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This article is about mythical land of fairies. For other uses, see Fairyland (disambiguation).

Fairyland, in folklore, is the fabulous land or abode of fairies or fays.[1]


Fairyland may be referred to simply as "Fairy" or "Faërie," though that usage is an archaism. It is often the land ruled by the "Queen of Fairy," and thus anything from fairyland is also sometimes described as being from the "Court of the Queen of Elfame" or from Seelie court in Scottish folklore.

The Scots word elfame or elphyne "fairyland"[2] has other variant forms, attested in Scottish witch trials, but Elf-hame or Elphame with the -hame stem (meaning "home" in Scots) were conjectural readings by Pitcairn.

In English and Scots texts[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Queen of Elphame, Scottish witch trials, and Thomas the Rhymer.
One of the entrances to the Cleeves Cove cave system; the 'Elf Hame' of the Bessie Dunlop story.

In records from the Scottish witch trials, many initiates named having congress with the "Queen of Elfame" and her retinue. On 8 November 1576, midwife Bessie Dunlop, resident in Dalry, Scotland, was accused of sorcery and witchcraft. She answered her accusers that she received tuition from Thomas Reid, a former barony officer who had died at the Battle of Pinkie some 30 years before and also from the Queen of "Court of Elfame" which lay nearby.[3] It resulted in a conviction and she was burnt at the stake[4] in 1576.

Allison Peirson was burned as a witch in 1588 for conversing with the 'Queen of Elfame' and for prescribing magic charms and potions. (Byre Hills, Fife, Scotland)[5] This same woman (styled "Alison Pearson") is also featured in Robert Sempill's ballad (1583) where she is said to have been in a fairy-ride.[6][7][8] Sempill's piece mentions "Elphyne" glossed as "Elfland"[9] or "Fairyland"."[10]

In the medieval verse romance and the Scottish ballad of Thomas the Rhymer the title character is spirited away by a female supernatural being, identified by commentators as the Queen of Fairies. However, the actual texts refrain from calling her or her domain by a specific name, except in ballad version A, where she is the queen of Elfland. Poet and novelist Robert Graves published his own alteration of the ballad, replacing her name with "Queen of Elphame":

'I'm not the Queen of Heaven, Thomas,

That name does not belong to me;
I am but the Queen of fair Elphame

Come out to hunt in my follie.'

Elfhame or Elfland, is portrayed in a variety of ways in these ballads and stories, most commonly as mystical and benevolent, but also at times as sinister and wicked. The mysteriousness of the land, and its otherworldly powers are a source of scepticism and distrust in many tales. Additional journeys to the realm include the fairy tale "Childe Rowland", the latter being a particularly negative view of the land.


  1. ^ "fairyland". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. 
  2. ^ DOST ( Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue); "Dictionary of the Scots Language". Retrieved October 2013. 
  3. ^ Pitcairn 1833, Vol. 1, Part 2, pp.49-, 53, 56, 57
  4. ^ Pitcairn, Robert, ed. (1833). Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland. Vol. 1, Part 2. Edinburgh: Printed for the Bannatyne Club. p. 58. 
  5. ^ Pitcairn 1833 Vol. 1, Part 3, pp. 162–165
  6. ^ Pitcairn 1833, Vol. 1, Part 3, p.163n
  7. ^ Henderson, Lizanne; Cowan, Edward J. (2001). Scottish Fairy Belief: A History. Dundrun. p. 166. ISBN 9781862321908. 
  8. ^ Robert Sempill (1891). Cranstoun, James, ed. Satirical Poems of the Time of the Reformation 1. William Blackwell and Sons for the Scottish Text Society. p. 365.  (Poem 45, v.372).
  9. ^ Volume 2 (1893), p. 320
  10. ^ DOST (Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue) entry, retrieved using the electronic "Dictionary of the Scots Language". Retrieved October 2013.