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The Mysterious and Mischievous World of Pixies in English Folklore

Pixie: A Magical and Mischievous Creature

If you are a fan of fantasy and folklore, you may have heard of or seen a pixie. A pixie is a small, human-like being with pointed ears, a pointed hat, and often wings. Pixies are known for their playful and prankish behavior, as well as their ability to fly and use magic. But where did the idea of pixies come from? And how have they been depicted in different media and cultures? In this article, we will explore the origin, history, and meaning of pixies, as well as some of their most popular representations in popular culture.

What is a pixie?

A pixie is a mythical creature of British folklore, especially from the regions of Devon and Cornwall in southwest England. Pixies are considered to be part of the fairy family, along with other creatures such as elves, sprites, brownies, and leprechauns. However, pixies have some distinctive features that set them apart from other fairies.


Where does the word pixie come from?

The origin of the word pixie is uncertain. Some have speculated that it comes from the Swedish dialectal pyske meaning 'small fairy'. Others have disputed this, claiming instead that the term is more probably Celtic in origin, though no clear ancestor of the word is known. The term Pobel Vean ('Little People') is often used to refer to them collectively in Cornish.

What are some common characteristics of pixies?

Pixies are usually described as being very small, about the size of a human child or smaller. They have pointed ears and often wear pointed hats or hoods. They may also have wings that allow them to fly. Pixies are usually dressed in green or other earthy colors, reflecting their connection to nature. They may also wear ragged clothes that they happily exchange for new ones if offered by humans.

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Pixies are generally benign, mischievous, and childlike. They love to dance and sing in the moonlight, often accompanied by the music of frogs and crickets. They also enjoy playing tricks on humans and animals, such as leading them astray, blowing out candles, stealing objects, or tickling them. However, they are not malicious or evil, and may also help humans in need or reward them for their kindness.

Pixie in folklore

Pixies have been part of British folklore for centuries, dating back to pre-Christian times. They are believed to inhabit ancient underground sites such as stone circles, barrows, dolmens, ringforts or menhirs. They are also associated with certain natural features such as streams, springs, hills, woods, and flowers.

How are pixies related to other mythical creatures?

Pixies share some similarities with other mythical creatures from Celtic and Nordic cultures. For example,


PúcaIrishA shape-shifting spirit that can take the form of a horse, goat, rabbit, or human. It can be helpful or harmful, depending on its mood.

Tylwyth TegWelshA collective name for various types of fairies that live in the hills and forests. They are beautiful, elegant, and generous, but also proud and easily offended.

TomteSwedishA small, bearded creature that lives in the farms and houses. It acts as a guardian and helper of the household, but also demands respect and proper treatment.

HuldraNorwegianA seductive forest creature that has the appearance of a beautiful woman with a cow's tail. She can lure men into the woods and either reward or punish them.

What are some of the beliefs and stories about pixies in different regions?

Pixies have different names and characteristics depending on the region where they are found. For example,

  • In Devon, pixies are called piskeys or piskies. They are friendly and helpful, but also fond of mischief. They are said to live in Pixie's Holt, a cave near Dartmeet, where they hold their revels. They are also known for their Pixie-led phenomenon, where they use their magic to make travelers lose their way in the moors or woods.

  • In Cornwall, pixies are called piskies or spriggans. They are more mischievous and spiteful than their Devonian cousins. They are said to haunt the ancient sites and cause trouble for humans and animals. They are also known for their ability to grow to enormous size and strength when angered.

  • In Somerset, pixies are called pisgies or greenies. They are more benevolent and gentle than their Cornish and Devonian counterparts. They are said to live in the Mendip Hills, where they guard the Cheddar Gorge and the Wookey Hole. They are also known for their love of music and dancing.

How do pixies interact with humans and nature?

Pixies have a complex relationship with humans and nature. On one hand, they are curious and friendly towards humans, especially children and those who show them kindness and respect. They may offer their help or guidance, or bestow gifts or blessings upon them. On the other hand, they are wary and distrustful of humans, especially adults and those who harm or disrespect them or their environment. They may play tricks or pranks on them, or curse or harm them.

Pixies also have a strong connection to nature. They are guardians and caretakers of the natural world, especially the plants and animals that live in their habitats. They may use their magic to heal or protect them, or to create beauty and harmony in their surroundings. However, they may also use their magic to cause natural disasters or calamities if they feel threatened or offended by human actions.

Pixie in popular culture

Pixies have been a source of inspiration and fascination for many artists and creators throughout history. They have been portrayed in various forms of literature, film, games, fashion, art, and music.

How have pixies been portrayed in literature, film, and games?

Pixies have been featured in many works of literature, film, and games, often as supporting characters or sidekicks to the main protagonists. Some of the most notable examples are:

  • The Pixie Hollow series by Disney, which follows the adventures of Tinker Bell and her friends as they live and work in Pixie Hollow, a secret world of pixies within Neverland.

  • The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, which features Holly Short, a female pixie who works as a captain in the Lower Elements Police (LEP), a law enforcement agency for fairies.

  • The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, which introduces Thimbletack, a brownie who turns into a pixie when he is angry or upset.

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, which depicts pixies as blue-skinned creatures with high-pitched voices that enjoy causing chaos and mischief.

  • The Legend of Zelda series by Nintendo, which features Navi, a fairy companion who guides Link on his quests and provides him with useful information and tips.

  • The World of Warcraft series by Blizzard Entertainment, which features various types of pixies such as sprites, faerie dragons, and sporelings, that can be encountered as enemies, allies, or pets.

What are some of the most famous and influential pixie characters and works?

Some of the most iconic and influential pixie characters and works are:

  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, which introduces Tinker Bell, a pixie who is Peter Pan's loyal friend and companion. She is jealous of Wendy and tries to sabotage her relationship with Peter. She is also brave and selfless, as she sacrifices herself to save Peter from Captain Hook.

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, which features Puck, a pixie who serves as the jester and messenger of Oberon, the king of the fairies. He is mischievous and witty, as he uses his magic to create confusion and comedy among the human and fairy characters.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which includes Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah, or Bree for short, a talking horse who was once a pixie before he was enchanted by a witch. He is proud and arrogant, but also loyal and courageous.

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, which mentions Tom Bombadil, a mysterious and powerful being who lives in the Old Forest. He is described as having a "jolly face" and wearing a "blue jacket and yellow boots". He is friendly and cheerful, but also indifferent to the troubles of the world.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, which presents Nuala, a pixie who works as a servant in the Dreaming, the realm of Morpheus, the lord of dreams. She is shy and humble, but also beautiful and graceful. She develops a crush on Morpheus, who grants her the ability to ch


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