Traditional fairy tales with fairies were the first graphic novels. See how these stories still influence our modern culture.
“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world. For I would ride with you upon the wind, run on the top of the disheveled tide, and dance upon the mountains like a flame.” ― William Butler Yeats
A good way to preserve a message is to enclose it in a story with extraordinary and magical characters (1). Supernatural imagery, and magical characters help to make stories memorable. These are the qualities that also makes them popular. As they become more popular, they become a part of the culture. What’s your favorite tale or fable?
Traditional Fairy Tales with Fairies
Stories with interesting themes and characters are able to become a part of the cultural narrative. They get passed along. These stories are not just for entertainment alone, they are time capsules which hold many levels of information, lessons, and wisdom.
The story line makes it possible to embed data in the language and symbolism. Reread them now with spiritual ears and eyes and look for the lessons and messages in the symbols.
These are the qualities which encourage their translation. These tales spread the messages, superstitions, and values in the story. Traditional Fairy tales with fairies are one way fears take root in the culture. Some of the most interesting characters are the anthropomorphic animals we find in fables.
The characters in these stories are versatile and can take on a variety of roles. Sometimes they are fragile, innocent, shy, and docile. Other times, they appear scary and menacing. In many of the traditions, these creatures are shape-shifters who can take on many forms and display both good and evil traits. For instance, the beast in Pan’s Labyrinth is a modern-day version of the classic tale.
The Difference Between Faeries and Fairies?
The word fairy comes from the Early Modern English faerie, meaning realm of the fays. But the term faerie comes from the Old French from faierie. This latter is derived from faie (from Vulgar Latin fata, for the fates). To this, the word has added the Irish or Celtic abstract noun suffix — erie. Éire refers to Ériu, the name of a Gaelic goddess. Language can be complicated.
Faeries and fairies are the plural forms for these creatures. They are prominent characters in pre-Christian European folklore. You can find these characters in Celtic, Slavic, German, English, and French stories.
Fairies are spirits with metaphysical traits and supernatural abilities. Their origins stretch back to the beginning when man invented gods and goddesses to explain nature. They are known by the names fay, fae, or fair folk.
There is a difference between the Celtic term faery and the more common word fairy. They both talk about similar magical creatures, but they show up in the legends as two different typologies. One good, and one evil.
“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” ― C. S. Lewis
The common typology of a fairy refers to a small, fragile, harmless, and shy creature. They are even friendly and charming. The Celtic version of the faery, are more like crafty shape-shifters. They can take any human shape, from old crones to mighty warriors. The original Transformers.
These creatures are likely the source of anthropomorphic beings we find in Greek and Roman mythology. And the modern version of these are Superheros of comic book culture.
The Celtic version of this being are anything but docile, they can be vicious and deadly. So, the difference between faeries and fairies could be significant. The English variety is friendly, the Irish is evil.
Both forms dwell in mysterious places outside the human realm, but visit this plane of existence out of curiosity. Some of these creatures can be summoned and carry out tasks for a price.
One may meet a fae by accidentally entering their territory or on purpose. It is believed these creatures dwell underground in caves, on high mountain tops, or even in the fog. One takes a chance when entering their domain because it may not be possible to return from their dimension without permission.
Themes in Traditional Fairy Tales with Fairies
Many of these stories have a specific theme or goal. Some of these stories contain several levels of information.
“At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.” ― Paulo Coelho
1) Beware of Deception
An excellent example of this lesson is the story of Little Red Riding Hood. In 1697, Charles Perrault was the first to publish short stories. He changed some parts of the original story. He did so to make the story suitable for younger audiences.
Hansel and Gretel’s story comes out of the famine in the 1400s. Brothers Grimm first published the German lore in 1812. Children found themselves abandoned by family, sometimes killed and eaten. The Witch builds the gingerbread house as a lure and deception. The Witch is often used to personify the darkness of humanity. They are the villains often depicted as deceptive and evil.
These stories teach ethical behavior. For example, the narrative of Cinderella teaches us how positive behavior returns a positive outcome. What we need to do is to be kind and compassionate, regardless of how others treat us.
The story of Cinderella also shows the concept of Karma. If we do the right, we will receive a positive reward. The traditions we know as fables are to showcase positive moral behavior. Many parables used anthropomorphic Beings. They were the wise ones who led the main character through the lesson. The human/animal form is also a significant theme with faeries and fairies. A modern version of this is Yoda from Star Wars.
2) Avoid Making Assumptions
The third prototype story teaches us to avoid assumptions. This type of fable teaches us not to assume. We cannot know or understand someone or something based on superficial attributes.
