The legend of fairies

The legend of fairies

Read a text about the legend of fairies to practise and improve your reading skills.

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Reading text

(1) Fairies today are the stuff of children's stories, little magical people with wings, often shining with light. Typically pretty and female, like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, they usually use their magic to do small things and are mostly friendly to humans.

(2) We owe many of our modern ideas about fairies to Shakespeare and stories from the 18th and 19th centuries. Although we can see the origins of fairies as far back as the Ancient Greeks, we can see similar creatures in many cultures. The earliest fairy-like creatures can be found in the Greek idea that trees and rivers had spirits called dryads and nymphs. Some people think these creatures were originally the gods of earlier, pagan religions that worshipped nature. They were replaced by the Greek and Roman gods, and then later by the Christian God, and became smaller, less powerful figures as they lost importance.

(3) Another explanation suggests the origin of fairies is a memory of real people, not spirits. So, for example, when tribes with metal weapons invaded land where people only used stone weapons, some of the people escaped and hid in forests and caves. Further support for this idea is that fairies were thought to be afraid of iron and could not touch it. Living outside of society, the hiding people probably stole food and attacked villages. This might explain why fairies were often described as playing tricks on humans. Hundreds of years ago, people actually believed that fairies stole new babies and replaced them with a 'changeling' – a fairy baby – or that they took new mothers and made them feed fairy babies with their milk.

(4) While most people no longer believe in fairies, only a hundred years ago some people were very willing to think they might exist. In 1917, 16-year-old Elsie Wright took two photos of her cousin, nine-year-old Frances Griffiths, sitting with fairies. Some photography experts thought they were fake, while others weren't sure. But Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, believed they were real. He published the original pictures, and three more the girls took for him, in a magazine called The Strand, in 1920. The girls only admitted the photos were fake years later in 1983, created using pictures of dancers that Elsie copied from a book.

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Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Mon, 18/10/2021 - 19:55


In my country, there is about or more 7 crore gods. Every cost regards gods. Many gods have powers to disappear when they seem dangerous 😂.

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Submitted by iEdd on Thu, 22/07/2021 - 17:58

In my conutry there are several magical stories. For instance, that one of the Cry woman: A mother who lost her children and goes around the land crying and looking for them, confusing other women's children and taking them. Another one is the "evil creature" that killed cows, sheeps and horses absorbing their blodd until death.

Submitted by Rano on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 15:06

Iam not believe that types stores, but lam wash their moves for fun.

Submitted by Asni on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 00:00

As far as I remember, there was no story of little magical people in my culture. But, the text brought back some memories about an imaginary creature adults used to scare kids when they played around, behave badly or refused to go to bed. It was called 'Al Ghol', described as an enormous monster that fed on kids who didn't behave themselves or refused to obey.

Submitted by AulianFr on Mon, 01/03/2021 - 17:15

It's not magical but rather terrifying. I forgot the name of the story but it's about little people that roam around the forest in east Sumatra, Indonesia. These people are thought to be the reincarnation of the persons who died of some tragic events that I believe will be permitted to be mentioned here. It is said that they often walk around the wood gathering some food or sometimes also chasing some innocent children that haven't gotten into their homes late at night. It's weird, I know. But I think this story was made to scare children so that they wouldn't come out of their house at night.

Submitted by Abrarhussain on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 00:15

In my culture there is a similar story like the Cinderella. The Cinderella is a quite young lady who loses her mother and has many tests in her life, but has help from a fairy.

Submitted by Alec Villa on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 17:49

Can anybody explain to me "They were replaced ... by the Christian God"? Not quite grammatically but the concept. Thank you very much.

Hello Alec Villa,

The idea is that creatures which are part of legends or fairy tales might be what remains of earlier religions. In other words, once people worshipped nature spirits as gods. New religions (Greek and Roman religions) came to dominate so people stopped worshipping their old gods but did not completely forget them. Instead they became lesser figures in other stories, such as nymphs and dryads. As new religions (in this case, the Christian religion) became dominant, the dryads and nymphs became less important, the stories about them changed and they became faires.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dmytro on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 11:22

I cannot remember any small creature from fairytales in my culture but when it comes to that I think of dwarves. Even though they are usually depicted in a negative light, I find them very nice.