Oct 19 2011 2:00pm

A Glamorous Life: The Myth Behind the Fae

Always image courtesy of Nene ThomasMy love for all things fae started as a child with my introduction to Tinkerbell; I don’t know why Tink appealed to me so much, maybe it was her small stature (I’ve always been petite), or maybe it was because she could fly. Either way, she sparked my love, so much so every December my ringtone gets changed to “March of the Sugar Plum Fairies” and I’ve named my website Wicked Lil Pixie.  But what do we really know about fairies? I have done some research into all things fairy, so sit back and see if you knew half as much as I didn’t.

The term fairy encompasses anything from goblins to actual “wee folk.” Even their appearance varies—from little itty bitty things the size of a dragon fly to full sized “humanlike” creatures without wings. The one standard is that they look very similar to humans (yet some have blue or green skin, huh?) and have magical powers. There really is no certainty after that in terms of description, nor is there a standard behavior.

Some think of the fae as evil, which comes from the word “Fey” which means “fated to die,” which has people believing if they see a fairy, it’s a bad omen.  Yet some of the origins of fairies point at angels, or that they are a lost race of humans.  The only thing that is one hundred percent certain is that fairies don’t like iron because it is like poison to them.  But faeries do love fruit and anything natural; they are not fans of junk food. No wonder they are all so beautiful! They get their junk food fix from honey, and it’s known to get them drunk. (I’m looking at you, Jenks!)

Weirdly enough, various animals have been described as fairies, from the barghest (a large scary dog type thing) to the selkie (see Jane True Series). So you can never tell if that were-creature is really a were—or a fairy in glamour!

There are a ton of legends about the fae, anything from they snatch your children and leave you with a changling who looks identical to your child but is evil to leaving them snacks so they don’t bother you. It’s also said Brownies like to clean for you, but don’t thank them or make a comment about their ability to clean or they will never come back. I need some Brownies, don’t you?

Another legend is that faeries will capture a human by music and dance. Once the human hears the music, it becomes impossible not to dance. The human then has to dance for a year and a day, but thinks only minutes have passed. Humans also should never eat or drink anything the fae have offered them because it is usually poison to us.

Fairy Fast Facts:

  • Fairies possess unpredictable and humorous mischief.
  • Fairies do not like the idea of having their names known.
  • Fairies can assume any form.
  • Only certain people gifted with Faery Sight can see a fairy.
  • Cats do not like the fae.
  • Yellow butterflies are messengers from faeries.
  • The tangles we get in our hair at night are from faeries playing pranks.
  • Iron Horseshoes: hang one over your door and fairies can’t enter.
  • Four Leaf Clovers: protect against fairy spells and may allow you to see them, if you remain very still.

Fae artists to check out:

Faeries in PNR/UF/YA:


Natasha Carty reviews Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy on her website Wicked Little Pixie and lives in Toronto, Canada, with her cat, Seamus.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. CdnMrs
I love the fae on their own and really, what little girl hasn't wanted to be a fairy at some point. What irks me is when authors use the fae to explain weidness or inconsistencies in their stories. Oh! He/she is fae that means all the world building and rules I've built up over the last 5 books gets thrown out the window because the fae can do whatever they want. La La La! My issues aside, I love the fae. Great article! :)
Natasha Carty
2. WickedLilPixie
I agree and I know exactly what book(s) you are refering too ;)
3. Larisa
Don't forget the Fey reservation & Zee in Patricia BRrgg's Mercy Thompson series. Zee rocks, always see him as a shorter Sean Connery until he drops his glamour.
Tori Benson
I loves the fey. Expecially dark hawt fey men. :) Great article Nat.
6. Rose In RoseBear
Jim Butcher's fae, like his vampires, are a varied lot. Harry Dresden is uncomfortably related to the Winter Court (the hooks they have in him are varied and, mostly, painful), and at one point the Summer Court owed him favors. (horrors!)

