Fairies are minute winged creatures of supernatural legend who have been attributed as the harbingers of spring after a long winter, good omens, symbols of magic and a wondrous imagination. Fairies as a symbol portray whimsy and a free spirit. Historically, “fairy” has been used synonymously with the word “enchantment” because of its etymology and origin in traditional tales of Romance in Old French.
The image of a fairy is always a tiny, delicate creature with full wings. They are often shown with images of the crescent moon to enhance the idea of femininity that surrounds them, or sitting atop or underneath flowers or toadstools, much larger than their tiny size. Images of nature are generally included with the fairy to emphasize their origins in the forest.
Tinkerbell is perhaps the most well recognized image of a fairy, taken from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. She is an iconic image of femininity but also a childish character, stuck in adolescence. Her magical prowess and ability to fly is the envy of the children whose imaginations eventually grow, allowing them flight.
Many mythologies account for fairies, majorly explaining them as fallen angels or deities that exist in the earthly realm. In this way, the fairy is a symbol of an lost and ancient world of gods, goddesses and primal magic. Their wings are often elaborately designed, crossing between the image of an angel and that of a beautiful butterfly, involving bright colors and intricate patterns.
In many legends, fairies are supposed to work in nature, enhancing the growth of plants and the evolution of ecosystems. For this reason, fairies are most often depicted in a natural setting, clothes in leaves, flower petals, or other minute plant matter.
The image of a prostrating fairy is often used as a symbol of a fallen damsel, a delicate creature in distress. The wings are generally depicted as wilted or covering the body of the fairy, enhancing the idea of a forlorn soul. The fairy in this way is a symbol of pain and torment, a sign of a trying situation.