You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Fairy folklore. See Article History. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Fairies or their counterparts appear in the legends of a good part of the world.
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It is hard to define them, for in one place they will appear in full human size, in another as little creatures inhabiting mounds or caves or living under the…. Lauma s dwell in the forest near water or stones. They yearn for children, but being unable to give birth, they often kidnap babies to raise as their own.
Sometimes they marry young men…. Changeling , in European folklore, a deformed or imbecilic offspring of fairies or elves substituted by them surreptitiously for a human infant. According to legend, the abducted human children are given to the devil or used to strengthen fairy stock. The return of the original child may be effected by making….
Faery & Mythical Creatures
History at your fingertips. The Welsh called them plentyn a neidiwyd am arall. Usually the fairy babies were sickly. One way to recognise them is to place them on a fire and chant a formula.
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If it is a changeling, it would leave, climbing up the chimney. According to Yeats, the stolen baby will live in a place of full "good living and music and mirth". So far, in Celtic mythology I have come across mortal babies being stolen by fairies, but not replaced with fairy infants. The Dullahan were usually accompanied by the banshee, wailing as if in the funeral. Sometimes, this banshee is also headless. In other tradition, the Dullahan doesn't ride in a coach, but ride a headless horse. If a person opened a door, when he or she hears a coach rumbling by, that person may have a pitcherful of blood thrown onto the person's face.
That person is therefore marked for death. It seemed that dullahan can take off or put on his head at will. The dullahan may even toss his head around like in a gruesome ballgame. Those who watch him pass may lose their eye to his whip.
The Darker Side of Irish Fairy Lore: When Encounters Turn Dangerous
According to Yeats, the cracking of whip is the omen of death. There are antecedent to headless phantom or person are scattered throughout older Celtic literature. The best known was Curoi or Cu Roi , a king of Munster, who was involved in a beheading games with three Ulster's champions in the tale of Fled Bricrenn Feast of Bricriu. The elf or alf was derived from Teutonic origin. Description of the elves varied from author to author and from one period to another.
The elves were introduced into the Celtic folklore in the later tradition. The light-elves were seen as fair. There seemed to be a difference between dark-elves and black elves. The dark elves were described with complexion - black than night — and they were short like the dwarves.
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The dark elves like the dwarves were known for their invention and craftsmanship. To the Norse tradition, the elves were spirits or minor deities of the woodland or household. In later Germanic folklore, the elves had changed — becoming diminutive in size, like the Celtic counterpart of the fairies.
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It was this tradition as household spirits, that the elves were later given in Germanic and Celtic folklore traditions. The closest thing that the Celtic people had to the elves were the ellyll from Welsh tradition. They were short or tiny, and can be seen as benevolent if pleased, so they would care for the house, doing chores in the night. If they were offended they can become malevolent, disrupting the household, by breaking dishes, spilling milk, keeping the occupants awake at night with their noises, chasing away livestock.
These elves were degenerated into the kobold in Germanic folklore, or in the Scottish Gaelic folklore as the brownie.
They are sometimes seen wiser than their masters. According to W. In Yeats' description of The Queen and The Fool , the fairy queen and the fool in the royal household have great powers. It was better to avoid these two figures in the palace, because their touch can cause paralytic seizure or even death to any mortal.
The stroke is an English medical term for the cerebral hemorrhage. The Fool is to be especially avoided on the month of June. Just like the names fairy and elf, goblin has different meaning and different usage for different people. Only several creatures are seen as goblins in Celtic folklore. But goblin is probably not the right description. Some goblins can appeared benevolent, while others are mischievous or malevolent creatures.
In Irish folklore, the dullahan and cluricaune were considered to be goblins. And so was the Welsh bwgan. There was no description of what he looked like. See Fenian Cycle. The most common female fairies in the Breton tradition are the korrigans that resided in the woods, especially at Broceliande, often near a stream, spring or fountain.
She was fairy that seeks a mortal lover. The korrigan seemed to be Breton version of the banshee. The korrigan was probably a pagan druidess originally.
She was equated with gwragedd annwn — the Welsh fairies of the lake and streams. She tried to seduce mortal who would drink from her water, she would lure him to sleep with her. If the man refused her advance or seduction, she would angrily curse him to a doom.
This is what happened to the Seigneur of Nann. The Seigneur was married to a woman whom he loved.