Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

See also Fairy, Pixie, Plant spirit


Elf, fairy, popular belief, supernatural

Description of this motif: Fairies are very small, supernatural beings, who usually are attached to nature, as opposed to goblins (pixies), who often live in buildings. Fairies are woodland creatures and correspond to the nymphs and satyrs of Greek myth.

Example :

At the edge of the forest, between three or four houses they had raised a pole as high as a ship's mainmast. Garlands and ribbons fluttered from the peak of it. It was a Maypole. Young men and maidens danced around it and sang at the top of their voices, while the fiddler played them a tune. They were merry in the sunset and merry in the moonlight, but I had no part in it, for what would a little mouse be doing at a forest dance? So I sat in the soft moss, and held tight to my sausage peg. The moonlight fell particularly bright on one spot, where there was a tree. This spot was carpeted with moss so soft that I dare say it was as fine as the mouse king's fur, but its color was green and it was a blessing to the eyes.

"All of a sudden there appeared a few of the most enchanting little folk, no taller than my knee. They resembled human beings, except that they were better proportioned. Elves was what they called themselves. They went dressed very fine, in clothes made of flower petals trimmed with the wings of flies and gnats. It wasn't at all bad-looking. They seemed in search of something, but I didn't know what it could be until a couple of them came up to me. Then their leader pointed to my sausage peg and said:

" 'That's just what we need. It's pointed. It's perfect!' The more he looked at my sausage peg, the happier it made him.

" 'You can borrow it,' I told him, 'but not keep it.'

" 'Not keep it,' all of them promised, as they took the sausage peg that I gave them and danced away with it to the place where the soft moss grew. They wanted to have a Maypole of their own, and mine seemed made to order for them. Then they decorated it. Yes, what a sight it was!

"Small spiders spun gold thread around it. They draped it with streamers and banners so fine and bleached so snowy white in the moonlight that they dazzled my eyes. They took the color from a butterfly's wing and splashed it about on my sausage peg until it seemed blooming with flowers and sparkling with diamonds. I scarcely knew it, for in all the world there is no match to the Maypole they had made of it.

"Now the real party of elves appeared, in great numbers. Not a stitch did they wear, yet it couldn't have been more refined. I was invited to look on, but from a distance, because I was too big for them.