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Fairy Stories

Fairy Stories image
Parent Issue
Day
16
Month
December
Year
1880
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Few points about modern archseological inquiry are more interestin tban the uuexpected light which it often cast upon old traditions, superstitions and folk-lore. From year to year it lias been becoming ever more certain that many of the supposedfabulous creatures in old mythologies are really historie beings or races vievved through a later superstitious medium. And of none is this clearer than of our old nursery favorites, the fairies. Fact af'cer fact has been recently recovered about the origin of the fairy mythology, until at last we may piece together with considerable certainty the broken fragments of evidence, and obtaiii a tolerably clear view of who the fairies really were. It is a well-known fact that in all popular tales the early eneinies of the tribe always become figured at length as demons, sprites, or ogies- beings oí supernatural power and inischievous habits. Most of these fanciful creatures are giga!itic in size, as is natural in the case of foemen, whose prowess is apt to be exaggerated in the mouths of those who have to fight witfi thtm. Especially in the legends of a conquered and expatriated race the conquerlng race is of course flgured as of vast size and strength. The peculiarity of the fairies is that they are small, though very spitef ui. Now it is certain that before the Aryan invasión of Europe the whole continent was inhabited by an aboriginal people, short of stature and dark in complexión, who built mauy of the existiug megalithic monuments, and especially the great stone circles of England andFrance. These people were identical in blood and tongue with the modern Basques, and they used weapons of polished stone alone. When the Celts, the first wave of the Aryan immdation, burst upon Western Europe, they found this small race oí Stone Age men in possession of the country ; and, being themselves a larger and stronger tribe, with weapons oí' bronze, they conquereri and enslaved or assimilated the Euskarian aborigines. But in their legends and popular tales they keptup thememory of the little people whom tliey had vanquished and who have descended to our own times as the f airies. These tales cluster specially round tlie megalithic structures, or elf-stones, and round the stone weapons, arrow-heads and celts, which were the relies of the conqueied Euskarian race. Wherever such relies are found, stories of elves and f airies arecommon. The fairy superstition Uves on most flrmly In the pureiy Celtic parts of Britain - such as Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. But the AngloSaxon and other Teutonic conquerors in Great Britam and on the Continent learned and preserved the legends i'i om the couquered Celts. Around the barro ws of the Stone Age chieftians atories of fairies - or, as the Teutona callthem, elves - still suvvive. There eau be little doubt that they are, in faet, lingering memories of the great man supposed to haunt the neighborhood of the tomb which is the home of his spirit. As to the name "fairy" itself, it has rat tier a curious history. lt descends direct from the Latin fata, which was used by the Ronianized Gauls to translate their native name, or the elves. But froni being a neuter plural, it becomes in the Romance lan;uages a feminine singular - fada in 'rovencal, fee in French. Fay is the ,rue Norman-En glish equivalent. Strictly speaking, feerie or fairy is nly the collective form of tliis word, ikê Englishry, Irishry, and so forth; ut it has practically grown once more into a mere singular. Now the links which coiinect these modern Romance fairies or Teutenlc elves with the ancient Euskarian ghosts are many and strong. To detail them in f uil wouldrequirea whole volume. In Anglo-Saxon legend the kiries appear as dwarfs - little clever spiteful souls, who live always underground, and who make magie weapons and charmed rings, acd dig out the treasures of the earth. Of course the ghosts live under-ground in the barrow;andas to the magie weapons, they ansi?ier to the stone arrow-heads stil! knowii ia. Scotland under the name )f elfbolts an4 fairy-shots. In Great Britain, Xorw&y, Sweden, Italy, and other eountries, these arrow-heads are egarded as magicu.1, and supposed to possess the power of curing or avertng disease. The reason why is cleaj enough ; for all disease is sent by the elves, the na;ional enemies. and it is a well-known Dopular superstition that if you possee s anything belonging to an enemy, you an use it as a magie charai against ïim. The charmed rings, again, are obviously the stone whorls oí spindles ; md the treasures are the gold or am)er ornaments fouud in the barro ws. . All small objects discovercd under;round are popularly attributect to the airies ; aod so rauch so, that even a small type of tobáceo pipe once manuiaetured at Amesburv, acd now ;imes dug up in gardens, is oidinarily nown us a "Jairy pipe." Furtherïnore, the places where stODe weapons Me found of ten bear names coiinecting ;hem with the elves. In France,caves in which sueh weapons occur are genjrally marked by the titles Traou deis Fadas in the south, and Grotte des Fees in the north. At Linde, in Sweden, is an earth-fast stone (marking an ancient grave) popularly called "the Eif-Stone," and having cnïfs surface six small holes. Wlien a child is 111, or "elf-sLiuck," the women of the neighborhood visit tliis stone, smear the holes with fat or butter, and place in Uiem, as offerings, smal) dolls made of rags. Here we have a survival from i;iie old sacriüce offered to avert the g-host, while it is probable enough that the dolis are the last substituto tor huinan vlctims. Elf-pots and sumes exist in rnany other places. Ín Scotland one such elñn-stone has given a nttme to a place, and through the )ilace to the family of Elphinstone. Even the connection of the íairy rings on the grass (where the "little people" weresupposed to dance) with tlieniyth■ logy oí elves is probable due to tiieir reseniblance to tlie "íairy circles," oí' rings oí npright stones, at Avebury and elsewhere. It'is significant, too, that the elves, or fairies, though spitef ui and fond oí mischief, are a powerless race, and are constantly held at the cali of a human being by some charm or amulet, which he has only to rub in order to command their presence.-

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Subjects
Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat