As we head towards St. Patrick's Day, and fanciful images of Leprechauns begin appearing in television commercials and on cocktail napkins, we might pause for a moment to remember the Little People.
Whether you call them Leprechauns, Gnomes, Brownies or Faeries, these mysterious creatures have always been an important part of the folklore of Great Britain and Ireland - and belief in them, has been more persistent than you might think.
In the romantic period of the late 1700s and early 1800s there was a vogue for painting realistic Faerie scenes, and well-known Faeries such as Queen Mab and Puck were often depicted reveling in Faerie rings. Later, with the advent of photography, elaborate hoaxes were attempted.
One of the most notorious of these was the famous Cottingly photographs of 1917. Almost an entire nation was fooled by the convincing images of the two young girls in Yorkshire playing with Gnomes and Fairies in their garden. Even that great detective-storywriter himself - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - considered the matter elementary. He even wrote a book about the incident, and in it, explains his theory about why it is normally so difficult to see Faeries. According to Doyle, like those who are colorblind, it is merely a question of visual frequency. Doyle wrote: "If we could conceive a race of beings which were constructed in material which threw out shorter or longer vibrations, they would be invisible unless we could tune our-selves up or tone them down."
There are some who - while they do not believe Faeries exist today - believe that Faeries did exist in the past. One theory suggests that, due to noise and pollution, the Faeries left the human dimension during the Industrial Revolution. Other still believe they are here, and you can find farmers in Ireland who will toss a small bit of their dinner out the window to feed the little people - or even university professors in Wales who form grass roots organizations to save Fearie trees from demolition by highway builders.
Whether Faeries exist or not - and to be fair, it has never been proven that they do not exist - it is interesting to note that it is only to children that Faeries are said to appear. At the center of this belief is the idea that children know something that we as adults have forgotten. Children, it seems, live in closer proximity to nature and to truth. It is children, then, who know best that there is more to this world than meets the eye.
Copyright 2004 © Kevin Shortsleeve
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