Time for another column, and for May / June 1991 I decided to delve a bit into the origins of the Wee Folk. I little knew it would be my last column for six months.

July / August was filled with a column by brother Mike on the joys and hazards of loaning books, so I bowed out of that issue, promising "Our folklore column will return next time!"

Well, for various reasons we were unable to print a newsletter for the rest of the year, so "next time" was a long time coming . . .

So, we're already at the May / June point, are we?

Hmmm . . .I suppose we are going to have to talk a little about - them. Them that are best seen on only six occasions each year, two of which happen to occur right now - one May 1st, the other June 23rd.

Them that inspire paintings by Dodd and Doyle, plays by Shakespeare, poems by Yeats, and curses by peasants everywhere.

I refer, of course, to:



Not that I would ever call them that to their faces - might wake up with the milk curdled one morning, or all my money swapped for odd shaped coins that would vanish as soon as I tried to spend them.

No, they've never liked the epithet "fairy" - they themselves prefer to be called the "Good People" or the "Hidden People". The word "fairy" seems to have come about when the Romans first arrived in the British Isles to "colonize" the Celts that were already there.

These Empire builders from the South brought with them a wide assortment of legends and customs which quickly passed into the collective British unconsciousness, and hence to us - it is because of the Romans that we trade gifts at Christmas, dye eggs at Easter, and celebrate Saint Valentine's Day.

Anyway, one of these Roman legends was the old Classical tradition of the three fatae, or "fates". This was Anglicized to fay, a name which the Celts decided to use to refer to the Little People who were constantly to be found in the English countryside.

The magic worked by these "fay" was therefore called "fayerie" - and, as the years passed, the word was abbreviated to "fairy" and came to refer to the Wee Folk themselves.

But who were these little people, you ask?

A good question, that - and one that scholars of such things disagree loudly about. My own favorite theory (and the one that rings most true) is that they were the original inhabitants of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Celts (forbears of today's Scotch, Irish and Welsh) invaded the British Isles around 500 BC, after having conquered most of Northern Europe (including, for a brief time, Rome!), and soon began telling tales of the strange small folk who lived in hollow hills, and frolicked in an underground country where Summer never ends . . .