The Mythology Behind the Royal Fairies of Celtic Lore

Dr. Emily Zarka of the PBS series Monstrum discusses the mythology behind Tuatha Dé Danann, fairies of Celtic lore. These supernatural beings were considered to be royalty and were alternately seen as benevolent and merciless. They were shapeshifters who even took on human-like forms and were thought to be immortal.

The fairies of Celtic traditions trace their origin back to an ancient race of otherworldly royalty – the Tuatha Dé Danann. As fairy nobility, the Tuatha Dé Danann were alternatively seen as gods, monsters, demons, and even the real ancient inhabitants of Ireland.

While the stories originated from fantasy, much of the belief has taken hold throughout the centuries. Literature and other stories furthered the narrative of these fairies.

Renaissance artists, for one, were fond of  depicting them. And in the late nineteenth and  early 20th centuries, the “Irish Renaissance”  or “Celtic Revival” meant that many of the  older tales were finally written down. Irish folklore collectors like Yeats,  Thomas Crofton Croker, Lady Gregory, and Jeremiah  Curtin preserved fairy stories and other tales of   the supernatural in print, making it possible  for greater circulation of the narratives.

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