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Strange and secret peoples : fairies and Victorian consciousness
Silver, Carole G.
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New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
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xiv, 272 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Central Library GR141 .S55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Central Library GR141 .S55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Teeming with creatures, both real and imagined, this encyclopedic study in cultural history illuminates the hidden web of connections between the Victorian fascination with fairies and their lore and the dominant preoccupations of Victorian culture at large. Carole Silver here draws on sources ranging from the anthropological, folkloric, and occult to the legal, historical, and medical. She is the first to anatomize a world peopled by strange beings who have infiltrated both the literary and visual masterpieces and the minor works of the writers and painters of that era.

Examining the period of 1798 to 1923, Strange and Secret Peoples focuses not only on such popular literary figures as Charles Dickens and William Butler Yeats, but on writers as diverse as Thomas Carlyle, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charlotte Mew; on artists as varied as mad Richard Dadd, Aubrey Beardsley, and Sir Joseph Noel Paton; and on artifacts ranging from fossil skulls to photographs and vases. Silver demonstrates how beautiful and monstrous creatures--fairies and swan maidens, goblins and dwarfs, cretins and changelings, elementals and pygmies--simultaneously peopled the Victorian imagination and inhabited nineteenth-century science and belief. Her book reveals the astonishing complexity and fertility of the Victorian consciousness: its modernity and antiquity, its desire to naturalize the supernatural, its pervasive eroticism fused with sexual anxiety, and its drive for racial and imperial dominion.

Author Notes

Carole G. Silver is a Professor of English and holds the Humanities Chair at Yeshiva University (Stern College). She is also Adjunct Professor of English at New York University. Among her publications are The Romance of William Morris and The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this engaging and richly illustrated survey, Silver shows how popular superstitions, academic studies of folklore and widespread anxiety over modernization combined to bring magical creatures to life in the minds of Victorian Britons. Silver (The Romance of William Morris) examines representations of fairies and their supernatural kin in literature and painting, and finds that the influence of these so-called elementals extended well beyond the walls of middle-class nurseries. By placing fairy stories alongside both Stanley's sensational reports from the Congo and gross misapplications of Darwinian evolutionary theory, she reveals the stories to be warped historical records of a peculiarly charged moment in modern British culture. Silver demonstrates that fairies, dwarfs, ogres, banshees and other such members of the "elfin tribes" often took on the physical attributes of supposedly "primitive" peoples such as the Pygmies, and she shows how scientific efforts to establish the reality of fairies led, ironically, to the definitive refutation of their existence. While Silver rounds up what have become the usual suspects in academic studies of the supernatural (W.B. Yeats, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edward Bulwer-Lytton, to name a few), she also brings in less celebrated but equally colorful characters: romantic painter Henry Fuseli, "armchair explorer" R.G. Haliburton and kidnapped Pygmy Ota Benga, who in 1904 was displayed as the "missing link" in the monkey house of the Bronx Zoo. Learned and engrossing, Silver's exhaustive study synthesizes intellectual history, literary criticism and earthy folk myth. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In an academic yet highly accessible style, Silver (English/humanities, Yeshiva Univ.) explores the Victorian belief in fairies, goblins, changelings, and other paranormal creatures of the British Isles. Although the reach of science expanded during this period, Victorian newspapers made serious reference to fairy abductions, fairy brides, and physical attacks by little people. Silver tracks these beliefs through the literature and art of the Victorians, exploring their effects on society and vice versa. Eventually, she hypothesizes, the fairies were reduced to children's fare as the "Golden Age" of children's literature began, or else they were sublimated in adult sf and fantasy, away from the mainstream. Well researched with an extensive list of works cited, this is essential for academic libraries, and highly recommended for public libraries as well.‘Katherine K. Koenig, Ellis Sch., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Silver's fascinating account of Victorian conceptions and visual images of fairies and other "strange and secret peoples," between 1798 and 1923, demonstrates once again that Victorians were far less dour and repressed than has frequently been imagined. In contrast to material changes and political conditions of the period, fairy tales, paintings, and beliefs--primarily directed toward adult audiences--served as a means of "reconnect[ing] the actual and the occult" and of maintaining spiritual and social linkages with more traditional ideas and social patterns within a rapidly transforming world. As Silver notes, not all segments of the population believed in fairies. Investigating their role in the Victorian consciousness, however, provides a window to many of the dominant ideas, underlying questions, and unresolved tensions that were part of Victorian thought and social life, especially those involving power relations of gender and class within Britain and its relations with the racially and culturally diverse peoples of its expanding empire. Despite some minor misinterpretations and simplifications of E.B. Tylor's cultural evolutionism, Silver, a literature professor, provides a generally valuable service in integrating anthropological, linguistic, and folkloric materials into her discussion of Victorian conceptions of alternative worlds of existence. Recommended especially for Victorian specialists and sophisticated readers of fairy tales. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. Tavakolian Denison University



Chapter One ON THE ORIGINS OF FAIRIES     In 1846, William John Thomas, who contributed the term folklore to the English language, commented in The Athenaeum that "belief in fairies is by no means extinct in England" (Merton, p. 1846, 55). Thorns was not alone in his opinion; he was merely echoing and endorsing the words of others such as Thomas Keightley, the author of The Fairy Mythology . For believers were not limited to gypsies, fisherfolk, rural cottagers, country parsons, and Irish mystics. Antiquarians of the romantic era had begun the quest for fairies, and throughout Victoria's reign advocates of fairy existence and investigators of elfin origins included numerous scientists, social scientists, historians, theologians, artists, and writers. By the 1880s such leading folklorists as Sabine Baring-Gould, Andrew Lang, Joseph Jacobs, and Sir John Rhys were examining oral testimony on the nature and the customs of the "little folk" and the historical and archaeological remains left by them. At the beginning of the twentieth century, eminent authors, among them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Arthur Machen, swelled the ranks of those who held the fairy faith and publicized their findings. In a remarkable "trickle up" of folk belief, a surprisingly large number of educated Victorians and Edwardians speculated at length on whether fairies did exist or had at least once existed.     For the Irish, especially those involved in the Celtic revival, belief in fairies was almost a political and cultural necessity. Thus, William Butler Yeats reported endlessly on his interactions with the sidhe (Irish fairies) and wrote repeatedly of their nature and behavior. His colleagues AE (George Russell) and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod proudly enumerated their fairy hunts and sightings, and the great Irish Victorian folklorists--Patrick Kennedy, Lady Wilde, and Lady Gregory--overtly or covertly acknowledged their beliefs. Even those not totally or personally convinced, like Douglas Hyde, remarked that the fairy faith was alive and well in Ireland.     Irish interest in what was perceived as a national and ethnic inheritance --one the English could not expropriate--is not surprising, but English fascination with the fairies is more complex in origin. Celtic influences within the British Isles were a major factor, for there were rich Anglo-Celtic enclaves in Cornwall, Wales, the Isle of Man, and the Scottish Highlands and islands. Political and nationalist impulses contributed as well. As collectors and writers began to perceive the fragmentation of their societies, local traditions that had always been taken for granted aquired new significance as lifelines to the origins of the race. Nostalgia for a fading British past was another related element. Many agreed with the geologist and folklorist Hugh Miller ( The Old Red Sandstone , pp. 222-23) and the novelist Charlotte Bronte ( Shirley , p. 576) that the fairies were leaving England. The nation was growing too industrial and technological, too urban and material for their health and welfare. It was important to locate the elfin peoples and to chronicle their acts before they departed forever.     