Anonymous said: I'm writing a novel that features faerie culture significantly. Can you give me some tips on different types of fae, the Seelie and Unseelie Court, strengths, weaknesses, etc? Thanks~
- Wee Folk
- Fair Folk
- Good Folk
There isn’t a cut and dried definition of “fairy”. In some places, fairy refers to an ethereal, human-like creature with no empathy. In others, fairy is a catch-all term that encompasses trolls, goblins, banshees, gnomes, brownies, dryads, leprechauns, redcaps, buccas, elves, mermaids, trolls, and others.
For the sake of simplicity, this article is about the former definition, although you can certainly work the latter definition into your world; I’ve read several books that use the all-encompassing definition to great effect (psst read The Dresden Files psst).
Origin, Appearance, and Powers
Fairies supposedly kept the wild places in the world before humanity entered the picture. Humanity defeated or warded them away with iron, so the fairies became weaker, but still a force to be reckoned with. In some tales, they live on Earth. In others, they live in another plane or dimension that humans can rarely enter. Tales of fairies also came from religions predating Christianity. Fairies differ in their description: sometimes they are dead, gods, demigods, spirits, or halfway-fallen angels. Many sources believe fairies traded their souls to the Devil in return for their powers, making fairies as a whole soulless. Christian scholars also classified fairies as “too good for Hell, too bad for Heaven”.
The first fairies appearing in folklore resembled contemporary versions of elves more than Tinker Bell: tall, beautiful, and even angelic-seeming. The first descriptions of trolls - classified as a kind of fairy - named them as short and wizened. Small fairies often appear in folklore, their size ranging from minuscule to that of a human child. The earliest fairies did not have wings, although they could fly with magic. Small fairies sometimes rode birds.
Fairies had the power to fly, cast spells, and foresee the future. They also had the ability to cast powerful glamours or illusions that could trick mortal minds into seeing anything.
Seelie fairies will seek help from humans and return human kindness with that of their own. They play lighthearted pranks and quickly forget their sorrows. They will not show remorse when they realize the negative effects of their machinations. Seelie appear most often near twilight. You must offend them to bring down their wrath. Seelie are the nicer of the two fairies. They are also called “The Golden Ones” and “The Light Court”. The Seelie Court is closely associated with spring and summer.
The Unseelie appear at night as a group. They attack anyone they come across, often by carrying them through the air, beating them, and forcing the them to kill cattle. Some Unseelie can be fond of a human who respects Unseelie culture. However, this human ends up as a pet rather than a friend. The Unseelie Court is closely associated with winter and autumn.
Iron burns them. Rowan repels them. Fairies must keep promises they repeat three times (or just promises they make).