Fairies of the realms Part 2: The Dark Fairy Folklore- An Introduction


Fairies of the realms Part 2: The Dark Fairy Folklore

In the last chapter of Fairies of the Realms we talked about the introduction to the fairy realm and what sort of  environment they live in. This week on our Fairies of the Realms special we would like to introduce you to the dark Fairy realm.


Dark Fairies or Unseelie court. In Scottish folklore there were two types of fairy, the Seelie court which consisted of unpredictable mischievous  fairies and the Unseelie which were vicious and liked to hurt humans for fun. The name Unseelie originated in Scotland and is now universally recognized to categorise the Dark Fairies.

A Seelie (left) with a Unseelie (right)

A Seelie (left) with a Unseelie (right)

A lot of the Unseelie tales were recorded in Medieval times. There were tales of Unseelies in human form that would lure unsuspecting men and women into the woods with a luring embrace, once kissed by a human, that person would be trapped into 7 years of servitude in the fairyland realm. During these encounters many withered and died before they could be taken away, as their powers were so great that the faint of heart simply died from shock. If one was tricked and actually married one of these tricksters, as they were masters in mimicking human form, they would eventually have their life essence stolen. Once a human had been lured to the fairyland realm, they would spend years there in human time, but in fairyland it would only be a matter of days. When they were finally sent back or managed to escape, the person would turn into a haggard elder or immediately disintegrate into a pile of dust.

There was a fairy legend that said the unseelie court could take on various forms of the dead. If a human stared to long at one of these dark Fairies, they would resemble the images of dead relatives.  Some believed that Unseelies and fairies as a whole are unpredictable spirits. It has also been suggested that they were demoted angels. Folklore legends say that when the angels revolted in heaven and God closed the gates, the Fairies were trapped between heaven and hell.  Because they were not evil enough for hell, they went into hiding and were able to study our creatures of earth and take on human and animal forms at will. The Unseelie court were the malevolent and evil of the dark realms, some could even spread wings and roam the earth stealing mortals and causing harm to everyone that they encountered.


Some examples of these dark beings that are mentioned in various Folklore tales are the Redcaps, vicious fairies that would drench their caps in human blood.

The Redcap

The Redcap

In English folklore Black Annis was another evil Fairy, a blue faced witch with iron claws that would reach into open windows and snatch children away to later devour them.

The Black Annis

The Black Annis

Finally in Greek Mythology the Dryads were a devilish fairy clan of mountain forest dwellers, they stole peoples property and would steal away their women and children. These fairies were the children of the great oaks and pines and the popular trees, their lives were very closely entwined with the trees and the forest, and should the tree die the fairy would also die. Dryads were featured in the chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, fighting alongside Aslan the great lion.

A Rushwood Dryad

A Rushwood Dryad

Many charms could repel these evil fairies from your door, such as hanging cold iron charms (especially a iron horseshoe) which was said to be very poisonous to unseelie Fairy Folk hence they would stay far away. Various herbs had the same effect, the Rowan Bush which is a small deciduous bush bearing fruits also acted as a talisman against these pranksters.

A "cold Iron" horseshoe talisman nailed to a door to ward off Unseelies

A “cold Iron” horseshoe talisman nailed to a door to ward off Unseelies

A Rowan Bush

A Rowan Bush

For recommended reading  on the darker side of fairy lore. I have listed some great reads below, Please take a look at Jacobs English fairy tales, definitely an enjoyable read packed with lots of strange tales.

51AnE8TitEL32174_1 English Fairy Tales and More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs

shadow-and-evil-in-fairy-tales Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales by Marie Louise Von Franz

7978040 Dark Fairies by Bob Curran

Next week I will cover in the segment Fairies of the Realms Part 3: The Brownie and the Boggart

here on kfthead


Posted on July 8, 2013, in Folklore and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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