And wrap her fairy baby in a pussywillow coat

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It’s fun to see a fairy flutter

Off a catkin boat

And wrap her fairy baby in

A pussywillow coat

Oh, don’t you love the fairies

And their fairy babies too?

I do!

-Marjorie Barrows, Finding Fairies

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When I was a child, my mother gave me her copy of The Giant Golden Book of Elves and Fairies. I read it to bits:

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The book ensured that my interest in fairies and fairy tales would be lifelong. It also helped create my love for the macabre, with creepy little gems like The Fairies by William Allingham:

They stole little Bridget

For seven years long;

When she came down again

Her friends were all gone.

They took her lightly back,

Between the night and morrow,

They thought that she was fast asleep,

But she was dead with sorrow.

They have kept her ever since

Deep within the lake,

On a bed of flag-leaves,

Watching till she wake.

You thought this was gonna be a sappy fairy Mother’s (Mothers?) Day post, didn’t ya?

So my mother, back in the fifties, she cut her favorite little fairies out of the book. Very cleverly. She left little holes in the pages and taped them on both sides and it drove me ABSOLUTELY CRAZY wondering what those missing fairies looked like. I mean, this really, really bugged me. Into adulthood. So much so that several years ago, I bought the 2008 printing so that I could finally see those freaking fairies.

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What she chose to cut out sometimes mystified me. But I supposed it’s understandable that she loved the illustrations enough to cut them out of the book. The art is gorgeous. It’s by Garth Williams, who illustrated the Little House on the Prairie series and Charlotte’s Web, among other works of classic children’s literature. The new printing that I bought made me a bit sad; the paper is slick, the illustrations are washed out, and they don’t have the depth of the illustrations in my mother’s book from 1951.

But at least I got to see those bloody fairies.

Down in the grasses

Where the grasshoppers hop

And the katydids quarrel

And the flutter-moths flop–

Down in the grasses where the beetle goes “plop,”

An old withered fairy

Keeps a second-hand shop.

-Rowena Bennett, The Second-Hand Shop

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