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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fairy Donuts are Off Limits

Recently I had written a blog about viewing Fairyland as modern and reassessing our conceptions of it and its inhabitants. Following on that I saw a post by Chas Clifton on his blog at Letters from Hardscrabble Creek 'In the Land of Fairy Don't Eat the Pentagram Pizza' which touched on my blog as well the post by John Beckett that had inspired mine, but Clifton also went further to talk about modern human food in Fairy and suggested "there might be some tempting restaurants".

And that has me thinking, because he makes an excellent point that definitely needs to be brought up. Just as we tend to have an anachronistic view of Fairy itself and those within it, seeing medieval towns and tunic clad, hose wearing people, we may also anachronize the food. Or at least have a very specific idea of what food we'd be offered. And like so many other instances where there can be danger when we let our guard down if we are watching out for the ubiquitous fairy apple to be offered to us by a cloak-clad crone as we walk a dusty road we may unthinkingly take the lemonade offered by the friendly child or the biscotti offered as a free sample in front of a cafe.
And we'll forget that all of these are the exact same delicious trap. 

When we look at folklore it's very clear - and I've discussed before - that eating the food of Fairy is dangerous. It binds a person to the place, either through obligation or transmutation. But when we think of what food we'd be offered what do we imagine? 

Probably not donuts and milkshakes.

I can understand why people tend to have a set idea of what food they'd be offered in Fairy. In the folklore it's often simply called food and that's not helpful. When it is specified, in the Adventures of Connla or the Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, we see apples being mentioned. Not for any Christian symbolism in my opinion, at least not originally, but for older mythic themes of youth and immortality. Apples and the Otherworld have very old connections afterall, to the point that Manannán's realm there is named 'region of apple-trees' [Emain Abhlac]. In Rosetti's poem 'the Goblin Market' the fairy food was fruit of various kinds. It's easy to go with the idea of fruit, and because we have an ingrained view of Fairyland as primitive and existing in our past people tend to naturally picture historic dishes or simple foods. And in fairness you may encounter or hear stories of people being offered that sort of thing; In Cutchin's book 'Trojan Feast' he mentions modern encounters where people were offered berries, pancakes, and milk to name a few. So that does still happen and I don't want to imply it doesn't. 

But just as there are cities to be found in Fairy and modern encounters of fairy beings that look very much like humans but are not* we may also encounter or be offered fairy food that is not what we expect. Personally I find baked goods to be pretty common, especially sweet breads, rather like bread-shaped cakes, and little cakes. I think though that if they were trying to lure a person in they would offer whatever seemed most alluring and innocuous to that person. If you happen to run into a group of the Good People who are trying to trap you they may offer you the prerequisite apple, but they may also offer you chocolate chip cookies just like you loved as a child or invite you to sit down to that aforementioned pizza, which just happens to be your favorite. There was a post on Tumblr that mentioned the Good People using a coffee shop to trap the unwary, where you were fine if you stuck to what you paid for but you were doomed if you accepted anything offered for free - because in Fairy nothing is ever free. 

So always remember my friends, no matter how much you want that donut in Fairy just say no and keep walking on. 

* see Fairy Census entry #22 for one example 


  1. I hope that my comment is not out of context. There is an ancient site near me, Sheean, whenever I visited I became exhausted and so was in the habit of taking two apples with me, one to eat there and one to leave behind for them. This seemed to work. I hope the ode below explains what I learnt.

    If to

    If to Faery is thy need......
    Take in thy smock two apples,
    One for Gentry and one for thee.

    In thy purse coins of Silver or Gold,
    For iron is an abhorrence,
    To the people of old

    © MRL 18.4. 2003

    1. entirely sensible to me, and lovely poem.