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Fairy Traditions


Folklore Virtual Special Issues are unique collections of articles, editorials, and podcasts, handpicked by the journal editor Jessica Hemming.

Each issue examines a particular theme within the discipline of folklore, offering original insights into a range of fascinating and curious topics.

Excerpt from Juliette Wood's Introduction

In the seventeenth century, the Oxford antiquarian John Aubrey famously predicted the imminent demise of the fairies. Despite Aubrey’s fears however, fairies have proved surprisingly resilient, and fairy lore has provided a fruitful area of investigation for contributors to the journal Folklore since its founding in the late nineteenth century. 

Interest in fairy traditions reflects, at least in part, the increased interest of the Victorian and Edwardian eras with its reaction to industrialization and move towards fantasy and mysticism. Alfred Nutt devoted one of his presidential lectures to ‘Fairy Mythology’ in English literature (Nutt 1897). The lecture focused on their important role in English and Shakespearean literature and their links to Celtic tradition. In addition, Nutt also laid the groundwork for a more general discussion of what he described as ‘the essential conceptions which underlie generally that mythology, and from which it derives force and sanction’ (31).  His use of the term ‘mythology’ underscored the importance attached to this body of tradition and to the perception that there was a coherent and recoverable body of beliefs underpinning narratives about fairies. Even before Nutt’s influential address, articles on fairy lore had appeared in the Society’s journal. Walter Gregor, a founding member of The Folklore Society, published accounts of Scottish fairies (Gregor 1883). The Swansea-based solicitor and folklorist, Sidney Hartland, presented Welsh material (Hartland 1888). 

Read Juliette Wood's full introduction here.

Audio Introduction

Listen to Juliette Wood read the full introduction to the Virtual Special Issue - 'Fairy Traditions'