of the sweet melody the fairies, if fairies they were, ranged themselves in groups and began to dance, and as the minstrel quickened his bow the dancers went round and round. Now, of all the dancing Tudur had ever seen, none came near the dancing of the fairies. It was the very poetry of motion. Sian Lan was the best dancer within ten miles of Llangollen, and Tudur had often had a turn with her at the merry nights in Glyn Ceiriog, but Sian’s dancing was clumsy and heavy compared with what he now saw. He felt an itching in his feet and could not help keeping time to the merry music, but he was afraid to join in the dance. He wanted to go to Heaven in good time, though he was in no particular hurry, and it occurred to him that it might not be the most direct route to Paradise to dance on a mountain at night in strange company, to; perhaps, the devil’s fiddle. The music became faster and the dance wilder, and Tudur’s whole body kept time.

“Dance away, Tudur,” cried the little man. But Tudur was too wary. “Nay, nay,” he said, “dance on, my little beauties, while I look on and admire.” The music became sweeter and the dance more enticing than before. Tudur looked on, more absorbed than ever, and his feet and hands became more and more excited. At last, losing all control over himself, he went into the middle of the ring. “Now for it,” he shouted, throwing his cap into the air. “Play away, fiddler.”

No sooner were these words uttered than everything underwent a change. The gorse-blossom cap vanished from the minstrel’s head, and a pair of goat’s horns branched out instead. His face became as black as soot: a long tail grew out of his leafy coat and cloven hoofs replaced the beetle-wing pumps. Tudur’s heart was heavy, but his heels were light. Horror was in his bosom, but irresistible motion was in his feet. The fairies changed into a variety of forms. Some became goats and some became dogs, some assumed the shape of foxes and others that of cats. It was the strangest crew that ever surrounded a human being. The dance became at last so furious that Tudur could not make out the forms of the dancers. They whirled round him with such rapidity that they resembled a wheel of fire. Tudur danced on and on. He could not stop, for the devil’s music was too much for him, as the figure with the goat’s horns poured it out of the strings of his fiddle with unceasing vigour. It went on thus throughout the night.

Next morning Tudur’s master went up the mountain to see what had become of his sheep and his shepherd. He found the flock safe and sound, but was astonished to see Tudur spinning like mad in the middle of the hollow by himself. “Stop me, master, stop me,” shouted Tudur to him. “Stop yourself,” replied he. “What is the matter with you, in the name of Heaven?” At the word Tudur fell panting and exhausted at his master’s feet, and it was long before he recovered his breath and his senses sufficiently to explain his strange conduct.

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Legends and Romances of Brittany by Lewis Spence, [1917]

WHATEVER the origin of the race which conceived the demonology of Brittany–and there are indications that it was not wholly Celtic–that weird province of Faëry bears unmistakable evidence of having been deeply impressed by the Celtic imagination, if it was not totally peopled by it, for its various inhabitants act in the Celtic spirit, are moved by Celtic springs of thought and fancy, and possess not a little of that irritability which has forced anthropologists to include the Celtic race among those peoples described as ‘sanguine-bilious.’ As a rule they are by no means friendly or even humane, these fays of Brittany, and if we find beneficent elves within the green forests of the duchy we may feel certain that they are French immigrants, and therefore more polished than the choleric native sprites.

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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, [1873]

Another kind called spriggans, which simply means sprites, are believed to guard treasures buried in cliff and hill castles.

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The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Sprites

A general term for fairies, elves, or pixies. It is also used to refer to nature spirits or spirits of the air such as sylphs and nereids, but is not generally associated with earthier creatures such as dwarves.

*More can be read in the book.

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Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Sprite

Variations: Spret, Spright, Spryte

The word sprite is used as a general term to refer to an Elf, Fairy or Pixie with an unpredictable nature; it is also used to reference Nereids and Sylphs.

Fairy

In the Hindu mythology fairies are described as pointy-eared, small, and quick moving winged beings.

Italian fairies are called Fata and tend to be deeply driven by evil and malicious intent or are genuinely compassionate, kind, and good natured.

Called peries in Persian folklore, these gossamer winged, lightweight, tiny beings are completely benevolent; they live off the scent of flowers and perfume.

Scottish fairies are divided into two classes, domestic and rural and live in burghs called bowers, bruthain, and sithean. Described most commonly as wearing green, generally these fay tend to be small in stature but are also expert shape-shifters and can take any form or size they choose.

The Elemental Fairy

In the 20th century fairies became a primal power linked to the elemental forces of nature. There were four primary classifications of the fay, Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.

*More can be read in the book.

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The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Ailill (Aleel, Aileel, Allil) Irish hero. Ancient Irish literature boasts many heroes and kings by this name, which means “elf” or “sprite”… is often anglicized to Oliver.

Bug

Celtic folkloric figure. Variations of this syllable are found in the names of many sprites, especially meddlesome ones, in Celtic countries: bug-a-boo, bugbear, bullbegger, bogle, bogie, bogan, boggart, boogyman.

*More can be read in the book.

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Further Reading:

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Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Sprites are tiny creatures from European folklore. It can also be spelled as spright or spriggan. They are depicted as faery-like creatures. In some circles, sprites refer to air elementals while in others they refer to water elementals. I’ve already covered elementals and, as we know, sprites aren’t part of that classification of fae.

In other circles, sprites are the size of large insects with dazzling colour and glistening membranous wings. They live in forests, bathe in dew and eat pests that bother the gardens of the fae.

