writing a fantasy novel: the fairy – seelie and unseelie types

When I began writing my first book (now a forgotten dusty thing deep inside a drawer) a lot of the characters were fee. Because my knowledge about fee ran as far as tinkle bell and the fairy godmother, every time I thought about a character and wanted to give him/her fee names and qualities, I had to research the internet. Not surprisingly, as the characters added up, I realized I had compiled an impressive list of fairies – along with other preternatural creatures we can talk about in the future – and today I’m going to share that list with you. Keep in mind that everything I’ve compiled was extracted from various sources from the internet, however, I’ve added my personal opinion to those, so you might not find some of the specific features anywhere else.
Also known as the fee, or Aos Sí ) pronounced ayos-shee), meaning people of the mounds; or daoine sidhe, meaning people of the fairy mound; or tuatha de danann, meaning people of the goddess Danu; are a myth folk believed to have originated from the island of Ireland where they had once ruled before retreating into the mountains, to a parallel universe.
In some folklore (Scottish) fee are classified into two categories, the Seelie court (meaning lucky, happy or blessed) and the Unseelie court (meaning misfortuned, unholy).
The Seelie are usually the pretty of the fairy folk, the ones depicted as mostly human like, with iridescent skin or pointed ears or pointed teeth. They are benevolent creatures, fond of pranks and mischief’s, though no less dangerous.
The Unseelie on the other hand are the ones more hideous or deformed, or the malicious beings of the fairies. Sometimes they are depicted as perfect, beautiful beings, though most certainly they are the villains; malevolent beings of a dark or cold land.
Sometimes, the Seelie are called the summer or day court, while the unseelie are called the winter or night court.
Though the fee (Fay) are believed to be immortals, iron can kill them. There is a legend about a sword and a spear that were used to hunt the fee.
Types of fee:
Throughout the years, in various fiction novels and movies the same fee type can be classified as either Seelie or unseelie, depending on the role it plays. For example, an ogre – like Shrek – can be ugly, originally evil, but ultimately made good.
Many of the types are common, famous folk of our childhood, like the pixie tinkle bell from Peter pan. A lot of the fantasy books I’ve read use varying descriptions of a cast the author made up to better fit a role in the story, while keeping the more distinct characteristics unchanged.
in front of every cast I added where that lore originated from In case I needed the reference one day, though as I was sprucing the list to make it more accurate and presentable, I noted that origins can vary, depending on the author.
Note: Some of the fairies mentioned below aren’t restrictively from Irish or Scottish lore, but lore’s of a different culture and origin. Some are:
Paracelsus, (Philippus Von Hohenheim) prophetic healer of the Germans.
Celtic (though I didn’t know back then) are a group of nations – six – that include: Scotland, Ireland, Cornwell, Wales, Brittany and Isle of Man.
Welsh – Wales
Greek – I’ve added this one because a lot of the Greek mythology characters have been used in a way or another in conjunction/interjection with fairies. Though the list below is in no way complete, I’ve tried to cover most of them. Feel free to suggest any I’ve missed.
Note: they aren’t in any order since I added them as I went and left it that way to keep it more original.

