Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Fairies at home

Wherever children are, there are fairies, J. M. Barrie tells us in The Little White Bird. Kensington Gardens in London is filled with them, although they hide behind railings during the day and only come out to carouse at night "after Lock-out."

As for their houses, it is no use looking for them, because they are the exact opposite of our houses. You can see our houses by day but you can't see them by dark. Well, you can see their houses by dark, but you can't see them by day, for they are the colour of night, and I never heard of anyone yet who could see night in the daytime. This does not mean that they are black, for night has its colours just as day has, but ever so much brighter. Their blues and reds and greens are like ours with a light behind them.

Not all fairy houses are so elaborate. Many are constructed from leaves and twigs, stones and feathers. And some are made with help from humans.

Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, Washington, USA, invites children to make fairy houses in their Enchanted Garden area. I found these there last Saturday:

I also managed to get lost in the garden repeatedly, although it's not enormous, ending up over and over at the Enchanted Garden. Leading travelers astray is, of course, a popular game among fairies.

One would expect Tinker Bell to live in just such a house. And in the videos about Pixie Hollow, where Disney tells us Tink lived prior to meeting Peter Pan, the fairies do live in similar structures, decorated with items scavenged from humans, like spoons and shoes.

By the time Tinker Bell meets Peter, she aspires to a more upscale lifestyle:

[T]here was one recess in the wall, no larger than a bird-cage, which was the private apartment of Tinker Bell. It could be shut off from the rest of the house by a tiny curtain, which Tink, who was most fastidious [particular], always kept drawn when dressing or undressing. No woman, however large, could have had a more exquisite boudoir [dressing room] and bed-chamber combined. The couch, as she always called it, was a genuine Queen Mab, with club legs; and she varied the bedspreads according to what fruit- blossom was in season. Her mirror was a Puss-in-Boots, of which there are now only three, unchipped, known to fairy dealers; the washstand was Pie-crust and reversible, the chest of drawers an authentic Charming the Sixth, and the carpet and rugs the best (the early) period of Margery and Robin. There was a chandelier from Tiddlywinks for the look of the thing, but of course she lit the residence herself. Tink was very contemptuous of the rest of the house, as indeed was perhaps inevitable, and her chamber, though beautiful, looked rather conceited, having the appearance of a nose permanently turned up.

By Anne Graham Johnstone, 1988

In The Stowaway, when Vivian Drew sees this little room, she feels a pang of sympathy for the fairy whose life is so unlike the one she desires to live--a sentiment Vivian understands. Of course she would never say this within earshot of Tink, lest she find entire strands of hair yanked mercilessly from her head. Fairies do not care for pity from humankind.


  1. I was unaware of that botanic garden in Shoreline. I will have to visit it some day.

    1. It's only been open to the public since 2008, and I found out about it maybe two years ago. I could play tour guide sometime, if you like (although you might not get to see much besides fairy houses).

    2. I'd enjoy that! And anyway, what else would one want to see but fairy houses?