The Trouble With Fairies…

So yesterday I had a wonderful audience at the Maritime Museum’s lunchtime talk, “The Trouble With Fairies…”
I spoke about telling stories with a puppet – how that came about and its typical pros and cons…
Then we moved on to modern conceptions of fairies versus those our Scottish ancestors would have had, including a few local types such as the Old Washerwoman at Ballater, the Tarans and the Red Caps from the Borders.

One lady asked me how old our modern concept of gnomes were and I couldn’t rightly say… so! a couple of links 🙂

Good old Uncle Wikipedia tells us “A gnome /noʊm/[1] is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus in the 16th century and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature. Its characteristics have been reinterpreted to suit the needs of various story tellers, but it is typically said to be a small humanoid that lives underground.” (

It looks like in the latter 19th century we get the wee guy with the beard, colourful tunic and trousers and big boots – much like one of my Scandinavian favourites the Tomte or the Nisse ( and that’s where the Garden Gnome comes from. gives a concise summary of the change from proper fairy to wee friendly guys fishing or mooning at the bottom of your garden 😀

Every day is a school day!


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