Perhaps ironically, however, it was the Victorian concern with origins, a concern aided and abetted by developments in the sciences and social sciences, that promoted the serious study of supernatural creatures. The same habit of mind that made George Eliot's Casaubon seek a "Key to All Mythologies," and impelled her Lydgate to search for the primitive tissue underlying all life, sent folklorists and anthropologists in quest of explanations for the origin of the fairies--and for the origins of belief in them. Some of those explanations were religious, some scientific, some historical; they ranged from the Theosophical belief in the existence of elementals (the spirits of the four elements) to the argument for a worldwide, prehistoric dwarf population. But all shared a common assumption that the truth of fairy existence could and would be discovered--and by some sort of scientific or verifiable means.     Only a relatively small group of questers was satisfied with purely experiential evidence, with saying "I believe in fairies because I have seen them." Lafcadio Hearn, the Japanologist, was more Celtic than Saxon when he commented that he had faith in "ghosts and goblins, because ... [he] saw them, both by day and night" (Temple, p. 30). Richard Dadd, the fairy painter, seems to have encountered them at least once, when they modeled for his Bedlam masterpiece of "Fays, gnomes, and elves, and suchlike" (qtd. in Allderidge, Late Richard Dadd , p. 128), The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke (1855-64). He stated that he had gazed at his canvas, his mind blank, until shapes literally took form within the cloudy underpaint that covered it (Allderidge, pp. 125-26). But his contemporaries could dismiss his testimony as that of a madman; the same was true of Charles Doyle, brother of the more famous fairy painter Richard and father of Arthur Conan Doyle; he sketched his fairies (according to his notebooks) just as he saw them. Sane and rational W. Graham Robertson--artist, playwright, and theatrical designer--would give no grounds for his belief. Instead, in his memoir, Time Remembered (published in America as Life Was Worth Living [n.d.]), he recounted an incident that had changed his life. In what he afterward viewed as a "dangerous experiment," he had created a pageant to be held at twilight in a local wood thought to be "fairy haunted." "Perhaps," he remarked, "as a result of meddling with things and beings better left alone, luck seemed to desert me and grey days in plenty set in." Punished by the offended elves with illness and depression, he expressed his belief that fairies, "whoever they may be ... still allow themselves to be glimpsed rarely, and by few, in the woodland of our rapidly disappearing countryside" (pp. 313-14). Maurice Hewlett, best known for his historical romances and travel books, was another who ostensibly glimpsed members of the elfin races; his The Lore of Proserpine (1913) is a full-length memorate (or ostensibly "believed" report of personal experience) of his and others' interactions with supernatural creatures. However, he repeatedly refused to comment on the reasons for his own belief. Robert Louis Stevenson, equally rational, was also mysterious about the extent and nature of his fairy faith. Like all children, he remarked, he had believed in youth in the actuality of the elfin world: "No child but must remember laying his head in the grass, staring into the infinitesimal forest and seeing it grow populous with fairy armies" ( Essays , pp. 452-53). In adulthood, he suggested, the "Little People" came only in dreams; then, however, they suggested ideas for his tales and novels. In "A Chapter on Dreams," he noted that many details of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had been dictated to him, while asleep, by the brownies (pp. 247-48).     Other eminent Victorian investigators had, like Sir Walter Scott before them, believed in fairies in their childhoods. Andrew Lang had dug for "fairy gold" (Green, p. 9). Sabine Baring-Gould--the distinguished minister, medievalist, and folklorist--had witnessed "a crowd of little imps or dwarfs surrounding the carriage" in which he and his parents traveled to Montpellier. He indicated, as well, that both his wife (in her adolescence) and his young son had seen creatures they identified as elves or gnomes.     If some people, including Baring-Gould, later ascribed the etiology of such visions to sunstroke or hallucinations caused by heat, or to nurses' tales and unconscious memories of the illustrations in their childrens' books ( Book of Folk-Lore , p. 200), others, who retained their faith as adults, often sought to buttress their arguments with tangible proof. Some were content to argue by "authority," contending that additional and reliable witnesses had reported the same or similar experiences. Others pointed to the evidence provided by physical phenomena and artifacts or tokens. Rural folk still collected elf-shots or fairy bolts (prehistoric flint shards or arrows), as well as fairy pipes (small pipes often found near prehistoric monuments), but so, too, did folklorists. Fairy rings were located and examined, though most scientists believed that they had been produced by fungi rather than by fairy feet. The pages of Notes and Queries and of Folk-Lore were dotted with accounts of elfin sightings and activities around standing stones. The Rollright Stones, near Oxford, for example, were thought to be raised by the Druids and later occupied by supernatural creatures. They were visited by many who hoped to see the fairies--"little folk like girls to look at"--dance around them (Evans, p. 22).     Evidences of fairy existence were also to be found in such popular examples of fairy workmanship as the metal cauldron at Fresham, Surrey (a large vessel "borrowed" from the fairies and never returned), the famous "fairy flag" of the MacLeods of Skye, and the equally famous "fairy banner" of the Scottish MacDonalds--presented to the clans by various fairies. Most popular of all was the "Luck of Edenhall," enshrined in the great mansion of the Musgrave family near Penrith in the Lake Country. An enameled glass vase (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum) supposedly crafted by the fairies, it was said to have been stolen from them by a retainer of the Musgrave family. The oracular fairies had predicted: "If that glass shall break or fall/Farewell the luck of Edenhall," but the house and its "luck" remained intact (and much commented upon) throughout the era.     A larger and more significant group of Victorian questers incorporated personal experience and physical evidence into a framework of belief. They based their fairy faith on theological or philosophical premises. These "religious views," as I have chosen to call them, might be grounded on Christian, occultist, or pagan assumptions and adopt widely varied colorations, but all were based on the premise that fairies were actual spiritual beings or, at the very least, that they had originated in realms beyond the material. The most basic form of the "religious view," one long held by many of the folk, was that the elfin peoples were the fallen angels. All over England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, folklorists found local people who believed that the fairies were the uncommitted angels or those trapped on earth during Lucifer's fall. Equally widespread was the view that the fairies were the souls of the dead who were not good enough for salvation or evil enough for damnation; the semireligious notion that the fairies were the spirits of unbaptized children was also widespread and popular. Only slightly less prevalent was the idea that they were spirits of "special" categories of the dead, those awaiting reincarnation, or those killed before their time, or those from long-dead, pagan, or extinct races.     They are Spirit: Religious Views The more orthodox segment among those who held "religious views" drew strength from the biblical text: "And other sheep have I that are not of this fold" (John 10:16). Both clergy and laypeople read in this passage the implication that there had been a separate creation of the inhabitants of fairyland. Martin Luther could be called to witness; he had believed in the existence of supernatural creatures and insisted on the reality of changelings (see chapter 2). Thomas Lake Harris, the mystic, poet, and religious leader, had incorporated fairies into his system of belief. John Henry, Cardinal Newman, did not exclude them from his. At least one Scottish Protestant minister thought, as he told W. Y. Evans-Wentz, that fairies were still extant, though only visible to those in a state of mystical ecstasy (p. 91). Evans-Wentz himself believed fairies to be analogous to Christ in their ability to become invisible--as He had done at His Ascension and Transfiguration (p. 93).     