I have been on the lookout for fairy rings lately. I found one Monday night at the college. Well, at least it seems to be the beginning of one:
I started researching fairy rings. There are many theories, both real and mythical, that could be the cause of fairy rings. Essentially, it has to do with the way mushrooms grow.
In a more mythical sense, the causes depend on where you’re coming from:
In English folklore, fairy rings were said to be caused by, elves, fairies or pixies dancing in a circle, wearing down the grass beneath their feet. Toads would then sit on the mushrooms, poisoning them; hence the name toadstool.
In Sussex they were called, “hag tracks”, in Devon people thought that fairies caught young horses and rode them in circles.
In Scandinavian folklore, these circles were attributed to elves or witches and were called älvdanser, i.e. elf dances, älvringar, or heksering.
In German-speaking Europe, fairy rings are known as Hexenringe, or “witches rings”, stemming from an old medieval belief that the rings represented places where witches would have their gatherings.
In Austria people thought that dragons breath burned the land. Similar myths to those in German folklore can be found in Czech, Slovak, Polish and even Russian folk tales. In the Czech language they are called čarodějné kruhy, as they are thought to have been caused by a dragons having a rest at those places.
Another myth states that fairy rings are doors into the fairies’ world, transporting people to other places or making people appear in the same place in a different time.
Young ladies are also warned not to touch dew situated on the grass within the ring, due to the belief that it can cause skin problems.
When I first started reading about them, I couldn’t help but think about The Hobbit. There is a scene where Bilbo and the dwarves come across some elves in the forest of Mirkwood, who are feasting and singing (and we later discover that the ruler of these elves is Legolas’s father). If I recall correctly, there was evidence that the elves had been there, even though Biblo and company could never get very close to them. Perhaps there were fairy rings?
I’m writing my research paper for my Shakespeare course on his use of fairies and spirits in his plays, and how that compares to Tolkien’s ideas of the land of Faerie and its inhabitants. I’ll be focusing primarily on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. I’m trying to figure out how I can incorporate the folklore of fairy rings into my paper.