This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
The fadas were fairy ladies who became the spouses of men, and lived with them in great felicity; but when a husband discovered the secret of their nature, or became unfaithful, he either died instantly or led a wretched life for the remainder of his days. The fees, lutins, or gobelins of the north of France are similar to the kobolds and nisses of other nations; The fees are small and handsome, dance in circles or fairy rings by night, haunt solitary springs and grottoes, mount and gallop strange horses, sitting upon the neck and tying together locks of the mane to form stirrups, always bring luck by their presence, and, like the fairies of most countries, were believed to preside at births, to love young children, to give them presents, and to steal them away, leaving instead their own fairy offspring, which were called changelings, and were unusually beautiful in countenance but evil in propensities. In the 12th and 13th centuries the forest of Brezeliande, near Quentin in Brittany, was thought to contain the tomb of Merlin, and to be a chief seat of the fairies. The white ladies were Norman fairies, and often malignant. They were supposed to be attached to certain great families, in whose affairs they interfered, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil.
The white lady of Avenel in Scott's romance of The Monastery is an instance of this kind. The lutins or goblins were playful and malicious elves, pinching children and maidens, twisting their hair into inexplicable knots when they were asleep, and delighting to perplex peasants and to bring them into difficulty. One of the chief articles of accusation against the maid of Orleans was that she resorted to a fountain of the fairies to see her visions; and in Brittany there are fountains still regarded by the natives as sacred to the fairies, and believed to sometimes change into gold or diamond the hand that is inserted into them.-The Eddas of the Scandinavians tell of alls that are either whiter than the sun and live on earth, or blacker than pitch, and live under ground; and of dvergar, who are diminutive beings dwelling in rocks and hills, and skilful workmen in gold, silver, and iron. The alfs live still in the imagination of the peasantry of Scandinavia, and are distinguished as either white or black. The white alfs are the good elves, who dwell in the air, dance on the grass, and have when they show themselves a handsome human form. The black alfs are the evil elves, who frequently inflict injury on mankind.
The elves are believed to have kings, and to celebrate weddings and enjoy banqueting, and singing. The Norwegians call the elves huldrqfolk, and their music hul-draslaat. There is also a tune called the elf king's tune, which is well known, but not sung or played; for as soon as it begins both old and young, and even inanimate objects, are impelled to dance, and the player cannot stop unless he manages to play the tune back-ward. The Danes call the elves ellefolk, and believe that they live in elle moors. An elf man is an old man with a low-crowned hat. The elf woman is young and fair in front, but behind she is hollow like a dough trough; and she has an instrument which when she plays on it ravishes the hearts of young men. The more usual appellation of the dwarfs is troll or trold, and they are represented as living either in single families or in large communities inside of hills and mounds. Their character seems to have gradually sunk down to the level of the peasantry. They are regarded as rich, obliging, and neighborly, but they have a sad propensity for stealing. The nisses are domestic fairies of Norway, and are fond of 4. 7 frolicking by moonlight and of driving in sledges in the winter.
Every church had its niss, who was then called a kirkegrim; it looked after propriety of manners and punished misconduct. The rivers and lakes are inhabited by necks, stromkarls, and other beings similar to mermen and mermaids. They are wonderful musicians, and when they play on their harps all nature has to dance.-The Germans believed in dwarfs and elves, wild women, kobolds, and nixes or water spirits. The dwarfs were also known as the still people and the little people, and had their abodes underground and in the clefts of mountains. They visited the surface of the earth only by night, and could render themselves invisible and pass through rocks and walls. They were generally benevolent. The beings called "little wights" inhabited southern Germany. They are only a few inches in stature, and look like old men with long beards, dressed like miners, with lanterns and tools. They announce a death in a family by knock-ing three times. The wild women are beautiful, and live in the mountain Wunderberg, on the moor near Salzburg. Kobolds assist in the household, and love to play tricks on the servants. The miner's kobold reveals valuable veins and protects the virtuous.
