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Death of a Fairy

Every time a child says "I don't believe in fairies" there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.

ATTRIBUTION: J.M. (James Matthew) Barrie (1860-1937), British playwright.
Peter, in Peter Pan, act 1 (performed 1904, published 1928).

Death of a Fairy

Did you ever see a fairy's funeral, madam? said William Blake the eminent British Painter to a lady that happened to sit next to him. 'Never, Sir!' said the lady. I have said Blake, but not before last night.' And he went on to tell how, in his garden he had seen 'a procession of creatures of the size and colour of green and grey grasshoppers, bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which they buried with songs, and then disappeared.

Most people would deny the possibility of a fairy funeral, believing the fairies to have lives co-terminous with this earthly world, or else that theydwindle and disappear in the course of ages, like the small people of Cornwall. Yet here and there people claim, like Blake, to have seen fairy funerals.

A report by Dr Patterson of Armarch Museum tells of a man who once followed a fairy funeral. He was up late at night an heard the convoy coming. He slipped out an' followed them an'they disappeared into Lisletrim Fort ( a triple-ringed fort near Cullyhanna). He heard the noise of them walking plain, but saw none of them.

Kirk in his incomparible work puts a period to fairy lives and mentions funerals. There men travell much abroad, either presaging or aping the dismall or tragicall Actions of some amongst us; and have also many disastorous Doings of their own, as Convocations, Fighting, Gashes, Wounds, and Burialls, both in the Earth and Air. They live much longer than wee; yet die at last, or at least vanish from that State. A little later he says: 'They are not subject to sore Sicknesses, but dwindle and decay at a certain period, all about ane Age.'

The funeral of a genuine Fairy, indeed the Fairy Queen, is described by Hunt in Popular Romances of the West of England. This is s shortened version of his tale. One night a man called Richard was returning home late with a load of fish from St. Ives when he heard the bell of Lelant Church tolling out, with a muffled sound, and saw the light from the windows. He drew near and peered in. The church was brightly lighted, and a crowd of little people were moving along the central aisle, with a bier carried between six of them. The body was uncovered; it was small as the tiniest doll, and of waxen beauty. The mourners were carrying flowering myrtle in their hands, and wearing wreaths of small roses. A little grave had been dug near the altar. The body was lowered into it and the fairies threw their flowers after, crying aloud, 'Our Queen is dead!' When one of the grave diggers threw in a shovelful of earth so dismal a cry arose that Richard echoed it. At once the lights went out, and the fairies rushed past him like a swarm of bees, piercing him with sharp points. Richard fled in terror, and thought himself lucky to have escaped with his life..


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