Victorian Spiritualists, Rosicrucians, and Theosophists grounded their faith on their sectarian theologies, although they generally insisted that their evidence was scientific. Early Spiritualists, who often perceived their movement as simply adding another dimension to already firm Christian beliefs--as offering evidences of immortality through contact with the departed--were not initially much concerned with fairies. They regarded them mainly as nuisances who interfered with seances and were responsible for the poltergeist phenomenon--that is, the moving or throwing of objects at seances or in "haunted" houses. They agreed, however, with the Theosophists that the elfin peoples were really the "elementals"; "subhuman Nature-Spirits of pygmy stature" (Evans-Wentz, p. 241) first described by medieval alchemists and mystics.     The association of the elements with guardian or governing spirits was probably first made by the third-century Neoplatonists, but the first full acount of them was in the work of Paracelsus, the fifteenth-century alchemist and mystic. He detailed the nature and power of the inhabitants of the four elements: the sylphs of air, the salamanders of fire, the undines or nymphs of water, and the gnomes of earth. His elementals occupied a position between humans and pure spirits, though they lived exclusively in one of the four elements. Made of flesh and blood, they ate and slept and procreated like humans do. But unlike mortals, they were long-lived, capable of superhuman speed and movement, and without immortal souls. The elementals gripped the Victorian imagination. Integrated with the fairies of folk literature and belief, they were first rendered important by Rosicrucian or pseudo-Rosicrucian groups and individuals, and later--slightly transmuted--by Theosophists and other occultists. In their earliest manifestations in the period, they appear as the figures in the various plays and ballets derived from Undine and as the undiscovered but "scientifically possible" forces in the fiction and, perhaps, the belief of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton; they play important roles in his Zanoni (1845) and A Strange Story (1862). In their later manifestations, they are staples of Victorian occultist thought, and they are systematized, classified, and rendered scientific.     When, in the late 1870s, the impact of Theosophy and the doctrines of its foundress, Madame Helena Blavatsky, began to be felt in England, the elementals came of age. In Isis Unveiled (1877), H.B., as she was called, stressed the reality of their existence: Under the general designation of fairies and fays, these spirits of the elements appear in the myth, fable, tradition, or poetry of all nations, ancient and modern. Their names are legion--peris, devs, djins, sylvans, satyrs, fauns, elves, dwarfs, trolls, norns, hisses, kobolds, brownies, and many more. They have been seen feared, blessed, banned, and invoked in every quarter of the globe and in every age. (1:xxix) Noting that they were often present at seances and manifested themselves in various psychic phenomena, she indicated that they were worthy objects of speculation and study.     Her disciples were quick to take her at her word. Charles W. Leadbeater (later self-appointed bishop of his own church) explained, in The Astral Plane (1895) that fairies were the inhabitants of one of the seven subdivisions of the astral plane. Most were nature spirits, creatures who could change their shapes at will but did have "favorite forms" (pp. 54-55). These, like their human counterparts, were evolving to a higher plane and would ultimately become "devas" (the equivalent of angels) or local village or wood deities. There were, however, also "artificial" elementals; beings, often ugly and dangerous, created as "thought-forms" by human beings (p. 56). Though not visible to ordinary sight, these monsters were real enough to the clairvoyants who saw them or the people they attacked.     Others added to the classification and definition of various orders of elementals. Anna Kingsford, both seeress and medical doctor, insisted that "a distinction ... be made between astral and elemental spirits and qenii loci . Elementals, in her sense of the term, "are more material than any of the others, and have an independent existence" (qtd. in Maitland 1:412), while it is really the qenii loci who "are the spirits of forests, mountains, cataracts, rivers, and all unfrequented places. These are the dryads, kelples, fairies, and elves" (1:412). Herbert Arnold, writing an article called "The Elementals" for The Occult Review (18:1913), further distinguished and subcategorized his invisible subjects. One class of elementals "composed of semi-intelligent entities" was destined to evolve into human beings (p. 209). Another class was composed of "nature-spirits," each confined to its own element. These were the elementals of Paracelsus and the fairies of medieval (and modern) tradition. Still others, Arnold believed, were responsible for the "noises, movement of tables, disturbances, raps" (p. 210), childish or foolish answers to questions at seances, and for the so-called poltergeist phenomenon.     Franz Hartmann, in his article "Some Remarks about the Spirits of Nature" written for the same periodical (14:1911), argued that elementals were the cause of "otherwise unaccountable incendiarisms and conflagrations"(p. 28). He believed them partially responsible not only for unexplained fires and volcanic eruptions but also for human pyromania--they either compelled the weak-minded to set fires or gave them the psychic ability to will them. A medical doctor, Hartmann insisted that the real powers of elementals were psychological. In effect, elemental fairies shaped our temperaments: "the spirits of nature have their dwellings within us as well as outside of us, and no man is perfectly master over himself unless he thoroughly knows his own nature and its inhabitants" (p. 29).     Hartmann's occult psychology was echoed by others who argued, as he did, that since we are all possessed, we must learn to know those who possess us. Nature, as William Butler Yeats suggested in Mythologies, was full of invisible peoples reacting to and interacting with us.     "Occultist" or "mystical" folklorists like Yeats and Evans-Wentz (both of whom were believers) sought to philosophically reconcile the elementals and the supernatural creatures of folklore. They inquired, through informants, about traits common to both popular fairies and elemental spirits, and they sought to locate the ways in which the various orders of beings had merged. AE (George William Russell) believed, for example, that the lower orders of the sidhe were the elementals seen by the medieval mystics. Evans-Wentz argued that the Druids were the common source of both varieties of invisible creature. Modern fairy faith was shaped by the ancient Celtic religion, which, along with magic that involved the elementals, was known to the Druids and passed on by them. The gnomes described by Paracelsus were the same as the pixies, corrigans, leprechauns, and other elves who lived in rocks or caves or in the earth. Sylphs were to be equated wth the ordinary Celtic fairies, not the graceful "gentry" sidhe, but the pygmy-size apparitions that appeared to ordinary country folk (Evans-Wentz, pp. 256-57). Henry Jenner, writing on the fairy faith in Cornwall, simply argued that folklore came first and the elementals second: The subdivisions and elaborations ... by Paracelsus, the Rosicrucians. and the modern theosophists are no doubt amplifications of that popular belief in the existence of a race, neither divine nor human, but very like to human beings, who existed on a `plane' different from that of humans, though occupying the same space which ... resembles the theory of these mystics in its main outlines, and was probably what suggested it to them. (qtd. in Evans-Wentz, p. 168) While many modern folklorists would agree with Jenner's theory of etiology, few would argue, as he does, that elves and elementals actually exist.     Occultists often Platonized the fays as well, asserting that they were the preexistent Forms of human beings who "enter the ... plane of life by submitting to the natural process of birth in a physical body" (Evans-Wentz, p. 383). Platonic, too, was the occultist notion that fairies were the spirits of the recent dead, awaiting incarnation in new bodies or transportation to new astral planes. Debate even raged about the normal residence of the elemental spirits. Was it the "astral plane"? Was it the "Summerland" of the Spiritualists--the place to which those who had recently "passed over" were relegated? Or was it something else, perhaps even a sort of Purgatory or, more optimistically, a chamber of rebirth? All in all, for the group of religious faithful (and both Spiritualists and Theosophists were among them), fairies provided an imaginative alternative or at least a supplement to Christianity, offering a promise of immortal life in a creed not yet outworn. In effect, all who asserted that fairies were actual rather than imaginary did so with a sense that their reality was a protest against sterile rationality, evidence that the material and utilitarian were not sole rulers of the world. For occultists, at least, the bonds that linked nature and man were not completely broken; the universe was still alive; "for the whole of the universe is a manifestation of life and consciousness expressed in innumerable different forms" (Hartmann, p. 30). Perhaps this element explains why so "scientific" a folklorist as J. F. Campbell of Islay (who carefully documented the place, date, and time at which he heard the lore collected for his Popular Tales of the West Highlands ) supposedly subscribed to a belief in the existence of the elfin peoples. According to a deposition made by his assistant, Michael Buchanan, and printed by Evans-Wentz, Campbell was convinced that fairies were "spirits appearing to the naked eye of the spectator as ... men and women, except that they were smaller in stature." To which Buchanan added, in terms reminiscent of the Nicene Creed: "And I also believe in the existence of the fairies ... and accept the modern and ancient traditions respecting ... [their] ways and customs" (Evans-Wentz, pp. 114-15).     