Spellbound: Reading and Writing about Fairies - a guest post by Paula Harrison - Nosy Crow Skip to content
Posted by Paula, May 9, 2013

Spellbound: Reading and Writing about Fairies – a guest post by Paula Harrison

Today’s guest post is by Paula Harrison, author of the Rescue Princesses books, and a brand new series for older readers, Faerie Tribes, which launched this month with publication of The Crystal Mirror.

About a year and a half ago, I had one of those odd moments when an idea just drops into your head.

Fairies live among us.

But I wasn’t thinking about wee folk that collect children’s teeth and leave a coin under their pillow. These fairies were indistinguishable from humans. In fact they were deliberately hiding in plain sight. Just imagine if the lady living opposite, who loves growing her own vegetables, was a fairy and you never knew?

Developing the world of Faerie Tribes made me think about the different representations of these magical folk in children’s books. One of the first fairies I remember reading about is Silky from Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood. She’s actually described as an elf but I always thought of her as a fairy and if I’m honest, I always wished she was a bit more pro-active in the story. Perhaps I’m being unfair here, as all the characters fall in and out of adventures in the lands at the top of the Faraway Tree without really taking control. Then I discovered J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and found a fairy I could really love in Tinkerbell. She’s spirited and selfish, and will do almost anything to keep Peter to herself.

Our fascination with fairies (or faeries – sometimes known as the fay) has continued into the 21st century with many books for older readers giving a completely different take on them. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer gives you magic combined with technology. Fairies fly around kitted out with all sorts of gadgetry and there’s even a centaur as the technology whizz.

So how did I want to represent the fairies of Skellmore – the village in Faerie Tribes?

I knew from the start that they would belong to different tribes and that Laney, my main character, would be a member of the Mist tribe, even though she doesn’t know it to begin with. Mist faeries draw their power from water and can perform great things with it. Other tribes would draw on their own elemental powers. I wanted them to feel a strong connection to the landscape around them and have a human and a fairy form that they switched between at will.

I also knew that not all of them would be good and that using a faerie’s “dust” (their dead body) would bring the greatest power and the greatest curse of all.

There are lots more children’s books with fairies in that I haven’t covered here. What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments!

Faerie Tribes: The Crystal Mirror is out now – you can read the first chapter here:


Order the book online.