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I am trying to decide on a location as the setting for a fairy-lore related MG fantasy novel. As I understand it, different places have differing oral traditions, so in turn many of the fairy tales we know today are associated with certain places or regions – for example (and not limited to fairies), we think of elves as Celtic, trolls as Scandinavian, and vampires as Transylvanian.

Thinking of the UK, Ireland and Brittany and their fairies, are different regions associated with different types of fairies? Or are there regions that are more intimately related to fairies than others? Is there, so to speak, a "map of Celtic fairy lore"?

I know this information can be deduced from the sources given in folkloric collections, but it would be a Ph.D.'s worth of work to extract that, so I admit I shy away from doing it. But maybe someone has done it, or it is something a native of the UK or France would know?

(I'm not asking about individual fairy tales that mention a specific place, such as the Eildon Hills in Thomas of Erceldoune, but about areas where certain types of stories are more prevalent.)

  • Do you mean generally, like "Leprechauns in Ireland, Kobolds in Germany," or locally, like "sprites in the Midlands, brownies in London"? – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Mar 15 '16 at 9:51
  • Well, hello @LaurenIpsum! Nice to see you here :-) As I understand it, some folklorists categorize fairies into different types. E.g. K. M. Briggs, in her analysis of 16th century English sources, differentiates fairies into four types: 1) trooping fairies, 2) hobgoblins, 3) nature fairies, 4) giants. Yeats differentiates trooping and solitary faries. Others add fairy midwives, fairy changelings, fairy lovers and so on to the bunch. I assume, not all of these appear everywhere. I'm interested where (within the UK and Brittany, that is "celtic lands") which kind of fairy can be found. – user1324 Mar 15 '16 at 19:00
  • Nice to see you too! :) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Mar 15 '16 at 19:45
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I am no expert but I think that while some are geographical, most are based on pre-existing myths.

Most Celtic faeries are linked to Greco-roman nature spirits and gods. For instance La Dame du Lac is probably a type of Naiad or Limnade. The Lares gave all domestic fae and other faeries.

Local legends, like La Bête de Gèvaudan, one of a kind monster in a specific area, was generalized into the lycanthropy desease and became international as the werewolf legend (though there are some possible mentions in Greco-Roman cultures).

Wikipedia has a good site for nymphs. While they are female by definition, just think of them as genderless nature spirits and you have most faeries.

: • Land nymphs • Alseides (glens, groves) • Auloniades (pastures) • Leimakides or Leimonides (meadows) • Napaeae (mountain valleys, glens) • Oreads (mountains, grottoes), also Orodemniades • Wood and plant nymphs • Anthousai (flowers) • Dryades (trees) • Hamadryades or Hadryades - Wikipedia

For instance for Welsh fae, you have:

: 1. the ellyllon, or the elves; 2. the coblynau, or the mine fairies; 3. the bwbachod, or the household fairies; 4. the gwragedd annwn, or the fairies of the lakes and streams; 5. the gwyllion, or the mountain fairies. - Celtic Mythology

You can see a clear correlation between that and nymphs and Lares.

You mention banshee and pooka, they are linked to more specialized Lares, the Manes (Lares Di Inferi). For Manes see this Wikipedia link. For Banshees I found in The fairy-faith in Celtic countries by Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz:

: M. A. Lefevre shows that the Roman Lares, so frequently compared to house-haunting fairies, are in reality quite like the Gaelic Banshee… - Banshee Lares

Although they are global, if you just want to give it the flavor of a specific culture, just use words used by that culture for various nature spirits. Most people know that Sluaghs are not likely to cohabit with Kitsunes and Efrits.

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The above answers concentrate on "species" of fairies, but it is also worth noting that different regions tend to have different ways of understanding Faery & fairy folk in general. For instance, in Brittany they are strongly associated with the Dead; in Ireland, with races of previous inhabitants. In Ireland they are likely to wear green; in Wales the Tylwyth Teg are more likely to be wearing red.

There is a book called "The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries" by W. Y.Evans-Wentz, written in the early 20th century which deals with this. It must be said that it is, in some ways, a flawed work & that some of his field work; interviewing people in different regions, was bogus as he employed correspondents; but it was a PHD thesis, it covers your area of interest & afaik it is still in print.

I recommend it, it's a good read.

Personally I am wary of making too many associations between ideas from the Classical, "Celtic" & Northern European cultures. Popular folklore studies is still rather dominated by ideas from the classical world because all those Edwardian ethnographers had received an education in the classics & it was all that they had to compare things with. Evans-Wentz can still be recommended because he took the source material on its own terms & was open minded about it's origins & meaning.

If you look at the source material, many "Celtic Fairies" don't seem to be what we would call "nature spirits." Spirits of place perhaps.

  • This is aiming at where I want to go. (The stronger association with the dead in Brittany might be a result of the earlier christianization.) – user1324 Mar 21 '16 at 11:10
  • Really appreciate the fact that you put the word species in quotes. – user62 Mar 21 '16 at 13:21
  • I'm adding a link to an entry on the tylwyth teg (Welsh fairies) from Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop. Is that the sort of thing you were looking for? He's very specific about their context. – solsdottir Mar 27 '16 at 16:26
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The Encyclopedia Mythica at http://www.pantheon.org/ has geographical sections. The Celtic section is probably a good place to start. It's the reverse of your original question, in that it lists many fairies and you have to click to see where each one might be associated with, but that might give you some general ideas and you can spread out your research from there.

  • Hmm, I'm not really sure this is what I'm looking for. For one, this appears to list individuals (the god Dagda) rather than classes (e.g. changelings). For another, I could not find even typical Irish fairies such as the Púca or Banshee in there, there isn't even an article on the sídhe. Maybe I'm searching wrong (and the site search does not work for me, it returns a 404). Could you post a direct link to what you would consider an example for an entry that you think would help me? – user1324 Mar 16 '16 at 5:38
  • @what You may be right. I recalled the site because I had used it in conjunction with a different project. I skimmed entries briefly before posting here and I saw some geographical notations, but looking again, it's clear that those aren't "this fae lived here." Sorry it wasn't more useful. :( – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Mar 16 '16 at 10:07

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