I, too, am intrigued by the fae in the Branverse. Not only do they lie and violate agreements, some of them are shockingly independent of the Gray Lords' rule.
Louise Partain
7. Louise321
Had the different colored fairy books growing up as well as the illustrated Child Craft versions of fairy tales. The fairy ring, leaving food for the fairies, those things I grew up with. Have heard other stories growing up like the fey are a small dark people who originally lived in mounds in either Wales or Cornwall (depending on who you're speaking to i.e. the 3 Wishes Faerie Fest) and have avoided humans as much as possible but eventually were assimilated into human culture through inter-marriage, giving us faery godmothers and so forth. And then of course there are the elves of Tolkein unlike any elves in my fairy tale book.

Fun post, Natasha!
8. Laura L. Sullivan
Another fairy fan! Glad I found your blog! I write books about fairies -- the more dangerous kind. Well, as dangerous as you can get in Middle Grade! But I adore Tink too. I just read the actual book Peter Pan for the first time recently, and I was amazed at the difference between the movie and the book Tink (and how dark and disturbing the book was, overall.) Malicious little creature! But cute. I don't even mind the new incarnation of her, completely sweet and good. Heck, fairies are shape shifters, right? I guess they can change personality, too! Laura
Natasha Carty
9. WickedLilPixie
@ Rose - It's interesting that there are so many inturpretations and nothing "standard"

@ Louise - Thanks! I love fae-lore!

@ Laura - I still haven't read Peter Pan but now you are making me want to crack it open!
10. T. Crosby
Loved the art, so pretty. Frankly I don't care for Fae, they scare me. With wolves and vamps you get what you get, those Fae on the other hand...tricky buggars. ;)
11. SharonS
Let's not forget V'Lane from Monings Fever series :shudder: I also have a crush on the Fae prince from Hellboy II.
Natasha Carty
12. WickedLilPixie
@ T - Leave us Fae alone ;)

@ Sharon - YES! I forgot all about V'Lane!
Tara B
13. box5angel
I love reading about the Fae.

The Ashen Twilight Series by Rae Lori has a heroine who is a fairy. I love the series. The first book is A Kiss of Ashen Twilight.

I had a book a few years ago that told all about the Fae. I don't have it anymore and I can't remember the name. All I remember is that the book was red. lol Big help! ha Maybe I'll come across it in an old bookstore one day. :)

Thanks for posting this, Natasha. It was fun reading.
14. filkferengi
Don't forget the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire . She won the Campbell award for Best New Writer for that one.
Marian DeVol
15. ladyengineer
With family ties to England, Scotland and Wales, my love of faery lore centers around tales of the Great Fae, of which there appear to be two main human-like tribes.

First are the "hill watchers" - ones of smaller stature who live under barrow mounds of the British Isles (the ones Louise321 referred to).

Next are the "trooping Fae", the Sidhe (pronounced "shee") - tall, elegant and slender elves with more than a passing resemblance to Tolkein's who ride out of their faery realm (on Kelpies, the Night Mare or horses of their own elvish breeding) on the nights of the eight major agricultural festivals - the solstices and equinoxes and the points midway between them.

Both tribes can be dangerous especially if angered and must be dealt with honorably. They like to lure good looking humans, particularly artists, back to their Seelie or Unseelie Court for a "night" of music and dance. Unfortunately, time marches at a different rate there. See the tale about Thomas the Rhymer for more detail.

Other, less human tribes include selkies (the seal people), kelpies (water horse), and pookas. "The Secret of Roan Inish" is a lovely little movie involving the seal folk. Regardless, most fae appear to be shape shifters.

Another fae artist is Ruth Thompson ( I have a number of her pieces, especially her early work. She is a friend of Nene Thomas.
16. Cora
Out of curiosity... is Jareth from Labyrinth a fairy? I mean, just imagine what would happen if you called him Tinkerbell!
17. amanda weaver

Wow, Cora, you just blew my mind. But Jareth being a fae makes total sense. And if he's a fae along the lines of Moning's Fever series... well, that's venturing into fanfic territory (which I would totally read).
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