How dangerous were fairies? In the late seventeenth century, they could still scare people to death. Little wonder, as they were thought to be descended from fallen angels, and to have the power to destroy the world itself. Despite their modern image as gauzy playmates, the fairies feared by ordinary people caused them to flee their homes, to revere fairy trees and paths, and to abuse or even kill infants or adults held to be fairy changelings. Such beliefs, along with some remarkably detailed sightings, lingered on in places well into the twentieth century. Often associated with witchcraft and black magic, fairies were also closely involved with reports of ghosts and poltergeists. In literature and art fairies often retained this edge of danger. From the wild magic of A Midsummer Night's Dream, through the dark glamour of Keats, to the improbably erotic poem "Goblin Market", or the paintings inspired by opium dreams, the amoral otherness of the fairies ran side-by-side with the newly delicate or feminised creations of the Victorian world. In the past thirty years the enduring link between fairies and nature has been robustly exploited by eco-warriors and conservationists, from Ireland to Iceland. This book tells the stories which lay behind many fairy terrors, from Titania to Tinkerbell.
"Sugg provides both a richly entertaining introduction to the history of fairyland and a thoughtful exploration of the nature of belief. This book may not make you believe in fairies, but it will make you appreciate why such beliefs should be taken seriously."--Darren Oldridge, University of Worcester
Richard Sugg is the author of eight books, including Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires (2015), A Century of Ghost Stories (2017) and A Singing Mouse at Buckingham Palace (2017). He lives in Cardiff.