Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fairy Ring

Little Feet

Where in sleep we dream of beauty
fields of little feet did play
dancing to the faerie fiddle
in fields of yellow clay

dressed in brown and moss-green velvet
shod in tulip poplar flow’rs
they dance to midnight’s caller
in the forest’s hidden bowers

when the morning sun arises
shines on dew its diamond glance
a ring of grass grows deep and lovely
where the little people danced

c Susanna Holstein 2008

"Fairy roses, fairy rings, turn out sometimes troublesome things." William Makepeace Thackeray

I was riding with my daughter-in-law one day in mid-July as we traveled from one storytelling performance to another, when I noticed something on a side street.

It was in the yard of one of the houses. I yelled, "Fairy ring! Turn around!"

My daughter-in-law put on the brakes and obligingly turned the truck around. Sure enough, there in the grass was a beautiful ring of white mushrooms. I jumped out for a closer look, and noticed a man on the porch of the home next to the ring.

"Do you mind if I take a picture of the mushrooms?" I asked.

"Not at all," he said, "but that's actually my neighbor's yard."

The door of the house behind the mushrooms opened. "Hey there." A guy standing in the open door grinned at me.

"Hey," I replied. "This is a perfect fairy ring. Would you mind if I took a picture?"

"Go right ahead," he said. "Cool, isn't it? Used to be a big oak there, but it died. These mushrooms come up in the same spot every year."

Why are rings of mushrooms called fairy rings? According to my English mother, the mushrooms sprout on the places where the fairies danced the night before. Scientists, of course, have a different answer. I prefer my mother's explanation.

As to what kind of mushrooms these were, that's open to debate. I think they may have been Chlorophyllum molybdites but I can't be sure since I did not look closely to identify them. I was just enchanted by the ring.

My daughter-in-law asked me later how I saw the ring from the highway, since it was a couple houses away on a side street. I really don't know. Call it fairy magic.

If you see a fairy ring
In a field of grass,
Very lightly step around,
Tiptoe as you pass;
Last night fairies frolicked there,
And they're sleeping somewhere near.
Author unknown.

For more fairy ring stories, visit Fairy Ring Folklore.

Wikipedia offers an extensive, cited article on fairy ring lore; according to the article, it is the Scandinavian and Celtic cultures that believe the rings to be made by fairies or elves; other cultures consider the rings bad luck, and pretty much every one agrees it's not good for humans to enter the rings, or even worse, destroy them (so don't even think about getting rid of them to protect your green lawn!).

And then, you can always look back to a post I wrote a while back about fairy rings and fairy lore, including a nice booklist.

"There never was a merry world since the fairies left off dancing. . ." John Seldon

Have you ever seen a fairy ring, or heard a story about their formation? I wonder if there are other tales attached to this intriguing phenomenon.


Nance said...

love this. I have not ever seen a Fairy Ring . . . have only read about them. Please! keep writing. So enjoy the posts.

Nanjemoy Nana said...

Do you remember this song?
Sweet silver bells upon a slender stalk
Lilies of the valley take my garden walk
Oh how I wish
That I could hear them ring
But that will only happen when the fairies sing.

Catherine and I love fairy lore. This fairy ring is wonderful. A tree died in our yard and there was a stump left. They used to build a town of mushrooms there. :)
Loved the fairy quotes too.

Rowan said...

Now this is a really fascinating post, I haven't time to follow the links right now but shall be back later to check them out. I've never seen a fairy ring but have always been familiar with the concept. I shall keep looking, it's coming to the right time of the year now. If I was lucky enough to find one on my lawn I certainly wouldn't dream of trying to get rid of it!

Lucky13 said...

I can't say I've ever seen one, but must admit that I haven't taken the time to notice. I love the poem!!! I'll keep my eyes open like Rowan, it is the time of year for them to appear. Great post Sue!

Country Whispers said...

Love it!
I've never even heard of fairy rings till this post but oh how neat.
Who needs the scientific explanation when you have a version like your mother's.
I'll be looking for fairy rings now!

Granny Sue said...

Jessica, this ring was in St. Mary's, I think, on one of the little side streets. There has been one every year in the median of the interstate on my way to work but this year I have not seen it. Maybe the construction work has driven the fairies away?

Granny Sue said...

I do remember the song, Maggie.
Here's how I recall it:

White coral bells upon a slender stalk,
lilies of the valley deck my garden walk.
Oh how I wish that I could hear them ring,
that will happen only when the fairies sing.

I learned it in Catholic school and we sang it in rounds. I think we also sang it at home, didn't we?

Here's a link to the melody and lots of interesting information about the song:


Apparently it's been around a long time, but no one knows the origin.

Nanjemoy Nana said...

yep. That's probably how it goes I just remember them the best I can...:/
You guys did sing it as a round at school. It was beautiful. I remember listening to it. I was so little! Judy was in that show too. She rode a skate board in.

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