However, with the possible exception of Campbell and the occult folklorists, most Victorian scholars who held one of the "religious views" did not participate in the fairy faith; instead, they studied religious belief. They saw the elfin peoples not as actual beings but as folk memories of ancient faiths, "survivals" of decayed pagan gods or local English deities. Croker and Keightley had found in the characters and actions of the "little folk" the remnants of an ancient Aryan religious system (see Keightley, p. 512) similar if not identical to that mentioned by the Brothers Grimm in their essay "On the Nature of the Elves." Wirt Sikes, the American consul to Wales, whose British Goblins was a popular book of the 1880s, favored the theory that the belief in fairies was one of the "relics of the ancient mythology" (p. 1) as did Patrick Kennedy (p. 81), the Irish folklorists revered by Yeats. The theorists and investigators connected with the burgeoning Folk-Lore Society were more specific. Edwin Sidney Hartland, the prolific anthropological folklorist, believed that at least some of the fays were the vestiges of ancient goddess worship, survivals from the era of the mother right. He contended that other preternatural creatures derived from the rituals of "stone age worship" ( Science of Fairy Tales , pp. 291, 306). At one point in his illustrious career, Alfred Nutt speculated that belief in fairies originated in ancestor worship; at another point he argued that the fairy faith came from the widespread practice of worshipping local agricultural deities ( The Voyage of Bran 2:231).     Others argued for the identity of fairies and the dead; some of the elfin peoples were clearly the souls of the departed, and fairyland itself could be seen as a sort of Hades. Folklorists like Yearsley, writing soon after the turn of the century, argued that not only were the places of the dead and fairyland often indistinguishable--both were subterranean--but also the rituals for dealing with both groups and the prohibitions governing such relations were identical. For example, one could summon both fairies and the dead by striking the ground; one was forbidden to taste food in either fairyland or Hades. Both worlds were marked by timelessness; both groups lured the living to them and both were placated in the same way, with offerings of food or milk or with gifts. Both fairies and the dead were local, confined to one locality or even to one living group or family, and both presided over fertility. Significantly, the same tales and legends were told of both; interchangeability seemed to some, including Canon J. A. MacCulloch, a sign of identity. Hartland, for instance, noted in The Science of Fairy Tales (1891) that no clear-cut distinctions could be made between ghosts and fairies, since they shared the same traits, the same taboos, and the same tales. Even the relatively small size of some fairies became a support for this argument, for souls have traditionally been depicted as smaller than the bodies of the persons they inhabit. The revived interest in lore itself, starting with Scott's republishing and discussion of the Scottish witch trials of the seventeenth century, added further evidence; so many of the accused had reported seeing dead friends and relatives among the fairies. Such popular tales as "The Fairy Dwelling on Selena Moor" also heightened the connection between the fairies and the dead. In this tale from Cornwall, a certain Mr. Noy, who inadvertently stumbles on a fairy realm, is saved from captivity by his former sweetheart, one who had ostensibly died years earlier. Among the fairies, he sees other neighbors who were thought to be dead. The same tale was told of a young farmer, Richard Vingoe, and, in other variations, of people all over England.     Other proofs were brought to support the theory. Many folklorists noted that Gwyn ap Nudd, the ruler of the "fair folk" of Wales, was also the Lord of the Dead; others that the slaugh, or Host of the Air, were the dead in some parts of the British Isles and the fairy horde in others. A number commented on how frequently fairies were seen in graveyards or rising from cemetary grounds. Still others, including Andrew Lang, used as support the thesis of Reverend Robert Kirk's famous Secret Common-Wealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies (c. 1690), a document largely rediscovered and often utilized in the Victorian era. (Sir Walter Scott, in "On the Fairies of Popular Superstition," had earlier pointed out the importance of The Secret Commonwealth , with its guide to and geography of fairyland.) Lang found himself in agreement with Kirk. "There are excellent proofs," he noted, "that fairyland was a kind of Hades, or home of the dead" (Introduction, p. xxxiv).     The places with which fairies were most identified, their mainly interior and subterranean habitations, were the strongest and most widely cited evidences of their similarity to or identity with the souls of the dead. The ancient mounds, burrows, and tumuli, in which they often lived (as well as their nocturnal habits) suggested the realms of death. In the seventeenth century, Reginald Scot had informed his readers that English "Faeries--do principally inhabit the Mountains, and Caverns of the Earth" (qtd. in Briggs, Dictionary , p. 348) and the strong tradition, itself based on numerous medieval sources, survived. The fairies were, as Kipling's Puck calls them, the "People of the Hill"--and they lived not on the hill but in it. To Thomas Keightley, England and Lowland Scotland shared the same tradition--fairies lived in the hills; the Highland variety also lived in hillocks or in masses of rock. One branch of the Irish fairies, the sidhe--who were thought to take their names from the mounds or sidhe in which they dwelt--lived in these mounds, or raths, or forts. (The forts were the remains of prehistoric fortifications.) Other sites were added by other commentators and included the ideas that fairies could be found beneath ancient castles (Lowland Scotland), under ruined Pictish towers or beehive houses (Highlands and Ireland), and within mountain caves. The Victorians seemed to have emphasized the idea of a world within the earth--in part because it was an area that remained to be investigated, in part because it was a realm that the emerging science of archaeology was exploring. Subterranean habitations emphasized, as well, the interiority of the fairy realm. Yet they almost always implied connections between the fairies and the dead. For some, fairyland became the place where these souls waited, in Christian terms, for the Last Judgment and, in pagan terms, for rebirth or an end to things.     They Are Matter: Scientific Views All of these "religious views" were merely second to a cluster of opinions that may be termed "scientific views." Whether their approaches were mythological-linguistic, comparative-anthropological, or euhemerist, all who accepted versions of the scientific view shared the conviction that fairies or their prototypes had, in some sense, originated on this earth. From the mid-1850s till the outbreak of the First World War, the various scientific theories jockeyed for position, rising and falling in popularity as new evidence flowed in. For some among the scientifically oriented scholars, the truth of fairy existence filled the void left by a dying Bible; for others, the ability to weigh the evidence for and against fairy existence was a proof of the validity of the new scientific disciplines at which they labored.     