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
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 . . .