This lesson is best exemplified by the story Beauty and the Beast. Snow White is another story that showcases this admonition. Here we see “faeries and fairies” take prominent roles in the story. The dwarfs in the legend are a type of fairy, which shows us a range of traits and emotions. The fairy godmother exemplifies hope and making dreams a reality. Cinderella, Bluebeard, and Hansel and Gretel are multicultural variants of this theme.
3) Preserving Spiritual Truths
These accounts are not contrived narratives designed to entertain and frighten children. These accounts hold spiritual truth. For example, the story of Jack in the beanstalk is a microcosm of a spiritual journey to the Upper World. The story of “Alice in Wonderland” contains journeys to the Middle and Lower worlds.
Alice in Wonderland is a modern version of the worlds described by the Shaman of indigenous cultures. Those who practice the Shamanic Journey see the parallels with these fables. We see how traditional fairy tales with fairies preserve the ancient knowledge of the spirit world.
Beowulf is a Scandinavian hero of the Geats. He comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, who is under attack by a monster known as Grendel. This story is the first significant piece of literature written in Old English. The story of Beowulf contains Anglo-Saxon roots. The language helps us decipher the deeper meaning of the text. Grendel attacks because of his exile and exclusion. It is an analogy for retaliation of those excommunicated and excluded from society by the Church.
“If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein
Stories Become Part of the Cultural Narrative
Many cultures see the dragonfly as a typology of fairies. This form reflects the general form of these creatures. Dragonflies are hunters of other insects. It is both beautiful and dangerous.
“Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.” ― Alfred Hitchcock
When stories are shared, they take root in the culture’s traditions. It is how superstition becomes part of the values of the culture. Superstition is the justification for inhumane treatment.
For instance, the dominant culture instills a fear of the older woman, labeling them Crones, synonymous with an evil Witch. Stories like Hansel and Gretal perpetuate this stereotype. They reflect the stereotype in other texts, such as in Exodus 22:18. The King James version says, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, Deuteronomy 33:8-10 referring to using the Urim and Thummim as instruments of witchcraft. So, if you fit the mold of the stereotype, you become an outcast at the very least.
The Catholic Church uses these stereotypes throughout Europe. The inquisition demonized anyone that fit this general description. In that way, the Church could acquire their lands and property with the support of the culture. They widened their net to make scapegoats of others, like gypsies. This stereotype is still firmly in place. It’s why we should all learn to question the cultural narrative. Negative stereotypes are always used to justify bias and prejudice. Anytime you come across a stereotype, look for the underlying motivation behind it.
Western organized religion began depicting angels with wings in the 3rd Century. This element comes from Tertullian (c.160-c. 240), an early Christian author Roman, who wrote, “every spirit is winged, both angels and demons.” Angels and demons with wings became the Christian art model from the 3rd Century onward.
Do you believe in Faries? What about Angels? Not everyone who believes in Angels also believes in Fairies. The mythology of the Bible does not mention fairies.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the modern versions of earlier mystery religions circa 1 BCE from Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Assyria. These mystery religions existed long before the Abrahamic tree, but they were eliminated when the Roman army invaded and destroyed their cultures. Their mythology is ripe with angels and demons. However, these themes were not popular in early European folklore. The Church could assimilate the ancient mystery religions, but could not eradicate indigenous folklore. So, it sought to destroy all those with any connection to indigenous beliefs because they were competition.
Traditional fairy tales are still a part of the culture. The resurgence of nature-based beliefs also helps to keep these stories alive. Popular culture is full of references to fairies. Watch the beginning of any Disney film, and you’ll see a fairy flying in with a magic wand. This typology is also the basis for other story lines in modern culture.
Fairies Become Vampires
Our modern culture has a fascination with Vampires. Interestingly, Vampires take on many of the characteristics of Fairies. They live for many generations and possess supernatural powers of strength and guile. Both can often shape-shift. And they can appear human. So we are still creating fairy tales with fairies.
Is the obsession with mythological creatures harmless? Does the obsession create a slippery slope for the belief in other mythology types? And, this would seem to be the case with the Abrahamic traditions.
There are Nine references to Unicorns in the Tanak or the Old Testament in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Job, Psalms, and Isaiah. A sea monster, the Leviathan, is mentioned five times between Psalms and Isiah, but my favorites are the zombies that roam the streets in the book of Matthew. The Bible doesn’t use the term vampires, but talks about people who eat the blood of others in Leviticus. These are all typologies of fairies.