Fairies and Elves

In the middle ages fairies were synonymous with wild women, i.e. women of the wood, the water and the natural world in general.


Norwegian mythology tells us that larvae, which came out of the giant Ymir’s body turned into light elves and dark elves, who live underground, are dark-skinned and evil with malign influences.

The Irish version says that Eve was bathing her children on the riverbank when God spoke to her. She was afraid and dismayed so she hid the children she hadn’t washed yet. God asked her if all her children were there. She replied that they were. Then God said that those she had hidden from him would be hidden from men too. These hidden children became elves and fairies and in Scandinavia they were known as the people of Huldre.

Elsewhere it is believed that fairies are fallen angels or dead pagans, not good enough for heaven but not bad enough for hell, forced to live halfway between the two forever, in the twilight zone, or the Middle Kingdom.


Avalon is probably the most famous fairy island, mysteriously located somewhere near England.

The legendary King Arthur, described by the poet Lydgate in the 15th century as a “king y-crowned in Fairy”, was taken to Fairyland with a fatal injury and was captured by four fairy queens. It is said that Arthur lies there still, with his knights in the heart of an imaginary hill, in a deep sleep from which he will wake when he is needed to rule his land once more.

The inhabitants of the land of the fairies can be divided into various species according to where they live. As well as the beings that lead a secluded life, there are rural elves who set up forest homes in the fields, in the hills and in mountain caves.


Fairy tale iconography portrays them as weightless, winged figures but there are actually infinite varieties of fairies, even nasty, deformed ones. They are always ready to rush to the aid of persecuted innocents.

But the general models of fairy behaviour vary considerably: some are definitely bad by nature and are made even more dangerous because of their beautiful appearance that they use to ensnare unsuspecting men who then meet with a horrible death.

According to some traditions the fairies assist at the birth of humans to give them special gifts and influence their lives in a good or bad way. They are primitive beings that do not have feelings and so they are envious of humans.

Disegno di un Tatuaggio di una Fata Nuda Disegno di un Tatuaggio di una Fata e Fiori Disegno di un Tatuaggio di una Fata Elfo

There are various kinds of fairies.

For example, in the air there are silphids, who love science and are subtle, friends of the wise and enemies of the silly and ignorant.

Ondines live in the water, they are beautiful but generally evil young girls who offer to guide travellers through the mists, marshes and forests but then they get lost and drown.

The glaistig are just as bad, their two-sided nature means they are kind and gentle to the elderly and children but evil and wicked to men who are seduced by their appearance.

Disegno di un Tatuaggio di una Fatina su un Fiore Disegno di un Tatuaggio di una Fatina Nuda Disegno di un Tatuaggio di una FataLike gnomes and pixies they guard great riches too.

Musical elves and fairies possess a magical ability and play a wide variety of instruments such as the violin, the harp, the cymbals and the Jew’s harp. Many ballads and songs all over the world originate in the Fairy Kingdom, including the “Londonderry” tune.

The fairies often dance on the grass in rounds known as ‘fairy rings’.

We know that fairy melodies are beautiful and haunting as well as wild and unpredictable, and that they have a fatal attraction that can draw passers-by into the circle, which, like fairy kisses, food and drinks, can reduce them to eternal slaves in the fairy world.

Fairies can be found in all natural places like rocks, springs, woods and especially hawthorn bushes. Hawthorn trees on a hill are a sure sign of the presence of fairies.


Look at our special issues Fairies and Elves and Angels and Fairies and for colour tattoos look at The most beautiful fairies by Luca Tarlazzi.