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Modern fiction about fairies often describes them as being divided into Seelie and Unseelie Courts or Summer and Winter Courts, sometimes Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Courts.

A lot of people seem to believe that this is an established part of fairy legend - when I'm talking to fans of Gothic "real faeries" (as opposed to the child-friendly Enid Blyton kind) they often mention this. But I'm not sure that it actually is any older/more authentic than those things.

Wikipedia says that the idea of Seelie and Unseelie Courts does occasionally appear in Scottish folktales, and that they may have got the idea from Norse mythology, which does, at least sometimes, divide its "elves" ("alfar") into "light elves" and "dark elves". "The Seelie Court" is mentioned in the Scottish ballad Allison Gross, and according to https://britishfairies.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/the-seelie-and-unseelie-courts/ the first record of that ballad is from 1783 and it may be older still.

The Summer and Winter Courts, though, I haven't from a quick look been able to track down any mention of at all other than modern fantasy fiction. I've heard that there's a scholarly theory that the two rival "kings of Annwvyn" in the story of Pwyll Lord of Dyfed in the Mabinogion were meant to represent winter and summer (it's mentioned in the introduction to my copy), but that's only a theory and is not in any way spelt out in the story.

Is there any reference to Summer and Winter Courts in any old folklore?

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  • Crosspost of scifi.stackexchange.com/q/262998/30512
    – Chenmunka
    May 14 at 8:20
  • Can you clarify that, please? Don’t you think “modern fiction about fairies” and “established part of fairy legend” suggest there is such a thing as “established fairy legend/lengendarium” when really, there are various stories about fairy or fairies, without too many common threads? Not to dredge deep in a Comment that isn’t an Answer, and taking Enid’s essays as way off, what, roughly, is “a lot of people?” Isn’t even “Gothic” a solely modern label for a small subset? Doesn’t this - if not all - “modern fiction about fairies” belong squarely in that cross link at SF & Fantasy? May 15 at 14:47
  • Some fair points. (At the same time, many people I talk to seem to think there is a much more established and coherent body of fairy legend than there really is, and that's really the point of the question.) I suppose the dividing line may be more between "intentionally and openly fictional" and "things that people have passed down as supposedly true at some point". As for belonging at SF&F, I'm not asking what's in the modern fiction about fairies, I'm asking about whether anything similar appears in folklore. (Will remove the "if not, who started it".)
    – A. B.
    May 21 at 16:32

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I think it is explicitly spelt out in Pwyll Lord of Dyfed if you speak welsh. Arawn's rivals name is Hafgan. Haf is welsh for summer.

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