The battle of the fairies and the pixies

I have been researching folklore and archaeology for about thirteen or so years. It’s becoming a little more mainstream now, but when I started I was known as “the girl that talks about fairies”…. I grant you, this isn’t the worst thing I could have been known for but it was, and still has been, a slight millstone around my neck. This is in greater parts down the fact that some people think I actually believe in fairies, or that I want to be one. As such, when discussing my research I spend a good part of my time explaining what I’m NOT talking about (the cutesy flower fairy image of the Tinkerbell variety). I also make it clear that fairies and pixies aren’t the same, and that there are real differences in where they occur in the landscape.

One of my favourite stories to recall is the battle of the fairies and pixies on the Devon/Somerset border. I discovered the story while writing my PhD a number of years ago, but I still love it.

Basically it goes like this:

There was a time when the fairies who dwelt in Somerset and the lands to the east of the River Parrett wanted to cross the border and enter Devon to settle and extend their territory. However, the Devonian pixies, who already lived there, refused them entry. Soon war began between the two beings, and it violently and terribly raged across the landscape.

The final battle was fought on the Somerset side of the Blackdown Hills, a range of steep valleys and ridges that straddle the Devon/Somerset border well known to be the dwelling of pixies, spunkies, and ghosts of the Monmouth Men (a story for another time…). It is said that the precise spot is at the village Buckland Saint Mary that lies some 9 miles south of  the county town of Taunton and near to the modern A303. During this final confrontation the fairy host were defeated and driven away back into Somerset and Dorset, and some further afield across the water into Ireland. They were never to return to Devon, or try and conquer the lands again.

The wonderful Mrs Bray tells us that the king of the fairies was none other than Oberon, and it was during this battle “his majesty received a wound in the leg which proved incurable; none of the herbs in his dominions have hitherto had the least beneficial effects, though his principal secretary and attendant, Puck, has been in search of one of a healing nature ever since” (Bray, A. E. 1853, A Peep at the Pixies, or Legends of the West 11–12).

So that is why there are only Pixies in Devon 🙂






7 thoughts on “The battle of the fairies and the pixies

  1. Ian says:

    Have you ever come across The Good People: New Fairylore Essays, ed. by Peter Narvez (Univ of Kentucky Press 1991)? A diverse and compelling collection.

  2. […] When I was researching the Blackdown Hills (see here if you’re interested!) I came across lots of stories and folklore related to the area, such as my last posting. […]

  3. Anna says:

    Do you have any more information or sources on pixies? I am trying to do some research on the varieties of magical folk that tended to be found living alongside humans in the older myths but keep running into big modern roadblocks. If it’s not disneyfied dwarves or tolkienized elves it’s people just making up whatever they think sounds good with /no/ regard for history.

  4. Marie says:

    I would love to learn more about the pixies and the differences between the fairies. Would you be willing to share the information or sources you have?

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