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fairy lover


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banshee

Conla

Muirchertach mac Erca (c. 464—534) high-king of Ireland

 

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1 The concept is commonly indicated in English by an anglicization of the ModIr. phrase leannán sídhe/sí [fairy lover], e.g. leannan shee, lannan shee, lannanshee, leanan sidhe, leanhaun shee, lianhan shee; OIr. lennán síde; Manx lhiannan shee. This most dramatic and poetic of all fairy stories concerns the doomed love between a mortal (usually male) and an immortal (usually female). The many Celtic instances of the story follow a fixed pattern found in international folklore. 1. The mortal loves the supernatural being. 2. The supernatural being consents to marry or to make love to the mortal subject to a certain condition, such as his not seeing her at specified time. 3. He breaks the taboo and loses her. 4. He then tries to recover her and sometimes succeeds, usually with great difficulty. In one familiar variation on the pattern, the fairy lover entices or seduces the mortal and pines for him when they are separated; i.e. she loves him deeply (though he may not have merited it) and is parted from him only by the conventions of her status. A second variation depicts a woman of dreadful power who seeks both the love of and dominion over mortal men. Male fairy lovers also exist in stories, characteristically well mannered and talkative but imperious.

Lady Wilde (1887) said that the ‘leanansidhe’ was the spirit of life, and inspirer of the singer and poet, and thus the opposite of the banshee. W. B. Yeats (1888) thought the ‘leanhaun shee’ would inspire a poet or singer so intensely that its earthly life would necessarily be brief. The Manx lhiannan-shee is distinguished from her Irish counterpart in two aspects: (1) She haunts wells and springs, like Melusine. (2) She attaches herself to one man, to whom she appears irresistibly beautiful while remaining invisible to everyone else; if he yields to her seduction, she will drain him body and soul, like a vampire. Among the notable fairy lovers are Créd (1), Eacute;taín of Inis Grecraige, Niam, and the unnamed lover of Connla in Echtrae Conli [The Adventure of Connla]; See also SÍN, the lover of Muirchertach mac Erca. Folk motifs: A465.1.1; F301; F471.2.1. See also Rosalind E. Clark, Great Queens (Gerrards Cross, UK; Savage, Md., 1990).

(1) She haunts wells and springs, like Melusine. (2) She attaches herself to one man, to whom she appears irresistibly beautiful while remaining invisible to everyone else; if he yields to her seduction, she will drain him body and soul, like a vampire.

Subjects: Religion.


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