A rationalist view of fairies

(...) among the writers of [the Victorian] period who expressed their opinions on the reality of fairies, it is Leigh Hunt who is most skeptical. His thoroughly rationalist and materialist view permeates the series of articles he produced on “Fairies" (in Leigh Hunt's London Journal of 1834). After describing fairy types and behavior he notes, for example, that "all without exception are fond of power. In other words, they are like the human beings that invented them” (1 Oct.: 209). Concerned mainly with two issues, the question of fairy size and the question of the connections between fairies and the Devil, he stops to make a euhemeristic historical point. Quoting extensively from Mallet's Northern Antiquities, he argues that English and Teutonic and Scandinavian fairies are small because of the small size of their originals, the Lapps. His argument against the actual presence of the elfin tribes is a rational and “scientific" one:

We are among the number of those who . . . do yet believe that fairies have actually been seen; but then it was by people whose perceptions were disturbed. It is observable that ordinary seers have been the old, the diseased, or the intoxicated. (15 Oct.: 232)

The fairies, says Hunt, are the creatures of our disordered imaginations. But just as partial belief in the possibility of fairy life may be seen as patriotic, so Hunt's underlying objections may be viewed as political. He argues that belief in fairies is dangerous and destructive; it has caused delirium and serious illness in individuals; it has kept the folk frightened and base.

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