The nixes inhabit lakes and rivers; the male is like a man, old and long-bearded, has green teeth, and always wears a green hat; the female appears sometimes as a beautiful maiden, but often in a body terminating in the form of a fish or of a horse. They have magnificent dwellings under the water, to which they love to entice handsome mortals. They comb their golden locks on sunny days, sitting on rocks and trees.-In Ireland and Scotland fairies were believed to shoot at cattle with arrows headed with flint, and thus to bewitch them; these small arrowheads are known to the country people and antiquaries as elf arrows. The elf lire was the ignis fatuus, and other luminous points on moors and heaths were called fairy sparks. . A mole or defect on a person was a fairy nip or an elvish mark, and a matted lock of hair in the neck an elf lock. The Gaelic fairies are very handsome, are usually attired in green, and dance, lend and borrow, and make shoes very rapidly. The Gaels call them daoine shi or men of peace, and their habitations shians or tomhams, which are like turrets, and consist of masses of stone. Some mortals have been among them, and after banqueting with them they fell asleep and awoke after a hundred years.
The brownie and kelpie of the Highlands seek to decoy unwary people to ride on them when they appear in the form of horses, and plunge with them into the neighboring loch or river.-The fairies of England correspond with those of the Scandinavians and Germans, but the fairies of the English people are somewhat different from those of the poets. The popular fairies were either rural elves, inhabiting woods, fields, mountains, and caverns; or house spirits, usu- ally called hobgoblins or Robin Goodfellows. The fairies of the "Faerie Queen" of Spenser and those of the Midsummer Night's Dream are not the same. The former are stately beings, typical of the moral virtues, with traits borrowed from the Italian fairy mythology, dwelling in enchanted castles, surrounded by courts of knights and ladies, and ruling over extensive kingdoms. Shakespeare adopted the elves and pixies of popular super-sition, with their diminutive stature, fondness for dancing, love of cleanliness, and child-stealing propensities, formed them into a community ruled over by Oberon and Titania or Queen Mab, and gave immortality to that merry wanderer of the night," Puck, alias Robin Goodfellow, alias Hobgoblin. The "Mad Pranks and Merry Jests of Robin Good-fellow (printed by the Percy society, 1841) was originally published in the age of Shakespeare, and furnishes the first records of this mischievous son of a fairy, who "from hag-bred Merlin's time had been famous for his pranks.
Corresponding to him are the Ru-bezahl or Number Nip of German fairy lore, the Cluricaune of Ireland, the Eulenspiegel of Germany, and the Howleglass or Owlespiegle of Scotland.-The North American Indians have many quaint fairy legends, which have been collected and narrated by Schoolcraft; and it appears from Mitford'sTales of Old Japan" that the Japanese have numerous books of fairy stories, in which the fox plays an important part. These stories are mostly for children. -The earliest collection of European fairy stories in prose was the Italian Notti piacevoli of Straparola (Venice, 1550). The best Italian collection is the Pentamerone of Giambat-tista Basile (Naples, 1G37; translated from the Neapolitan by W. E. Taylor, London, 1856); it is full of learned allusions and keen satire, and designed for the amusement only of grown persons. Near the end of the 17th century the Contes des fees of Perrault and Madame d'Aulnoy, and their successors, gave vogue to fairy stories throughout Europe, written chiefly for the instruction and amusement of children.
The Arabian Nights' Entertainments," introduced into Europe by Galland about the beginning of the 18th century, contributed much to their popularity, and was quickly followed by various imitations of the Arabian, Persian, Turkish, and Mongol tales. The "Tales of the Genii" by James Ridley, the Fables et contes indiens of Langles, and the later Contes chinois of Remusat, are examples. The best later imitations are some of the tales of Tieck, Musaus, and Novalis, and especially of La Motte Fouque, and the romance of the caliph Vathek," by Beckford. Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales hold a high rank in this species of literature.-The best works on the subject are Keightley's "Fairy Mythology (enlarged ed., 1850); Scott's "Essay on the Fairy Superstition," in the"Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border;" Croker's Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland" (1825); Dalyell's Darker Superstitions of Scotland" (1838);Russian Popular Tales," translated from the German of Dietrich, with an introduction by Grimm (London, 1857); Dasent'sPopular Tales from the Norse" (1859); Strahlheim's Sagenschatz aller Volker der alien Welt (Frankfort, 1862); Braun's Naturgeschichte der Sage (2 vols., Munich, 1864-'5); and Kremer's Ueber die sudarabische Sage (Leipsic, 1866).