Shakespeare’s Ariel in The Tempest is a sprite.

Irish folklore holds that sprites love water and can be found near lakes and rivers. As long as you don’t threaten them, they won’t be aggressive. Though beautiful and elegant, their feelings towards humans are ambivalent.

In JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, Tinker Bell is everything a sprite is said to be: capricious, mischievous, quick to anger and spite, but also helpful and loyal to friends and loved-ones. And the author claims that because of her small stature, she can only feel one emotion at a time.

Completely green and dressed in foliage or more reminiscent of colourful insects, sprites are everything small and whimsical we were led to believe about the fae.

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Sprites in Modern Culture

Sprites in Books

The Spiderwick Chronicles has various sprites in it.

Got Sprites?

Many would have you believe that sprites (or “fairies” as they’re often called) are sweet and pretty and ultimately peaceful creatures. But don’t let the carefree nature of these dazzling beguilers fool you. Because while they do make for awesome pets (or, if you prefer, companions), these are not creatures to be handled lightly. So forget everything you know – or think you know – about sprites, and listen to the experts from the International Sprite League as they, with the assistance of the creative team that brought you the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles, provide a resource that will prove to be as essential for the novice sprite keeper as a strong cage and eyes in the back of his or her head.

Check it out on Goodreads.

Serena, a young wood sprite from Cannora village, is not like the others in her clan. She is more adventurous and curious than the rest. During her final tests she stumbles upon the dead forest at the end of their world. Her curiosity awakens a dark secret that the elders have kept for many years and tried to ignore. However, a small group of parents, led by the young sprite’s mother, Liana, knows the truth must be told. Liana, more than the others, knows her daughter is the key to saving their village and fulfilling her own destiny. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

Christmas is a time for families to come together.

Guin Roberts can’t think of anything worse than visiting a Christmas market with her new family. Guin is perfectly happy with her own company and doesn’t want that disrupted by her wisecracking stepbrother and his earnest mum.

Their Christmas celebrations are invaded by a sleigh full of murderous elves. And it doesn’t matter if they’ve been naughty or nice — these elves are out for blood.

Can the family band together to survive the night? Or will Santa’s little helpers make mincemeat of them all?

Check it out on Goodreads.

Stella discovers that her new glasses are magic, allowing her to see the knit-knotters–night sprites that are flitting around town tyeing knots in children’s hair so they need haircuts–and when a conversation with one of them, Trixie, reveals the reason, Stella comes up with a plan to deal with the mischievous fairies.

Check it out on Goodreads.

Discover a unique eco-urban fantasy with a touch of romance.
When Scottish water sprite, Cassie, volunteers for an anti-fracking protest, the last thing she expects is to find herself at odds with a druid. But with time running out for the local environment, she can’t afford to be distracted by the handsome hunk of a Highlander.
Intent on a minor act of sabotage, Cassie is totally unprepared to be caught in the cross-fire of a magical battle. Can she avert catastrophe? Or will she become the very agency of an ecological disaster?
A Caledonian Sprite short story.

Check it out on Goodreads.

Sprites on TV

Winx Club

Princess Bloom is the Fairy of the Dragon Flame. (The Dragon’s Flame is a spark of the Great Dragon‘s power, which created the entire Magic Dimension[1]. The Dragon Flame is able to bring balance to the powers of darkness.)

Learn more about this series here.
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Tinker Bell

I am a fast-flying fairy, a true rare talent. And this is but a small part of what I do. I make breezes in the summer, blow down leaves in the fall. My winds even brought you here, dear. Fairies of every talent depend on me!”―Vidia[src]

Fast-flying-talent fairies can fly faster than any other creature or fairy in Pixie Hollow
They can also control and manipulates air, whether creating whirlwinds or breezes. Many fast-flyers have larger wings, but this is purely aesthetic, as it matches their talent and doesn’t make them fly faster.
The fast-flying-talent fairies do not really have an explained role- they are simply the fastest fliers (which comes in handy during some adventures for certain). They also are wind elementals of a sort, creating small tornadoes, making cool breezes, and blowing things down.
Vidia, the fastest of the fast-fliers, is the only one of any major importance.

Learn more about these sprites here.
Vidia creates a whirlwind. Image credit.

Sprites in My Writing

I was watching “The Tudors” when I decided that my Sprites would be influenced by Henry the Eighth’s court.

Structured garden, Hampton Court. Image credit.

Learn more about the fashion in the time of Henry the Eighth here.

One way to look at Mag Mell:

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Origin of the Fae: Sprites

Tiny, green, winged faeries who live in Mag Mell on the same heath as the Galno.
They can change size at will.
They embody the style and mannerisms of the court of Henry the eighth of England.
When they feel hate they turn black, when they feel bloodlust they turn red, when they are happy they turn golden. They struggle to feel more than one emotion at a time.
They have always been solitary Fae.
They are led by their Lady – Juno, the strongest of their kind.
They also have power over the four elements: fire, water, wind and earth.

sprite translation english afrikaans
Learn more here.

Where did you hear about sprites for the first time? What do you think of them? Any folklore regarding sprites you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

Listen to the podcast episode about this:

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8 thoughts on “Zipping Sprites #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I love this choice for Z since it seems to sum it all up. What an interesting April it’s been. I haven’t read all your A-Z yet, but I plan to come back when I can to read more. I love mythology and you put so many things in one spot in each one. Have a great May, Ronel!

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