This is the beginning of Columbine’s collection of fantasy fairies, or fairies in fantasy fiction.

Columbine: Do you know, when you hear a book has fairies in it, you never know what you are going to get. Fantasy fairies may be semi-divine beings, or trouble-making mischiefs, or gentle nature spirits. They may be friendly to humans or prefer to bite them. They may have almost infinite magic or hardly enough to gild a snowflake.

Robin: And they can be as tall as an adult human, or about half the size, or about a foot long, convenient for a human to talk to, or tiny, the size of a human finger or smaller. They may be able to change sizes too, that’s rather useful. In fact, they may be almost as various as the folk actually are. But usually you will get only one kind in a book, and they will then talk as though that is the only kind there is.

Columbine: (sigh) We must settle that if the author calls them fairies, or faeries, or pixies, or elves, or whatever, that’s what they are. Otherwise we will get into a real muddle.

Robin: I think the funniest kind of fantasy fairies are those that are practically human. Not in appearance so much but in the things they do – like going to school, or having a career, or mending pots and pans or having to follow lots and lots of rules in case they’re put in prison…

Columbine: You were never very keen on following rules, were you, Robin?

Robin: Show me the fairy that is and I’ll show you a gnome-in-the-making!

Wings, now. Usually only the smaller fairies have wings, and of course they’re handy for getting about. Books with tiny characters who don’t have wings go on for ages about how long it takes to cross a field or climb a staircase. You can imagine it would become tedious.

As you can see from illustrations, they are usually gossamer veined wings like a dragonfly’s, or patterned colourful wings like a butterfly’s. Only angels and cherubs have feathery wings. It makes it easy for humans to think of fairies as insubstantial and insignificant, like insects. I’ve noticed in some recent literature that this is just how fantasy fairies are portrayed when they are not the main focus of the book.

One example is the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke, where fairies add little more than a twinkling beauty to the landscape.

A more exasperating example is the Harry Potter series. Fairies hardly ever appear, but take this example from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: “an ornate golden lamp dangling from the ceiling in which real fairies were fluttering, each a brilliant speck of light”. Dreadful! Using fairies as if they were glow-worms! Then there are the doxies, biting fairies which infect the curtains in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which are actually sprayed. And those awful wizards actually use fairy eggs in their magical concotions.

Columbine: Fairy eggs?

Robin: You see my point.

Columbine: It certainly makes you see that particular fashion in another light. I’m reminded of the old saying: Familiarity breeds contempt. As long as fairies remain a rare wonder, we will get the respect given to the uncanny and possibly dangerous.

Robin: Although I count myself a friend to humanity, I’m not so trusting as to reveal myself unless I’m sure. I still take care to keep out of sight, as do many of the fantasy fairies of modern fiction, whether in a country setting as in The Various or the urban refuge of Valiant.

Other fairies exist in a world forbidden to or beyond the reach of humans except for the fortunate few – whether it be an underground country as in Kate Crackernuts, a sunlit or moonlit fantasy Fairy realm as in Stardust divided from the human world by a simple wall or waterfall, or another dimension altogether, as in Faerie Wars and the Divide trilogy.

Yet it is rare to find a book which solely deals with fairies – encounters with humans are very heart of most such stories, and very variable they are too. One or both sides may be helpful, or protective, or greedy, or malicious. They may join forces against a common enemy – goblins, demons or developers. They may become friends or even find romance.

In fact, humans will surprise you. I think they even surprise themselves sometimes!

Read more about fantasy fairies:

Small Winged Fairies:
Fairy Dust Fairies
The Rainbow Magic Christmas books
Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg – set in Never Land
Peter Pan in Scarlet – set in Never Land

Rebel Fairies: The Fairy Rebel

Irish Fairies: Wild Blood; The Hunter’s Moon; The Summer King

Changelings: The Stolen Child

Otherworld Fairies: The Faerie Wars Chronicles

Still to come:

Blue Fairies and the Fairy Wisdom: Pinocchio

Fairies & Fairylands: The Various; Clementine; Mopsa the Fairy; Stardust

Otherworld Fairies: The Divide; Mystify the Magician; Mopsa the Fairy

Fairy Rebels: The Rebel Fairy

Naughty Fairies: Little Things; Tithe

Changelings: Poison; The Moorchild

Fairies in the Modern World: Artemis Fowl; Valiant

Fairies of Long Ago: Heretic; I Coriander; The Folk-keeper

Never Land: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens; Peter and Wendy; Peter Pan and the Starcatchers

The Fairy Book series for little sisters: Rainbow Magic; Fairy Charm; Naughty Fairies