For the mythological-linguistic "school" associated with Max Muller, the answer to the question of the actuality of the fairies lay in language. Though the main emphasis of the "school" was on the gods, specifically the Sun God, from whom, Muller contended, almost all myth was derived, its proponents applied its principles to the study of fairy lore. From about 1856, the date of Muller's significant essay on "Comparative Mythology," to the mid-1880s, when the theory became suspect, the celestial mythologists had considerable impact. While they agreed on the basic premise that the central figures in Greek and Roman mythology and in the fairy tales descended from them reflected heavenly phenomena, they argued about which natural phenomenon was paramount. Was it the sun, as Muller said, or the lightning, as Walter K. Kelly insisted? Were clouds or thunder, stars or the moon the source of such concepts as supermatural dwarfs? Since myth, they believed, came from a "disease of language," a condition in which a later group of people misunderstood the language or metaphoric usage of an earlier group (in the most famous instance, the classical Greek gods were revealed by Muller as verbal misapprehensions of ancient Sancrit names), the barbarous features of fairy lore were now explained as poetic, metaphoric phrases from early human mythopoeic thinking. Since myth really derived from a sort of "creative forgetting," the celestial mythologists attempted to unravel the verbal confusions that had led to a belief in fairies. Muller emphasized the Greek gods and their derivation from the mother of the Indo-European languages, Sanscrit, but George W. Cox, his disciple, explained to the British public the meaning of folklore as early' man's view of the conflict between night and day or wind and calm. As he argued in An Introduction to the Comparative Science of Mythology and Folklore (1881), folklore and myth "embody the whole thought of primitive man on the vast range of physical phenomena" (p. 13). Fairies are only secondary in Cox's allegorical schemata, but he indicates that, for example, "the fairy queens who tempt Tannhauser and True Thomas to their caves" (p. 156n) are really figures for "the beauty of the night, cloudless and still" (p. 156). In Cox's view, most fairies are to be associated with the stars; their origins are to be found in stellar phenomena. But a rival to the mythological-linguists in the form of a far more significant set of scientific theories claimed the foreground after 1859 and the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species . Darwin's theory of biological evolution was quickly appropriated by anthropologists and resulted in a parallel theory of cultural evolution. By the 1870s, an important group of anthropological or ethnological folklorists (whom I have called the comparative-anthropological group) had come into being, inspired by the the work of the "godfather" of comparative anthropology, Sir Edward Burner Tylor. For these folklore scholars, the savage elements in folk tales and customs were again (as with the celestial mythologists) the attempt of primitive peoples to interpret the basic, universal situations of life, but they were not always mistakes or distortions. In Primitive Culture (1871), Tylor proposed two ideas important to the study of fairy lore: the doctrine of survivals and the theory of animism. What degree of historical truth, if any, does folk and fairy lore contain? Tylor inquired. What is its basis? Were similarities in lore the results of diffusion or the separate inventions of groups, tribes, or races? At first, there was no conflict with Muller's celestial theories for Tylor, believing that people uniformly ascended the ladder of cultural evolution, simply noted that the savages, whose customs he analyzed, preceded Muller's early Indo-European-speaking Aryans. Tylor was sophisticated in suggesting a broad spectrum of answers: he believed, for instance, that some , though not all, fairies clearly derived from animistic perceptions of nature, for, according to the doctrine of animism, primeval humans personified nature and perceived it as living. Moreover, as primitive peoples composed myths animating nature, so contemporary peasants preserved folklore--the remnants or "survivals" of prehistoric animistic beliefs and primitive myths. Indirectly, Tylor made the study of fairies quite important to the study of comparative anthropology. Not only did the doctrine of "survivals" make the more pejorative idea of "superstitions" seem condescending and outmoded but also the seemingly irrational beliefs and practices of the rural peasantry became significant and valuable. They were "scientific evidence," the fragments of ancient "less evolved" human culture; they both illustrated the past history of the human race and confirmed the theory of man's development. There was, Tylor argued, a clear continuity between the savage and the peasant and Tylor's equation of the two inspired folklorists to examine the culture of the folk and to trace its likeness to the behavior of savage tribes. Equally important, Tylor, like most Victorian social scientists, assumed a simplified, linear, Darwinian progress; human development was upwards; human beings work out the beast, evolving from savagery through barbarism to civilization. Thus, it was of major importance to trace the relics of savagery and barbarism still surviving among civilized peoples.     Tylor's theories attracted such luminaries of anthropology and folklore study as James Anson Farrer and Andrew Lang. Farrer and Lang did further anthropological spadework, comparing the beliefs and practices of non-European primitive peoples with similar accounts imbedded in European folklore. Their theories were most fully and coherently elaborated by Canon J. A. MacCulloch in The Childhood of Fiction (1905). To MacCulloch the originals of the fairies were the ancient and modern "savages," and folk tales were direct reflections of savage ideas, beliefs, and customs. The lives of fairy-tale kings, he argued, were exaggerated replications of the simple lives of primitive tribal chieftains: the magic slumbers of sleeping beauties were evidences of an early tribal knowledge of hypnosis. The princess who was ravished by a giant or a fairy was none other than a savage maiden kidnapped in the widespread ritual known as marriage by capture. Cannibalism as a prominent motif in folklore came from its widespread practice by the savage races; a "superior" tribe that had renounced the custom told tales of those who still practiced it--describing them as goblins, ogres, or witches.     The concept implicit in MacCulloch's book--that fairies and their lore resulted from the clash of cultures or races--had been earlier and more explicitly stated by others, including Alfred C. Haddon, George Laurence Gomme, and John Stuart Stuart-Glennie (Dorson, British Folklorists , p. 310). It became a particularly useful concept in an era of imperial expansion) Professor Haddon argued that "fairy-tales point to a clash of races" and could be regarded "as stories told by men of the Iron Age of events which happened to men of the Bronze Age in their conflicts with men of the Neolithic Age" (qtd. in Evans-Wentz, p. 137n). In his brilliant Ethnology in Folklore (1892), Gomme, then president of the Folk-Lore Society, argued that folklore often represented the clash of peoples, and that English lore, specifically, spoke of the battles between those of prehistoric non-Aryan stock and the Indo-Europeans who invaded them (p. 19). Much of the inconsistency in folklore could be explained by a difference in point of view, he suggested; the influences on the lore of the conquered race and of the conquering race differed, each group ascribing certain supernatural powers to the other. The nature of given concepts was dictated by whether they were believed and enunciated by the conquerers or the conquered. For example, beliefs about fairies and about witches were very similar, said Gomme. The belief in fairies, however, came from the conquerors; it was a belief about the aborigines from Aryan sources. The belief in witches, on the other hand, came from the conquered aborigines themselves; they believed they had magical powers and tried to spread this belief (in part, to guarantee their survival) among their conquerors. Significantly, Gomme ascribes the cruder and bloodier superstitions to non-Aryans. To Stuart-Glennie, however, the clashes between early peoples were not mere power struggles, but conflicts filled with racial and imperial implications; the importance of the fairies was that they were white. All civilization arose from the "Conflict of Higher and Lower Races"; such tales as "The Swan Maiden" recorded actual events: the rape or forced marriage of white women by black or brown men (see chapter 3). Only the "Higher Races" could create civilizations; the "Lower" at best were the sources of folklore (Dorson, Peasant Customs 2:520; 2:323-30).     Few fellow folklorists took up the white man's fantasy quite so overtly and Stuart-Glennie had almost no disciples. However, the racial composition of the fairies, their inferior or superior status, and their place in British history became major issues, especially to those who took the historical-realist or euhemerist position. The euhemerists believed that fairies were derived from an early group of invaders of the British Isles or from the British aborigines themselves. Various forms of euhemerism had been popular at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, when the Reverend Peter Roberts, Dr. Guthrie, and the Dr. Cririe cited by Robert Southey had theorized that the elfin races, with their organized societies and systematized customs, were, in actuality, the Druids hiding underground from Roman and Christian persecutions. Other pre-Victorian antiquarians had speculated that the English fairies were really early Irish invaders; still others, that they were early but unspecified mortals whose actions had been exaggerated in fabulous tales (Sikes, p. 130).     