Are fairies back? Fortean Times editor David Sutton says they never went away. They just started dressing like aliens for a while…
Fairy tales have weathered the centuries remarkably well; they continue to resonate whether cleaned up and defanged by Walt Disney, reclaimed for feminism by Angela Carter or dissed by literal-minded rationalists like Richard Dawkins.
Fairy tales, with their useful life lessons dressed up in images of terror and wonder, are one thing; but actual fairies – not the winged cuties of children’s books and cartoons – are quite another. They don't want to teach us anything and aren’t much amenable to analysis: they lurk, always just out of sight, at the edge of our consciousness, pointing to some Otherworld that may co-exist with, or even overlap, our own mundane reality.
Every culture has its little people – elves in Iceland, leprechauns in Ireland, duendes in Latin America – and they are usually ambiguous figures at best, downright sinister at worst, demonstrating an unhealthy preoccupation with abducting human beings and spiriting them away to fairyland. In traditional British folklore, they’d often help themselves to babies and leave weird changeling children in their place.
But this was long ago, in a superstitious past banished by science. Surely people didn't see fairies (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle aside) in the 20th century, and certainly no longer report them in this, the 21st? Perhaps – although the atomic age itself gave birth to a new mythology, one which continues to this day.
From the late 1940s, witnesses began to come forward with tales of UFOs and alien visitors to Earth. . . .
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