A fairy is a type of mythological being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural.
Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and having magical powers. Their origins are less clear in the folklore, being some form of angel, or a species completely independent of humans or angels. Folklorists have suggested that their actual origin lies in a conquered race living in hiding, or in religious beliefs that lost currency with the advent of Christianity.
Although in modern culture fairies are often depicted as young, sometimes winged, females of small stature, they originally were depicted much differently as tall, radiant, angelic beings or short, wizened trolls. Diminutive fairies of one kind or another have been recorded for centuries, but occur alongside the human sized beings. These have been depicted as ranging in size from very tiny up to the size of a human child. Even with these small fairies, however, their small size may be magically assumed rather than constant.
Wings, while common in Victorian and later artwork of fairies, are very rare in the folklore. Even very small fairies flew with magic, sometimes flying on plant stems or the backs of birds. Nowadays, fairies are often depicted with ordinary insect wings or butterfly wings.
One common theme found among the Celtic nations describes a race of diminutive people who had been driven into hiding by invading humans. They came to be seen as another race, or possibly spirits, and were believed to live in an Otherworld that was variously described as existing underground, in hidden hills, many of which were believed to be ancient burial mounds.
In popular folklore, flint arrowheads from the Stone Age were attributed to fairies. Their green clothing and underground homes were credited to their need to hide and camouflage themselves from hostile humans, and their use of magic a necessary skill for combating those with superior weaponry.
Perhaps some of the most well known fairies were made by Disney. Tinkerbell was the adaptation from the Peter Pan stories by J.M. Barrie. The Fairy Godmother in Disney’s version of Cinderella and the fairies in Sleeping Beauty are another example. In Carlo Collodi’s tale Pinocchio, a wooden boy receives the gift of real life from a fairy described as a lovely maiden with azure hair, who was dubbed the Blue Fairy in Disney’s adaptation.