Saturday, September 8, 2012

Yard Sales and Fairy Markets

So, where is the common ground between Hellboy and Stadust?

There was a huge yard sale in the neighborhood today; all the houses on several streets filled their front yards with stuff, and you could buy anything from quilts to coins, from knives to hats, from whutsthat to thingamajig.
This reminded me of fairy markets and other legendary exchange places between humans and supernatural beings, so here is the spotting list of the day:

First, a glimpse of fairy markets in literature and media:

Classic poem titled "The Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti. They say it's vaguely sexual. I can't imagine why. Does it have something to dow ith girls licking fruit juice off each other's body?...

Neil Gaiman's Stardust is a classic.  There is also a brief fairy market in Books of Magic, the Harry Potter before Harry Potter (good read!)

And here is a trailer for Hellboy 2, also with a neat goblin market scene. This is one of the reasons why I wrote this post - we also found a Hellboy bust in one of the yards. Told ya.

And now for the traditions:

Buzurg Ibn Shahriyar in The Book of the Wonders of India (written in the 10th century) collects hundreds of sailor's legends; one of them if about a djinn market that is only visible at certain times and certain places, and for those who are not welcome, it can only be heard but cannot be seen. The djinn trade there with mortal travelers, in a scene fit for the Arabian Nights.

 There is a fairy market - or, rather, a Pixy Fair - mentioned in Folktales of England.

 There is an account of a fairy fair in this neat little book, available online.

 And here is another from from Jersey folklore, titled "The fées of the Cité de Limes". This one talks about a "great fair" in September. Maybe we are not too late yet to go?

 Here is a description from Ireland, in this one the "fairy fair" is on November Eve.

Here is one called "The fairy fair in Germoe". It is in a book called "Popular Romances from the West of England", and just like many of the others, reminds us not to mess with the fair folk. Or their fair fairs. They are hardly ever fair. I'm gonna shut up now. Moving on.

 Since I found a pretty, old brass teakettle at the yard sale, it reminded me of one of my favorite trickster tales that talks about finding unusual treasures at the market...


  1. Jon Spellman tells a story about one of the gentlefolk who is a midwife, and she drops a drop of something in a new baby's eyes (I think the baby's mother is also one of the gentlefolk, but his father is merely mortal), and accidentally, a bit of that magic something gets into one of the baby's father's eyes. All of a sudden, he sees beyond the homely peasant "glamour" they hide behind and notices how they move among mortals -- tricking us, hiding things from us, pocketing things. It's at a market -- not a fairy market, I think but a simple farmer's market -- that he sees the leader of the gentlefolk and greets him. That greeting costs him his sight in that one enchanted eye.

    Not a fairy market, but a fairy at a farmers market. It's an old story. Maybe you'll find it in Yeats. Spellman tells it in his own inimitable way. It has stuck in my brain for years. Thanks for bringing it to the surface again. It's a bit of enchantment I'm happy to savor.

  2. Clare Murphy also tells that story, she calls it the Faery Midwife. Her telling is awesome too :) I have heard it in a number of versions, one was with a family of dragons, from France...