Fairies used to be bad, you know. As I said, elves used to be part of this basket, too. All that fey nonsense.
I guess it’s been happening for a while, though. Modernity seems to subjectivize and gray out everything. Most fairies today are meant for kids, and they’re cute or funny, or at any rate they’re benign.
But again, that wasn’t always the case. I guess these days parents don’t want to frighten their 5 years olds with the dangers of fairies and goblins. Instead they’d rather instill a fear of Donald Trump!
Go back to the 19th Century and that peril, that unholiness was real. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (yeah, the same guy who wrote the vampire story Carmilla) wrote a sad little short story in 1870 demonstrating how people thought of fairies at the time.
“The Child that went with the Fairies” is simple and tragic and reads just like an old cautionary folk tale. Keep your holy water handy and your children within your sight. Especially near nightfall, and especially if you live near a fairy mound. Let down your guard and your dear little one may be snatched up by the “Good people,” never to return.
Perhaps most interesting to me about this story, Gaelic vocabulary aside, is the reference to house-leeks as wards against evil. Garlic is perhaps the most famous protective vegetation, but herb and plant lore offer many more options.
Now I’m not going to go around telling little girls that Tinkerbell is imperiling their souls or anything, but we’d do well to eventually teach our children that wayward spirits, including the fey folk, are not our friends. And if we need puppets to aid us in this lesson, there’s always Labyrinth. Just be sure to explain that goblins and fairies are really the same thing.