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  • What are Fairy Trees? January 16, 2018

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    What are Fairy Trees?

    Nothing about fairies is easy but Beach is getting more and more confused about one aspect of fairy life and that is their trees. In the Gaelic-speaking world (or what was the Gaelic-speaking world, RIP) thorns were commonly associated with fairies. These are the trees that workers are sometimes terrified about cutting down. In Wales […]

    Christmas Fairy Trees December 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Christmas Fairy Trees

    What is a fairy tree? By rights a fairy tree should be where fairies gather to dance or perhaps to dwell: fairies it will be remembered have a special place particularly in Irish legend. However, Beach has recently started to run across curious late nineteenth-century reference to fairy trees of a decidedly none traditional sort. […]

    Katharine Briggs: Some Thoughts December 12, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Katharine Briggs: Some Thoughts

    Anyone who studies fairies, witches and the supernatural generally will have a simple series of thoughts about Katharine Briggs (1898-1980): gratitude for keeping the Folklore Society going over a rocky couple of decades; love of her marvelous books, including one of the great fairy novels; and an affection for that brooding severe child of Victorian […]

    The Rise of the Vegan Fairies December 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Rise of the Vegan Fairies

    On this site we have frequently examined how fairies have changed through the generations. For example, the way that fairy wings have gone from being a minority convention in art to being practically de rigueur for the fay; or the way that the size of fairies has changed. However, these are superficial baubles in the […]

    New Book: Magical Folk December 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    New Book: Magical Folk

    Beach is happy to announce that just two days ago Gibson Square released Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies (a topic close to the heart of many readers of this blog). The book is choc full of fairy experts and includes three chapters on European emigrant fairies in the New World. The authors are: Magical […]

    Devil Wings Mystery November 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Devil Wings Mystery

    This site has pioneered the study of fairy wings. In the last years a number of posts have pointed to the origins of fairy wings in Britain in the late eighteenth century; looked at fairy wings types; and even looked at how fairy wings were constructed by anxious mothers in the 1800s. Our colleague and […]

    Fairy Photographs from 1930 November 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Photographs from 1930

    June 1930 and various snooty Britons are opening their spanking new copy of Tatler, the house magazine of Britain’s upper middle classes and down-at-heel aristocrats. But what is this on page 25: ‘a spring time fantasy’ involving some posh tots! It would not be very difficult to imagine that Titania and her friends Peace-blossom, Moth, […]

    Moth: Shakespeare’s Most Mysterious Fairy October 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Moth: Shakespeare's Most Mysterious Fairy

    An important fairy institution are bad productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which a little girl with brown butterfly wings runs on stage being announced as Moth, one of Titania’s maids. Yet bad moth costumes may all be based on a misunderstanding. The basics. Titania, it will be remembered, has four servants: Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, […]

    Little Fairy on the Prairie October 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Little Fairy on the Prairie

    Beach spends a lot of his time chasing fairies in eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century books. Because he doesn’t have an exceptional library to hand and because travel is so damn annoying he finds the best thing to do is buy books on the basis of emails from friends and readers; or ‘snippets’ on Google […]

    The Scholar Who Went with the Fairies October 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Scholar Who Went with the Fairies

    Peter Alderson Smith is an English scholar who in 1987 wrote a really very good book on Irish fairies: W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu. In the middle of the book there is one of these passages where you think: what?!? Beach to help inattentive readers has italicized the relevant clause. Note that […]

    Winged Ninth-Century Elves?! August 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Winged Ninth-Century Elves?!

    Beach has previously interested himself with winged fairies and today he came across this very early image from the Utrecht Psalter. The Utrecht Psalter was almost certainly created in northern France in the ninth century and has fabulous line drawings that will bring you as close as you will ever come to the early Middle Ages: Beach […]

    London Fairy Roadrunner August 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Fairy Roadrunner

    This is a fabulous and often overlooked ‘fairy’ sighting. The inverted commas on ‘fairy’ because it is difficult to know quite what to make of this. The story appeared in the third volume of Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends of Ireland, only it comes from London or the outskirts of that city, c. 1800. First some […]

    Dwarfknapped! July 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval

    This weird little passage comes from the thirteenth century Ynglinga saga. It is mainly about the mythic Norse past. But it also includes one of our earliest representatives of a dvergr or dwarf: in this case a rock fairy. The human victim, a Swedish king, is drunk and things don’t end particularly well. Sveigdir went […]

    Buckinghamshire Fairies and Little Witches July 12, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Buckinghamshire Fairies and Little Witches

    Fairy legends are common in the Celtic fringes and the north of Britain. They are to be found in northern England and south central England: they also occasionally crop up in the English Midlands. However, they were as rare as gold dust in south-eastern England and East Anglia by the time that folklore records were […]

    A Sieve, a Fairy, a Midwife and a Mystery June 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Sieve, a Fairy, a Midwife and a Mystery

    So here is a fairy mystery… In Romeo and Juliet Mercutio tells us that Queen Mab is ‘the fairies’ midwife’: a mysterious phrase that has never been explained. Most guides link it unconvincingly to a previous comment of Romeo’s. A much more interesting point of reference is  a fairy poem of Ben Jonson. Beach has […]

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