The Druids and the Irish were relegated to minor roles in the Victorian debate on fairies, but the conquered British aborigines gained favor, and with the increasing historicism of the period, euhemerism became a major Victorian explanation of origin. Campbell of Islay may have privately affirmed that the fays were "spirits"; he publically wrote, however, that they were based on dim memories of the skin-clad warriors who made and shot flint arrowheads (elf shots) but lost England to the iron-weaponed ancestors of the modern British (1:lxix-lxxx). Although he stressed the heterogeneous nature of their sources, John Rhys agreed that the fairies stemmed, in part, from "an early race of men," "pre-Pictish," the "oldest and lowest" in England ( Celtic Folklore 2:667). The concept of the fairies as a "superior," civilizing race was even more popular, albeit briefly. In the late eighteenth century, Mallet had hypothesized in Northern Antiquities (1770) that the Laplanders (always considered magical) were the original fairies. Sir Walter Scott, also a believer in the Oriental Lapps as one of the sources of the fairies, speculated that they had gained their reputation as supernaturals by foretelling the weather, something they knew from careful observation. Jacob Grimm, ahead of his time, had theorized (in Teutonic Mythology ) that there was once a widely diffused dwarf population all over northern Europe whose actions had given rise to the many traditions associated with supernatural ells. Benjamin Thorpe, the Scandinavianist, speculated in the 1830s that the dwarfs of Norse belief were "Oriental Lapps," perceived as magical because, unlike the Norse, they knew the manufacture and use of iron. George Webbe Dasent, Thorpe's colleague in Scandinavian studies, thought that the nomadic Finns and Lapps had been mythically transformed to trolls or enlarged to giants (Dorson, Peasant Customs 2:596). In 1881, Karl Blind retransformed the transformation by asserting that the skin-clad Finns who rode the waves in kayaks were the sources of the mermen, mermaids, and selkies (seal people) of Scottish lore (qtd. in MacRitchie, Testimony , pp. 1-6). By the time of Frederic T. Hall's The Pedigree of the Devil (1883), it was almost taken for granted that dwarfs, trolls, and fairies were folk memories of prehistoric races of small people. It is impossible, says Hall, "not to conclude that the dwarfs and trolls must be identified with primeval races of men of low stature; who covered a large area of the habitable globe, and were gradually driven into mountain fastnesses, swamps, ice-bound tracts, or tractless steppes, before the steady advance of a larger, more powerful, or better armed race of men" (p. 76). To Hall, the early Babylonian or Accadian peoples represented the nucleus of this "Turanian" group (p. 77); to Sabine Baring-Gould, the prehistoric Iberians were at its center. George Laurence Gomme noted (in English Traditional Lore [1885]) that not only did the new science of archaeology indicate that fairies had existed, but that they were a small pygmy race; fairy lore represented traditions of short, dark, early aboriginal peoples who preceded the Aryan occupation of Europe (p. vi).     Building on the work of all who came before him, David MacRitchie popularized what came to be known as the "pygmy theory" in his important and controversial book, The Testimony of Tradition (1890). His argument was reiterated and further elaborated in Fians, fairies and Picts (1893). Buttressing his case with philological, topographical, traditional, and historical proofs, MacRitchie correlated fairy lore with the archeological remains of underground abodes as evidence for the existence of an ancient, dwarflike non-Aryan race in England. The idea was not new, but the development of archaeology as a science and the increased exploration of prehistoric sites gave MacRitchie's new euhemerism a force beyond the theoretical. A sort of Victorian Thor Hyerdahl, he crawled through and diagrammed mounds and tunnels to prove the validity of his assertions.     The heart of MacRitchie's argument was that the Finno-Ugrian or Mongol peoples (including the Lapps) were also the Fians (the race preceding the Scots) and the Picts of Irish and Scottish history, and that they had coexisted with the other inhabitants of England until at least the eleventh century. Skilled in medicine, magic, and masonry, they inhabited concealed underground earth houses--later known as fairy hills or fairy forts--and sophisticated chambered mounds like Maes-Howe in the Orkneys or New Grange and the other mounds at Boyne. The fires that shone at night through the tops of their underground dwellings were responsible for the persistent legends, found all over England, of "fairy lights." Their "clever" women gained the love of Irish chieftains, married them, and became, in legend, the powerful Irish fairies known as sidhe. MacRitchie even explained why fairies favored the color green: it was the hunting color worn by the tiny Lapps.     While some of the comparative-anthropological authorities on fairy lore, including Andrew Lang, Alfred Nutt, and Edwin Sidney Hartland, took issue with MacRitchie, others, equally respected, flocked to his cause. Elizabeth Andrews tried to do for Ireland, especially Ulster, what MacRitchie had done for Scotland. In Ulster folklore , published in 1913 but based on earlier articles and lectures, she argued that dwarfs living in Ireland had built the souterrains (caves with underground structures built of rough stones without mortar and roofed with large, flat slabs) found throughout the country. Evidences of a dwarf race were not solely archaeological, however; the tales of gorgachs (brownie-like creatures), of Pechts or Picts, of the sidhe, and of the so-called short Danes who invaded Ireland were also derived from memories of this "Turanian" race. All, she believed, "represent primitive races of mankind and ... in the stories of women, children and men being carried off, we have a record of warfare, when stealthy raids were made and captives brought to the dark souterrain" (p. vi). Short, strong, and with skills in music and other arts, these "fairy" peoples, once all over Europe, were pushed back and ended up in Lapland where their descendents may still be found (p. 45). Andrews, like MacRitchie, thought that pygmies had survived into the historical period. A ballad like "The Wee Wee Man," with its description of a short, sturdy little creature, was evidence of their existence. Although not quite so enthusiastic about the "pygmy theory," Sir John Rhys remarked that when fairyland is shorn of its glamour, it reveals "a swarthy population of short stumpy men occupying the most inaccessible districts of our country" ( Celtic Folklore 2:668-69). Joseph Jacobs--Andrew Lang's rival as a collector and editor of fairy tales for children (his English Fairy Tales and Celtic Fairy Tales are still to be found in many children's libraries)--used MacRitchie's theories to explain what lay behind such places as the "Dark Tower" (a fairy mound) in "Childe Rowland" (see English Fairy Tales , pp. 260-64). The Reverend Gath Whitley considered piskey dwarfs, that is pixies, the earliest Neolithic inhabitants of Cornwall and described them as small hunters who, like bushmen, danced and sang to the light of the moon (qtd. in Andrews, p. 101). Henry Jenner, local secretary for the Society of Antiquarians in Cornwall, was certain that "a strange and separate people of Mongol type" were still extant and dwelling in the Cornish wilds. This "little `stuggy' dark folk," once thought to be composed of witches and wizards, were really the descendants of the Pictish tribes; (qtd. in Evans-Wentz, pp. 166-67); thus had the Picts become the pixies.     Sabine Baring-Gould's quibbles with MacRitchie's theories were over how far south in England the Finno-Ugrians had come and whether they had been entire tribes or gypsylike itinerants. In an article on "Pixies and Brownies," reprinted in A Book of Folk-Lore (1913), he concluded that yet another group of pygmies, who had lived in caves or earthen huts but had not built in stone (and hence, in folklore were shown as emerging from mounds or caverns), were the sources of the knockers and pixies of Devon and Cornwall. It was, he thought, Oriental Lapps who taught the Norse mining and metal working, for iron fabrication, he believed, was not native to northern and eastern Europe. His "fairies" were dwarfs or pygmies, "not found in large numbers nor forming big colonies, but vagrant and dispersed," practicing crafts and migrating like gypsies. "Shy, living a different life than those for whom they worked" (p. 216), they gave rise to tales. There might, he argued, have been different groups of them with different skills; some were miners, some smiths, some mere laborers on farms. From these "people of foreign race, misunderstood, looked on with superstitious fears, whose very ways encouraged mistrust" (p. 224), came the tales of dwarfs (if they were smiths) or brownies (if farm laborers). Baring-Gould thought that an archaeological excavation near Padstow in Cornwall had yielded their prehistoric necropolis, located on a site the local people long considered "fairy haunted." But the most conclusive skeletal remains of these small dolichocephalic (long-headed), non-Aryan, "intrusive people" had been destroyed (pp. 227-28) not by the superstitious country folk but by the bourgeois tourists trampling on the site in their quest for the English past.     