Tinker Bell. The Fairy Godmother. Puck. The creepy one that steals your teeth.
When you think of fairies, you think of a specific story or movie where a fairy is a major part of helping the main hero or character get through the adventure. But how do you envision a fairy in your head?
Do fairies have pointed ears? Fairies, elves, and other fae creatures are all depicted as having pointed ears, or ears shaped like leaves. In the last few hundred years, the way fairies have been shown in sculptures, pictures, and literature have had them smaller in form and with ears dainty and pointed.
Why Pointy Ears Though?
But why the pointed ear? Well, to show that the being is different. When a fairy uses his expanding magic and is the same size as a human, you still need to be able to point one out. A good way to do that is the pointy ear.
Have you watched The Santa Clause and tried to spot all of the elves spying throughout the movie? Go back and do it, it’s fun.
Like with elves, orcs, pixies, or hobbits, the pointy ear is a dead giveaway. The whole fantasy realm loves a pointy ear. It’s a way to distinguish the magical from the non. It also seems to give them super hearing powers. We want that.
The First Pointed Eared Friend
In early Greek and Roman times, they gave pointy ears to evil, devil-type creatures to show they weren’t human. They were mostly put on monsters so that you could tell who the villain was.
In the 1700s a version closer to what we know today was introduced. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, painted by Joseph Noel Paton, you can see fairies with pointed ears and cute wings.
It was in the Victorian Era that we started to see the variety of ethereal fairies that we know and love.
In the early 1900s, we see Santa Claus surrounded by the little fairy creatures that we now call his elves. It’s also around this time, maybe slightly earlier, that fairies start to get smaller and smaller in stature.
It was in 1937, when the master J.R.R. Tolkien put out The Hobbit, that we see the evolution of fae creatures and their pointed ears.
Then of course, most famously, in 1953, when Walt Disney put out Peter Pan and we met the adorable and spunky Tinker Bell.
Why Are Fairies So Small?
Fairies are usually shown as small creatures. They have the body of a human but can be small enough to perch on a human’s shoulder, like Tink in Peter Pan, or the fairies in the amazing 80s film Labyrinth.
Fairies can be hard to spot if they want to blend in. Most fairies have the magic to expand their shape and be normal-sized to humans. If they put their hair down to where you can’t see their ears, then you would have a hard time picking one out.
Some Basic Fairy Rules
Like with all mythical creatures, fairies have some basic rules to follow.
- A fairy is born when a baby laughs
The fairies keep their population up by making babies laugh. Fairies are seen as good and helpful these days, so them being made out of an adorable chubby baby belly laugh makes sense.
- Saying you don’t believe can kill one
Fairies can’t survive when you say you don’t believe in one. Just like when a kid “gets too old” to believe in Santa Claus and he loses some of his magic, saying that you don’t believe in this magical being can cause one to fall dead.
- Clapping can bring one back to life
If Peter Pan taught us anything, it’s that clapping can bring Tink back from the brink of death. Believing in Tink really brings her back, but the Robin Williams version of Hook really stuck, so clap to be safe.
The History of Fairy
Well, the actual word fairy can be found as far back as the Pagans and Christian origins, though not as the bright and positive creatures we know. Then, they used the pointy-eared sprite as a symbol of the devil or an evil spirit.
Fairies are often drawn or described as having a human body and pointy ears. They can have wings, though they don’t always. They do always have a type of magic. Fairies are often tricksters or jokers.
It’s often also referred to as the land of the fae, where all mythical and magical creatures come from.
The legend and folklore of all of the creatures with pointy ears would take too long to go through, even though it would be really fun to do. Like, really fun. Another post perhaps.
The actual word fairy can also be meant to represent sprites, elves, nymphs, pixies, or other creatures that have magical powers. It depends on the time frame, the author, and the description given. The main thing is that it is a magical creature.