Literary trends come and go, but fairytales are always in style. Some stories cast fairies as spirits of the dead, others as fallen deities, still others as an independent race of their own. One thing’s for sure: it was tough to pick just a handful to highlight, but we persevered. Here, for your otherworldly pleasure, are the top 7 coolest fairies in literature.
Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare)
While he’s technically a sprite, topping this list with Puck is a no-brainer. Beating out his fellow Shakespearean fairies is an accomplishment, but this hilarious troublemaker is no ordinary dude. Mocking the mortals while falling prey to the exact same vices, Puck is an entertaining bag of contradictions and one of the main reasons A Midsummer Night’s Dream has had people laughing for four straight centuries.
Tinker Bell (Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie)
Tinker Bell may be tiny in stature, but she’s no pushover. Like many fairies, she can be cruel and vindictive, something Wendy learns the hard way when the conniving Tink convinces the Lost Boys to shoot arrows at her. But as Peter Pan’s faithful sidekick, she plays a major role in his adventures in Neverland. And don’t forget her awesome party trick: she can totally come back from the dead if you applaud her. What a diva.
Nuala (Sandman series, by Neil Gaiman)
Instead of the familiar arc of an ugly duckling becoming a swan, Gaiman has Nuala transformed from a swan to an ugly duckling in his expansive graphic novel series. Forced to rely more on her brains and character than on physical appeal, Nuala is both empowered and entranced by her master (and super-crush) Morpheus. Just another example of Gaiman setting up and subverting fantasy tropes like some kind of word wizard.
Morgan le Fay (Le Morte D’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Mallory)
Like all Arthurian characters, Morgan le Fay has gone through quite a bit of revision in each new incarnation of the great British legend. Some tales don’t classify her as a fairy, though she probably began that way (hint, hint: her name literally means Morgan the Fairy). She is, however, fairly consistently a main antagonist to her half-brother Arthur, and modern retellings usually cast her as the mother of Mordred: the King’s incest-born son and ultimate downfall. But we still love her, because girl’s got moxie.
Princess Ozma (Oz series, by L. Frank Baum)
Ozma, the rightful sovereign of Oz, is central to every book in Baum’s series except the first and most famous: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Because she was shafted for Book #1 and the subsequent film adaptation, Ozma is mostly known as Dorothy’s guiding angel in the delightfully creepy 1985 movie Return to Oz. But she’s a huge part of Baum’s fantasy universe, and it’s revealed in The Magic of Oz that she was among the original fairies that enchanted the great land.
The Fairy Godmother (Cinderella, by Charles Perrault)
Few fairies are as iconic as Cinderella’s fairy godmother. She shows up just in time to grant the world’s best makeover to Cindy, a pumpkin, and some random rats—or at least, that’s how the Perrault version of the story goes. Other versions of the story can be super-dark: we won’t go into details, but there’s definitely matricide, loss of body parts, and eye-pecking involved. Back in the day, children’s stories were NO JOKE.
Holly Short (Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer)
Holly is Artemis’ best frenemy, and becomes the main female protagonist of this series. Her relationship with Fowl starts off a little rocky, what with his kidnapping her and trying to extort the Fairy People for ransom. But as the story gets more complicated, so too does her partnership with Fowl, right up until the wonderfully meta ending.
Who is your favorite fairy?