When the remains of neolithic Swiss dwarfs were found at Schweizerbild near Schaffhausen around 1893, the "pygmy school" thought it had found conclusive physical evidence. MacRitchie had not found dwarf skeletons in his chambered mounds, but here they were, clear physical evidence of an early dwarf creation as well as an explanation of the origin of the fairies. Additional dwarf skeletons found at Spy in Belgium seemed to further validate the "pygmy theory." Professor Fraipoint, the expert examining the skeletons at Spy, identified them as those of very early peoples. To him they looked analogous to modern Laplanders; they were very short, he concluded, with "voluminous heads, massive bodies, short arms and bent legs. They led a sedentary life, frequented caves, manufactured flint implements ... and were contemporary with the Mammoth" (qtd. in Andrews, pp. 129-30).     The euhemerist case did not depend solely on the findings of archaeologists. After the 1870s, the African Pygmies discovered by George Schweinfurth became the living physical support for the "pygmy theory" of fairy origins and the most likely and visible proof of the prehistoric existence of fairies. When, in the course of colonial expansion, British explorations located dwarflike and Pygmy peoples where they had not been previously known to exist--in the Congo and the Uganda borderlands, and ostensibly near Mount Atlas, in Morocco--MacRitchie's theories seemed incontrovertible. The findings of archaeology, prehistory, ethnology, and of recent explorations--when added to the quasi-Darwinian theory of cultural evolution--seemed, by the turn of this century, to make the origin of the fairies a simple matter: they were Pygmy peoples who had once inhabited the entire world. For Colonel R. G. Haliburton, "little dark-complexioned smiths and magicians" (closely resembling the Akka dwarfs of Morocco he believed he had discovered) were responsible for the Scottish belief in brownies and the Welsh memory of Merlin's band of dwarf smiths ( Dwarf Survivals and Traditions , p. 76[1895]). According to the anonymous reviewer of a book called Prehistoric Man and Beast , they might even have been the builders of Stonehenge. "Certain analogies," he argued, "lend weight to the idea that possibly Stonehenge was erected by the dwarfs or fairies, who ... are shown to have been a real people" (qtd. in Haliburton, Race of Pygmies , p. 305).     His was a minority view. For most folklorists and anthropologists the fact that the Pygmy descendants of the fairies were black, yellow, and red--clearly "less evolved" than British Victorians--rendered them definitely incapable of monument building and distinctly interior. Thus, as the discovery of the Pygmies rendered the fairies actual, it caused them to lose much of their stature and "superiority" (see chapter 4). The fairies were racialized, and dwarfs, in particular, became new figures for powerful though bestial evil. At the same time as the new euhemerists were actualizing and demythologizing the elfin world, yet another group was insisting on its reality while further idealizing it. As the Victorian scholarly community replicated that pattern of folklore in which the more fantastic the tale, the more solid the material proof surrounding it, other "realist" but nonhistorical and nonanthropological approaches gained adherents. In a fascinating fusion of the scientific and religious views of fairy origins, occultists, Spiritualists, and Theosophists argued for the actuality of fairies on scientific grounds. From the faith in science came the certitude that new, perfected sciences and parasciences could prove that fairies did exist. By 1909, Sophia Morrison, folklorist and secretary of the Manx Language Society, could assert: There is nothing supernatural [about the fairies] ... what used to be so called is something that we do not understand at present. ... Our forefathers would have thought the X-rays, and wireless telegraphy ... "supernatural" (qtd. in Evans-Wentz, p. 119).     From popularizations of Darwin's theories and vitalistic views of evolution came the widespread notion that fairies were life-forms developed on a separate branch of evolution. Though he did not speak specifically of fays or gnomes, Alfred Russell Wallace had suggested that there were "preter-human discarnate beings" who shared the world with man (Oppenheim, p. 326). Spiritualists, Theosophists, and Victorian occultists, eager to escape the depressing implications of Darwinist materialism, were in agreement with him. Emma Hardinge-Britten, for example, writing on "Nature Spirits and Elementals" in the Spiritualist journal Light (3 Dec. 1881), uttered what amounted to a call to action: how, she asked, since Darwin's proofs have been accepted, "can the Spiritualist be content to supplement Darwin's merely materialistic footprint and utterly ignore the existence of Spiritual realms of being as the antecedents of matter?" In search of a ladder of descent parallel to Darwin's, she finds that there are " embryonic states for the soul, as well as for the body ... realms of gestation for Spiritual, as well as for material, forms." The rungs of the spirit ladder of evolution are filled with sub- and superhuman spirits, fairies among them; there are "many grades of the scale of being" (p. 382). Evans-Wentz, the occult folklorist, thought the fairies "a distinct race between our own and that of spirits" and concluded his impressive research into Celtic fairy faith with a "logical and scientific" argument for psychic evolution (pp. 47, 479).     Theosophists were particularly enamoured of the "separate evolution" idea and rapidly incorporated it into their beliefs. Analogies between material and spiritual evolution literally pepper Madame Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled (1877). Darwin's descent of species, for example, is compared to that of the ancient Neoplatonists, while elementals are like "Mr. Darwin's missing link between the ape and man" (1:285). Her disciples became engrossed in determining the position and function of nature spirits in the spiritual ladder of evolution. Fairies seen and described by occultists, usually through clairvoyance, were defined as powers of nature--little sprites who aided in the growth of trees, flowers, and even vegetables. Occultists like Charles W. Leadbeater, who considered the elfin tribes "an evolution apart" ( Hidden Side , p. 84), were quick to articulate and systematize the evolutionary relations of fairies and mortals. Devoting an entire chapter of The Hidden Side of Things (1913) to fairy evolution, Leadbeater described nature spirits, including gnomes, fairies, undines, sylphs, and elementals, as the aboriginal peoples: "the original inhabitants of the country, driven away from some parts of it by the invasion of man" (p. 84). As humans derived from mammals, so some of the elfin tribes evolved from grasses and cereals, others from reptiles and birds, and still others from sea flora and fauna. Paralleling the upward spiritual evolution of man (from an ordinary half-evolved state through stages as "Advanced Man," "Disciple," and finally "Adept"), fairies also evolve, becoming sylphs, devas (or angels), and ultimately higher angels. Even providing a diagramatic chart, Leadbeater elaborates the complex heirarchical chains of fairy being. One strain of nature spirit, for example, "just touches the vegetable kingdom in the shape of minute fungoid growths, and then passes onward through bacteria ... through the insects and reptiles up to the beautiful family of the birds, and only after many incarnations among these joins the still more joyous tribe of the fairies." Another "comes up through the vegetable kingdom in the shape of grasses and cereals ... [and then] turns aside ... into the animal kingdom and is conducted through the curious communities of the ants and bees, and then through a set of etheric creatures closely corresponding to the latter--those tiny hummingbirdlike nature-spirits which are so continually seen hovering about flowers and plants, and play so large a part in the production of their manifold variations" (p. 90). It is because human beings are only half-evolved themselves, endowed with only crude sensory perceptions, that nature spirits are not visible to them. Only clairvoyants, like Leadbeater himself, are capable of seeing them.     Like a biologist, botanist, or ethnologist, Leadbeater continues his unnatural natural history by assuring his readers that, although fairies may assume almost any size, shape, and color they choose, they do have distinct genera and species types--definite "natural" forms and colors of their own. Here, the language of anthropology joins the language of biology in a "scientific" explanation of the invisible. Diverse elfin races populate different countries or parts of them, Leadbeater notes. Like the "pygmies and ape-like men of the Uganda borderland" and the other "savages" studied by travelers and anthropological folklorists, some elfin tribes are less highly evolved than others. Those who live near the sites of volcanic disturbances are especially primitive, he remarks, intermediate between gnomes and fairies. Like separate species, Leadbeater continues, mountain fairies and plains fairies do not mate or mingle. Even Darwinian natural adaptation plays a role; for example, elfin coloration varies according to habitat. In what sounds like a species report written by a botanist, clairvoyant Leadbeater reports: In England the emerald-green kind is probably the commonest, and I have seen it also in the woods of France and Belgium, in far-away Massachusetts, and on the banks of the Niagara river. The vast plains of the Dakotas are inhabited by a black-and-white kind which I have not seen elsewhere, and California rejoices in a lovely white-and gold species which also appears to be unique. (qtd. in Arthur Conan Doyle, Coming of the Fairies , p. 134) Leadbeater pleads for further "scientific" study of nature spirits. "I am not aware that any attempt has yet been made to classify them in scientific fashion. This vast realm of nature still needs its Cuvier or its Linnaeus" ( Hidden Side , p. 123). He concludes that, like foreign travel or African exploration, the careful examination of the fairy world will broaden human horizons; "the comprehension of a line of evolution so different from our own ... helps us to recognize that the world does not exist for us alone, and that our point of view is neither the only one nor the most important" ( Hidden Side , p. 124).     