In the early 20th century fairies were the entire rave. That’s when Peter Pan was written by J.M.Barrie. Also, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle delved into the whether fairies existed by investigating photos of fairies and writing about it in The Coming of Fairies. Around that time Australian illustrator Ida Rentoul Outhwaite’s beautiful fairy art works were made into postcards which Queen Mary, grandmother of Queen Elizabeth, would use in her casual correspondence. This love of fairies also led to the enhancement of “fairy stories”.
One of my favorite artists is Cicely Mary Barker, the daughter of a partner in a seed supply business. She illustrated flower fairies describing visually what a Virginia Blue belle flower would look like and it’s fairy doppelganger. Her desire to provide a way for children to easily identify flowers led her to create several books with poetry and illustrations.
The re-imaging of fairies during this time period was certainly driven by these few folks. Fairy stories in Irish folklore are very interesting with their salaciously puckish behavior. They’ve been toned down quite a bit.
William Butler Yeats writes prolifically about the otherworld. Irish Fairy and Folk Tales is one of his books. It’s well reviewed by those that have read its pages. It shows the fairies to not be the sweetest of wee folk.
I rather like the modern fairy but it is so interesting to see how they were discussed in Yeats’ time.