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Simon Young: Fairies, Earth's Supernatural Humanoids

  • Broadcast in History
Earth Ancients

Earth Ancients


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When Tinker Bell followed Peter Pan to Hollywood in the 1950s, fairies vanished into the realm of child-lore. Yet in 1923 30-yearold J.R.R. Tolkien’s visit to his aunt’s house Bag’s End inspired a story about hedgerowfairies or ‘Hobbits’, and three years earlier Sherlock-Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle published the Cottingley fairy photographs. In Ireland, a generation before, family members had torched a woman to death thinking she was a fairy, while William Butler Yeats met a fairy queen in a coastal cave.

In addition, Magical Folk includes findings from The Fairy Census, the first scholarly survey of modern fairy sightings in Britain and Ireland, demonstrating that the connection with the past continues unbroken. Another new discovery is that fairies travelled across the Atlantic well before Tinker Bell made it onto the silver screen. The most homesick fairies may have been the ones who dunked one Roderick repeatedly in the Atlantic Ocean as they dragged him to Ireland and back to his Canadian home!

Simon Young was awarded a starred First in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic from Cambridge University, as well as the Chadwick Prize for Celtic studies. Since then he has lived in Spain, Ireland and Italy, where teaches at the International Studies Institute Florence. The author of many academic articles, he has written for the Daily Telegraph, History Today, the Spectator, and the Guardian. He previously published The Celtic Revolution (Gibson Square). Ceri Houlbrook is a Researcher at the University of Hertfordshire's History Department, focusing on heritage and archaeology of contemporary folklore.