Fairy Queen

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For other uses, see Fairy Queen (disambiguation).
Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen by Johann Heinrich Füssli, c. 1788.

The Fairy Queen or Queen of the Fairies was a figure from English folklore who was believed to rule the fairies. Based on Shakespeare's influence, she is often named as Titania or Mab. In Irish folklore, the last High Queen of the Daoine Sidhe - and wife of the High King Finvarra - was named Oona (or Oonagh, or Una, or Uonaidh etc.). In the ballad tradition of Northern England and Lowland Scotland, she was called the Queen of Elphame.

The character is also associated with the name Morgan (as with the Arthurian character of Morgan Le Fey, or Morgan of the Fairies), Meave, and L'annawnshee (literally, Underworld Fairy). In the Child Ballads Tam Lin (Child 39) and Thomas the Rhymer (Child 37), she is represented as both beautiful and seductive, and also as terrible and deadly. The Fairy Queen is said to pay a tithe to Hell every seven years, and her mortal lovers often provide this sacrifice. In Tam Lin, the title character tells his mortal lover:

At the end of seven years
She pays a tithe to Hell
I so fair and full of flesh

I fear it be myself

Both Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare used folklore concerning the Fairy Queen to create characters and poetry, Spenser in The Faerie Queene and Shakespeare most notably in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the Faerie Queene, Spencer's fairy queen is named Tanaquill, and is revealed to be the descendant of Shakespeare's Titania.

In one of the earliest of the Peter Pan novels, The Little White Bird, author J.M. Barrie also identifies Queen Mab as the name of the fairy queen, although the character is entirely benign and helpful. In Disney's series of films based on Tinker Bell, a fairy character originating in Barrie's novels, the fairies are shown to be ruled by a Queen Clarion (voiced throughout the series by Anjelica Huston).