Stories have an amazing ability to affect huge numbers of people. Gossip and urban legends are common now, but back in times when the world was not as well understood, more fanciful stories were thought up as explanation for seemingly unexplainable occurrences. An example of this would be the creation of fairies. For centuries, stories of the elusive, ethereal creatures have delighted and mystified. The over-all love/hate of this creation has not waivered much with time, despite extreme changes in it. Fairies, a sort of improbable story, affect thousands, if not millions of people.
There are fairy stories from all over the world, but one of the places with the widest variety and, perhaps, strongest belief in fairies is the United Kingdom. Stories of “little people” abound in England, Scotland, and Ireland. These fairies are alternately mischievous and helpful. When good things happened, like a good harvest or a healthy baby, elves and brownies were said to have helped in return for a good deed. When milk soured or bones broke, the family was being punished. Most of these tales are no longer believed and the majority of people don’t blame all changes of fortune on fairy folk anymore, but these stories are still told, written down, and spread around.
Disneyfied fairies, like Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell, are creating new generations of fairy believers, though most stories are dismissed as “little kid stuff” when the child gets older. Media, no longer oral tradition, now spreads fairy tales in the form of movies and picture books. Magic, though it used to be a thing grandparents told their grandchildren about, is now prattled about by exited toddlers to their mothers while walking through the supermarket. The dream of every little girl is to be a princess with their own fairy godmother to watch over them.
Like most young, female Americans, I have been exposed to the concept of fairies pretty much my whole life. Like with princesses, the tiny waists and huge busts have always been something for little girls to achieve. Whet fairies are today is not at all like the descriptions of the “little people” in older legends. How twisted the stories have become! Instead of fat, ruddy, dirty creatures, fairy folk are now delicate, perfect, miniature, pastel humans. Instead of wreaking havoc, they talk of friendship and true love. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just different. As the stories have gotten older and more widespread, they have become confused.
This change, becoming more confused with age, isn’t just with fairies. Interpretations of the Bill of Rights, old treaties, and just plain old gossip all get muddled as time goes on. And yet they go right on working. Wars start. Economies and friendships collapse. People’s lives are changed. All with a little bit of writing, a story, a text. Who knows what we will create next that will change the way we live, who we all are, as a world. The ability of a story to change us is truly amazing.