Longreads

Richard Sugg | Fairies: A Dangerous History | Reaktion Books | June 2018 | 19 minutes (4,969 words)

Fairies were dangerous. Not to believe in them was dangerous. Not to respect them or take them seriously was dangerous — hence all the carefully euphemistic or indirect names one used in speaking of them, from “the Gentry” to “the Good People,” “Themselves,” “the fair folk” and “the people of peace” through to the charming Welsh phrase bendith û mamme, or “such as have deserved their mother’s blessing.” Fairies stole your children. They made you or your animals sick, sometimes unto death. They could draw the life, or essence, out of anything, from milk or butter through to people. Their powers, as we have seen, were almost limitless, not only demonic but even godlike in scale and scope.

While ordinary people still believed this less than a century ago, the educated…

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