original Tinker Bell wasn't a pixie.
James M. Barrie, who wrote the stage play, Peter
Pan, that debuted in 1904 – and who in 1911 wrote
the novel Peter and Wendy – never once uses the word
“pixie” in reference to Tinker Bell and the creatures
like her. They're “fairies.”
the Disney studio, in its 1953 movie based on Barrie's classic,
that forever identified Tink as a pixie.
They aren't … quite … the same thing.
are winged beings, generally described as small of stature
– though some traditions have depicted them as tall,
angelic, radiant. In fact, “fairy” comes from
the Latin fata - “fate” – and fairies have
been linked with the Fates of ancient Greece, who were believed
to control a person's destiny.
traditions, especially in the British Isles, hold that fairies
are a group of fallen angels whose deeds meant they could
no longer stay in Heaven – but they were not evil enough
to be banished to Hell.
play, and later book, draw on the tradition of fairies as
child-stealers, who would take away a human child and leave
a sickly changling in its place to later wither away and die.
– also known as “pyskies” in Cornwall –
are similar to fairies. But while folklore gives fairies wings,
it holds that pixies are wingless.
they're depicted as human-shaped, with upward-slanting eyes
and pointed ears. They often, according to tradition, wear
we think of works of fantasy, we often think of elves, wizards,
dwarves … The beings featured by JRR Tolkien in his
books. Tolkien's works make no mention of pixies – nor
they have been popular subjects elsewhere. In the Victorian
era, authors such as Samuel Minturn Peck and Nora Chesson
included pixies in their works.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a 1902 children's
book by L. Frank Baum – perhaps better known for his
Oz books – it's pixies, not elves, who are Santa's helpers.
Buckley, author of a series of novels collectively known as
Sisters Grimm,” incorporates pixies in his
works. Eoin Colfer, author of the “Artemis
Fowl” series, places pixies in a modern-day setting,
where they've been driven underground by rampant pollution
bounty-hunting witch Rachel Morgan is accompanied by a pixie,
Jenks, and Jenks' rather large family.
gets around on wings. Dennis L. McKiernan returns to the traditional
wingless pixie – which he introduces as “pysks”
– in his Mithgar novel Voyage
of the Fox Rider.
pysks are furtive beings who hide in the shadows that they're
able to gather around themselves.
attributes pixies with many of the same traits as fairies.
They are perhaps more likely to “borrow” children
rather than steal them away forever. There's one account of
a child in a town in Cornwall who was missing for three days
– then found, asleep, exactly where his mother had last
so the story goes, of having been taken to a cave sparkling
with jewels, where he was fed honey and sung to sleep by beings
that looked like stars.
treated with respect and left bowls of food and saucers of
milk have been known to repay such courtesy by helping with
are more often mischievous, inclined to play tricks on humans.
Such tales have led to expressions such as “pixie-path,”
meaning bewilderment, or “pixie-lead,” meaning
an individual who's been led astray by pixies.
also the word “pixilated,” variously defined as
slightly mentally unbalanced, eccentric, bemused or –
slang – drunk. It comes from the idea that the individual
has been “touched” by the pixies.