Psychic-evolutionist and "naturalist" approaches such as those of Bishop Leadbeater prepared the way for the acceptance of the Cottingley fairy photographs of 1917--pictures in which small creatures with bobbed hair and butterfly wings frisked in the midst of nature (see also chapter 6). Supporters of the photographs' validity, including Edward Gardner (secretary of the Theosophical Society) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, saw the fairies as forces of nature, seldom visible because they were outside the human color spectrum or on the other side of the "vibration line" (A. C. Doyle, Coming , p. 89). Gardner was quite certain of the nature and function of the elfin specimens, which he described in biological terminology: "Allied to the lepidoptera, or butterfly genus ... rather than to the mammalian line ... they are as real as we are, and perform functions in connection with plant life of an important ... character" (pp. 122-23). Although they are not insubstantial, their bodies are made of a matter lighter than gas, and hence, appear invisible to non-clairvoyant mortals. While they may assume human forms, they are really "small, hazy, and somewhat luminous clouds of colour with a brighter spark-like nucleus" (p. 124). Their wings are actually emanations. Like the amobea or protozoa they resemble, they seem to divide by mitosis and, similarly to other lower organisms, they have little or no individuality, consciousness, or language. Gardner provides a mechanistically scientific exposition of their role in the scheme of things: The function of the nature spirits of woodland, meadow, and garden ... is to furnish the vital connecting link between the stimulating energy of the sun and the raw material of the form. That growth of a plant which we regard as the customary and inevitable result of associating the three factors of sun, seed, and soil would never take place if the fairy builders were absent" (qtd. in A.C. Doyle, Coming , p. 124) In Gardner's system, one he finally came to call "devic evolution" (Hodson, p. 50) after the "nature-spirits, devas, fairies or elementals" whose specific role is "the evolution of beautiful and responsive forms," highly specialized fairy groups literally construct and organize the cells of flowers, some working with root development, others specializing in shape and coloration. The beauty and variety of the floral world is not the result of blind "evolutionary processes" but of fairies (A.C. Doyle, Coming , p. 129). As Dr. Vanstone (one of Doyle's authorities) commented, in yet another telling analogy, they serve as little "factory hands ... facilitating the operation of Nature's laws" (p. 98).     Gardner, like Leadbeater, devoted much of his life to the "scientific study" of the invisible world of nature spirits. Always arguing that fairy evolution runs in partnership with human evolution, he increasingly classified elfin species and formalized his system. By his last book, Fairies , written in the 1940s, he had repeopled his world, at least, with an enormous, complex "ladder of evolving life rising to the loftiest heights, the whole system composing a sister evolution ... to the animal and human kingdoms, but all using bodies of a subtler material than the physical" (p. 46).     Geoffrey Hodson, friend of both Gardner and Doyle, and one of the clairvoyants who "verified" the existence of the Cottingley fairies, also heeded Leadbeater's call for scientific study of the invisible world. He, too, penned an unnatural natural history of nature spirits and devoted much time and energy to these lesser-evolved spiritual species. Like Leadbeater and Gardner, he assumed a sister system of evolution: Just as on the human line of evolution the life works up through the mineral, vegetable, and animal stages, and then moves on into the human kingdom and becomes an individual human being , so the stream of nature-spirit life evolves likewise through the mineral and vegetable and on to the animal world, where it is associated with the smaller birds, fishes and insects." (Hodson, p. 83) In his system, "The lesser fairies ... are about at the level of our domestic animals," while higher spiritual life "finally passes through these forms to that of the sylph, after which stage it is able to act as an individualized `angel'" (p. 83). Cultural anthropology merges with Darwinian biology in his examination and classification of species, while the language of ethnology infiltrates his text. Lowly moor gnomes, for example, have a consciousness that is "ultra primitive and very limited. ... The tribe is animated almost entirely by group consciousness and herd instinct" (pp. 43-44). In contradistinction, flower fairies are sufficiently evolved to be aware of their special work and to actually enjoy it. Hodson clairvoyantly watches biological processes in action as "small sub-microscopic etheric creatures" (p. 15) make a plant bulb grow, absorbing something from the atmosphere, reentering the tissue of the plant, and discharging what they have absorbed. He is even present at the rapid "evolution" of a group of highly imitative Brownies, although he candidly explains that he is unable to ascertain precisely what natural function they fulfill.     Thus, for occultists, at least, Darwin did not empty the world of nature; instead, he peopled it with other if invisible species. The world the occultists created--or perceived--was as richly teeming with life as the visible realm. And they truly believed that the progress of science would reveal the actual existence of the tribes and species they described. Like Schweinfurth's Congo Pygmies, once thought mythical but newly discovered and proved actual, fairies too would be located. Like X-ray beams, they only seemed intangible. The supernatural, affirmed occultists, would prove to be the natural not understood.     However, although believers in spiritual evolution insisted on both the actuality and omnipresence of the elfin people, they saw them as small, even microscopic in size, and categorized them as subhuman, lower creatures in traits and functions. Thus, the fairies were further diminished. While the Cottingley pictures and the publicity about them created a temporary fairy fever in the early 1920s, engendering other fairy photographs and inducing reports of sightings in wild New Zealand and remote British Columbia (in the latter region local elfin colonies were "bright blue" in the hop fields and "silvery green elsewhere"), in the long run they drove the fairies and the serious study of them underground. The more conservative among the folklore scholars shied away from disputation. The Folk-Lore Society, already weakened by internal strife about psychic phenomena, refused to comment on them. Narrowing the great debate on fairy origins and existence to a question of whether specific photographs were fraudulent, proffering pictures that invalidated private or heroic images of spirits, rendering the elfin tribes as psychic insect life, they trivialized and diminished the elfin races almost beyond recognition. When the "little people" next emerged, their origins were different. They were small green creatures from another planet who visit earth in close encounters of a different kind.     But in the interim, from the 1840s till the 1920s, the elfin peoples had a surprisingly large impact on the society that witnessed, studied, painted, dramatized, and wrote about them. The Victorian study of fairy lore acts as an excellent reflector of both the dominant ideas and the concealed anxieties of the era. The specific areas and problems in fairy faith and fairy lore that preoccupied Victorian folklorists and believers are revelations of social and cultural concerns perhaps shown elsewhere, but never in such sharp relief. Concerns about change and growth in children, about the status of women in marriage and divorce, about the discovery of new and alien racial groups, and about the sources of evil, occult and natural, are all revealed in the lore the Victorians chose to emphasize and how they "read" and used it.

Table of Contents

Introduction Greetings from Another World Romantic Rediscoveriesp. 3
1 On the Origins of Fairiesp. 33
2 """"Come Away Thou Human Child"""" Abductions, Change, and Changelingsp. 59
3 """"East of the Sun and West of the Moon"""" Victorians and Fairy Bridesp. 89
4 Little Goblin Men on Dwarfs and Pygmies, Racial Myths and Mythic Racesp. 117
5 The Faces of Evil Fairies, Mobs, and Female Crueltyp. 149
6 Farewell to the Fairiesp. 185
Notesp. 213
Works Citedp. 235
Indexp. 251

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