Toward an Account of Faeries

When we use the term ‘faerie’ (or ‘fairie’ or ‘fae’), we bring a lot of treacly associations with it. One of the first things that you see folks who talk about faeries do is combat these images, noting that faeries have a wide range of forms and expressions, and very few of them are particularly sweet in the Tinkerbell sense. R. J. Stewart, in his Living World of Faery, jars the reader’s Romantic expectations and suggests that the legends of Bigfoot likely have their roots in faery encounters, for example.

These same people often undermine this by making use of a style of illustration and design that has its roots in the same Neo-Romantic Celt-wash that gives birth to Tinkerbell. The cover to Stewart’s aforementioned book or its illustrations? Almost exclusively suggest a rural and British pastoral-pagan scene. To the extent that faerie acquires any aesthetic bite, it tends to be a simple variation on this theme, limning it with gothic or, occasionally, punk elements (I’m looking at you, Changeling). This strips away the alien of faeirie and, at best, makes it the human weird.

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