The Science Of Fairy Tales An Enquiry Into Fairy Mythology
by Edwin Sidney Hartland
"A fairy (also fey or fae or faerie; collectively, wee folk, good folk, people of peace, and other euphemisms) is the name given to an alleged metaphysical spirit or supernatural being.
The fairy is based on the fae of medieval Western European (Old French) folklore and romance. Fairies are often identified with related beings of other mythologies (see list of beings referred to as fairies). Even in folklore that uses the term "fairy," there are many definitions of what constitutes a fairy. Sometimes the term is used to describe any magical creature, including goblins or gnomes: at other times, the term only describes a specific type of more ethereal creature.
Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and as having magical powers. Their origins are less clear in the folklore, being variously the dead, or some form of angel, or a species completely independent of humans or angels. Folklorists have suggested that their actual origin lies in a conquered race living in hiding, or in religious beliefs that lost currency with the advent of Christianity. These explanations are not always mutually incompatible, and they may be traceable to multiple sources.
Much of the folklore about fairies revolves about protection from their malice, by such means as cold iron (fairies don't like iron and will not go near it) or charms of rowan and herbs, or avoiding offense by shunning locations known to be theirs. In particular, folklore describes how to prevent the fairies from stealing babies and substituting changelings, and abducting older people as well. Many folktales are told of fairies, and they appear as characters in stories from medieval tales of chivalry, to Victorian fairy tales, and up to the present day in modern literature."
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"A solicitor in Swansea and later Gloucester, who served as President of the Folklore Society, 1899-1901. His primary folklore interest was in the folktale and he rapidly became one the country's leading experts in that field. His publications include English Fairy and Other Folk Tales (1890), an anthology of texts, and The Science of Fairytales: An Enquiry into the Fairy Mythology (1891), which attempted a theory of the subject, based firmly in the ruling doctrine of survivals and the belief that the expert can identify and apply the rules governing folklore. Hartland's tour de force was the influential three-volume The Legend of Perseus: A Study of Tradition in Story, Custom and Belief (1894-6). In this he followed the conviction that tales encapsulate custom and belief of the past, and by tracing a particular story and its analogues across the world and across time, the folklorist can seek to understand the primitive mind of our ancestors. As his researches into folklore and anthropology deepened, Hartland moved away from a primarily narrative base to a more ethnological concern with primitive societies and the origins of religion, although he always used evidence from myths and legends in his argument. Further books include: Primitive Paternity: The Myth of Supernatural Birth in Relation to the History of the Family (2 vols., 1909), Ritual and Belief: Studies in the History of Religion (1914), and Primitive Society: The Beginnings of the Family and the Reckoning of Descent (1921). As did others of his generation, Hartland clashed publicly with Andrew Lang in the journal Folk-Lore in 1898 and 1899. Another title, County Folklore: Gloucestershire (1892), although simply a slim gathering of previously printed material, is a source-book still useful today."