– Pixies (from Celtic – Irish and Scottish) these are the ultimate fairy stereotypes. They are small – seven to eleven inches tall – winged, creatures that are usually capable of magic. They are usually described with iridescent wings, long ears and sharp teeth. Their moods can be determined by the color of the powder that trails after them as they fly.
– Leprechauns (from Irish) are a type of elf that makes shoes for the fairy folk. He usually is a bearded male, dressed in a green suit and a hat. In fiction, if a human captures a leprechaun he is granted a wish. Typically, his crock of gold can be found at the end of the rainbow, and either the person who finds is gifted with it or has to fight the leprechaun for it.
– Goblins (north Western Europe) are a type of dwarfs that live in grottos, woodlands or underground caves. They are short, monstrous beings, usually depicted as evil, though that also depends on the story’s origin. They usually have magical powers.
– Centaurs (from Greek, Irish) Half horse, half man. A centaur has the body of a horse and the upper body of a handsome man – torso, arms, neck, head. They are powerful, fast, wise, noble and mighty creatures.
– Banshee (from Irish) also called the Bean-sidhe and the Irish death messenger (from Celtic). Usually is an old woman or a lovely young lady whose wails/keening forewarns the death of a member of the household.
– Elves (from Norse myths, Celtic) elves – in some stories- are a type of dwarfs with healing powers and ritual magic and are solitary by nature. The dark elves also known as svartalfars are evil beings that live underground. In some lore’s to call an elf a dwarf is to insult him.
– Boggart (from North West Europe) can be evil or kind spirits, depending on the story teller. Also depending on the teller, boggarts can be either household spirits or malevolent beings inhabiting a marsh. If they are depicted as household spirits, they are usually loyal, placing the welfare of others above their own.
– Dwarfs (from Celtic, Norse) are solitary, short fairies with very little to no magic, though they are very strong, have high endurance and are clever and mischievous.
– Gnomes (Germanic, Greek) are miniature spirit/fairies that guards mines or treasures and live in the earth. Typically they are cunning male, bearded and wear Phrygian hats. (Note: gnomes are believed to have originated from Paracelsus in the 16th century)
– Unicorns (from Greek, European) are large horse-like or goat-like creatures usually white in color with a large spiraling horn on its forehead that is said to have healing powers.
– Brownies (from Scottish) are usually friendly fairy spirits that can attach to a household or a member of the family. Typically brownies are smallish in stature, with human-like feature who wear rags. People with a brownie in a household leave food as a gift or gratitude for its services. If such gift is ever considered payment, the brownie will leave and never come back. Some fictions classify brownies as types of sprites or goblins.
– Sylphs (From Paracelsus) are elemental or spirit/fairies of the air.
– Hob (from welsh) are friendly, household fairies who do odd chores in the homes of sleeping people. Unlike the brownies, if you offer a hob clean or new clothes, the hobs leave and don’t come back.
– Hobgoblins (from Europe) are hairy, smaller and nicer spirits than the goblins – though still mischievous spirits of a household, but they are not as friendly as the hobs. Depending on the fiction, hobgoblins can be scary, dangerous or friendly toward a person. In some stories, like Puck in shakespear’s midsummer night’s dream, the hobgoblin helps around a household doing chores while the household is asleep.
– Nymphs (originally from Greek mythology but later integrated in Celtic – Scottish and Irish) Nymphs are spirits that inhabits the mountains, water, trees and seas. Sometimes they are only elemental forces, or benevolent spirits that can become fierce defenders of their lands. Types of nymphs include: Oreads – nymphs of the mountains – Dryads (also known as hamadryads, alseids, meliae) are nymphs of the trees, groves, woodlands – naiads are nymphs of the waters, like the spring and lakes – Nereids are sea nymphs.
– Ogre (found no specific origins here) are hideous, brutish and cruel beings and usually disproportional giants with abominable, grotesque features. Typically, when an ogre is depicted as evil in a fiction story, it hunts humans for food.
– Sprites (from Celtic) there are two types of sprites, the water and the tree sprites, and they usually are depicted as harmless spirits.
– Will-o’-the-wisp (from Scottish, English, Irish) the souls of the dead that take spectral light forms, usually growing smaller when travelers approach it.
– Púca (from Celtic – welsh, Irish, Scottish) a spirit that brings either fortune or misfortune, depending on the situation and the respect one gives it. It can take many forms of animals and human, though when human shaped it retains some animal aspects, like long ears, tails, claws.
– Selkie (from Irish, Scottish, Icelandic and Faroese) a celki is an aquatic being in the form of a seal that can shed its skin to become human. Usually, in its human shape, a celki is seductive and appealing and very often irresistible to humans. In fiction, to capture a celki is to hide its skin somewhere the celki can never find. Tragedies usually are told around celkies, where once the celki finds its skin it returns to the ocean and leaves all its beloved humans – husband, wife, children – behind and never returns. It’s said that a celki would die if the skin is burned or destroyed, or because of its dual nature, it can never stay in one place at a time lest it goes insane.
– Dullahan (from Irish myths) is a headless rider who keeps his head under his arm and uses a spinal cord for a whip. If a dullahan comes to a house it means someone will die.
– Kelpie – (from Scottish myths) are water spirits that can usually shape shift. Many describe the kelpies as aquatic shape shifters that usually take the form of a large horse and preys on men. Few describe the kelpie as a descendant of the each uisge.
– Each uisge – (from Scottish myths) I found very little about this one, except that he’s a water spirit that can take the form of a horse. Usually, if mounted, the rider can’t dismount, and the each uisge returns to water and drowns the rider. Sometimes the each uisge can take the shape of a man and is harmless in this form.
– Fionn (from Irish) a giant who ate the salmon of knowledge and lead the fianna army into wars. He was rumored to be 52 feet tall.
– Trolls (from Norse and Scandinavian) were recruited by fairies to fight the humans. Usually live under bridges.

Note: Some of the characteristics above were added by me, according to what I needed at the time. Like I mentioned above, the rules of fantasy are flexible and if you make the fairy beautiful, mischievous but benevolent, you can make them Seelie. Make them ugly/beautiful malicious beings, and you have your unseelie.
Or let your imagination fly and set your own rules!

Jina Bazzar


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s