A Fairy Tale Starring Real Fairies (with apologies to W.S. Gilbert) by Barbara Ardinger

IolantheOnce upon a time very close to right now and in a realm way too much like our world there lived the Sisterhood of Faeries. We remember their names. There’s the Faerie Queen, Belphoebe, who spent much of her time composing epic poetry, which her sister Gloriana wrote down for her. Other fairies were Titania (who ran the orphan asylum for abandoned children), Carabosse (whose job it was occasionally to Speak Firmly to children, both fey and human, who were behaving badly), Fata (an astrologist), Morgan le Fay (no one was ever quite sure what she did), and Tinkerbell (who especially loved to play with well-behaved children). Most of the fairies worked as fairy goodmothers and guided their special human charges through their complicated human lives. A few of the younger fairies collected teeth. It was a rule in the Realm of Faerie that fairies were forbidden to marry human men, though they could (and did) of course flirt and dally with them.

One of Belphoebe’s favorite daughters was the adventurous Iolanthe, who traveled much in the consensual reality where the humans lived. Iolanthe had, in fact, gone among men so often that she had married the Chief Justice of the human realm. For her crime passionel, she was banished from the Faerieland. She took up residence in a stream, where she cast dreams and the occasional nightmare upon the Chief Justice, who had no idea where she’d gone. She also took up good works. Among other things, she pushed drowning children out of the water (though she occasionally arrived too late, as we know from young Ophelia’s sad demise). She spent most of her time reading great books, especially history and law. What no one had known when Iolanthe was banished was that she was pregnant. Her son, Strephon, was born and raised in an underwater castle. Because his mother was so busy with her books and works, the lad was nursed by a kindly female wolf and educated by scholars and sorcerers, and he finally found minimum-wage work as a shepherd. But the lad had ambitions! He abandoned his flock, found suitable clothing, and managed to enroll himself in a large university, where, inspired by his mother, he studied political science, law, history, music, and literature. When he confessed all this to his mother, she immediately blessed him and gave him more great books to study.

The fairies were troubled however, by events in the human realm. Men began pushing women out of the houses of worship. They began closing the doors of schools and universities to women. At the same time men set out to invent democracy, philosophy, and drama, they locked their wives and daughters up at home. A few of them got out, however, and saw their husbands and fathers dallying with public women. Protests were, alas, fruitless. The men declared that the women had no souls, that they were imperfect men, that they should work while the men “studied and worshiped” (at least that’s what they said they were doing), finally, that all females were the property of men.

fairy gathering“This is insupportable!” said the fairies to each other when they met in formal session to discuss what might be done with the men. “It’s criminal behavior! What are we to do? Men are beating their wives, buying public office, assaulting our amazons who join their armies, carrying weapons wherever they go, committing pornography, generally behaving badly everywhere. What are we to do?”

Gloriana stood up. “But not all men are wicked,” she reminded the parliament. “Some of them are writing brilliant books, making stirring art. A few of them are even trying to bring about reform in their lands.”

“Sure they are,” said Carabosse. “But how far are they getting?”

Titania waved her arm in the air, and when Belphoebe called on her, shouted out, “Most of them are asses!”

“Nevertheless,” said Belphoebe, “we must help them. Any ideas?”

The fairy parliament was silent until a youngish fairy named Galadriel spoke up. “We can kidnap their sons and leave our own sons in their cradles. These boys will grow up kinder and smarter than their supposed fathers.” Ariel, one of the male fairies, agreed. “Yes! I can help the changelings!” Lurline and Ozma spoke up. “We must infiltrate the human realm immediately! Free the captive and abused wives and daughters and educate them!”

Now Jack-in-the-Green stood up. “I suggest that all you smart girls visit their Congresses and make friends—Very Close Friends—with the legislators. Influence them as you know how to do…” To which Oberon exclaimed, “Excellent idea! We’re all smarter than they are. We know that mankind is spoiling our beautiful blue planet. They may deny it, but we know it’s true. We must take steps!”

“And,” the Blue Fairy said directly to Belphoebe, “you must call Iolanthe back from her exile. Consider her son…”

As Belphoebe took this under consideration, the fairies voted for the plans on the floor. Then, before they all set out to seduce the human world’s legislators and judges, they voted to bring Iolanthe and her son to their next session.

And what happened? First, the fairies persuaded the legislators and judges to vote for some newer, smarter, fairer laws. Then Strephon was advised to run for president. The fairies knew a great deal about public relations and electioneering, so he won of course. At the same time, Iolanthe returned to her human husband. The Chief Justice was enchanted to see her again, as he had never forgotten her. He immediately adopted the Faerie Program for Saving the Planet. Additional humane laws were passed and women achieved their full rights of personhood. Humans and faeries now mingled and they all lived happily ever after. And, to quote Cinderella at the end of Into the Woods: “I WISH!”


Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Categories: General, Humor, Myth

Tags: , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Would that it were so!

    By the way if the fairies want to solve the Greek crisis through seduction, we will have to hope that Merkel and Lagarde have their lesbian sides or that there are enough seductive and smart heterosexual male fairies to go around. –Just kidding of course.


    • I was thinking about the Greek people just this morning. I have no idea what the right decision in Greece is, but I sure hope the people do! And they vote for the best way to save themselves and their land.


  2. We could certainly do with those fairies here in the UK….unless, of course we find our own fairy wings…?


  3. Thanks Barbara!! The faeries in my imagination are the insect kingdom. If humans and the faeries can work it out, and live happily together, maybe we can find a way to successfully revive the honeybee population. Your story might be a hopeful prediction. I read recently that “the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided $3 million to help reseed pastures in the Midwest with plants like alfalfa and clover, which provide food for bees.”


    • There are Blessed Bees, whom Elizabeth Cunningham Found and whom I put in my book Found Goddesses as our Found Neighbors. Here’s the invocation:

      Twinkle, twinkle, Blessed Bees
      As we ask you, grant it please–
      Wisdom, health, abundancies.
      As we will’t, so mote it, Bees.


  4. Welcome to the fairies! Thank you, Barbara, for wit, whimsy, and wisdom!


  5. Love this hopeful story Barbara A., and as Senlowes wrote we might find our own fairie wings and make things better.


    • At the end of Iolanthe, all of the men of the House of Peers do indeed get fairy wings. I keep hoping Iolanthe and Strephon and the persuasive fairy maidens will visit the U.S. Congress. Well, more than just visit……………


  6. I’m thinking about faeries with computer hacking skills……


  7. honoring the Fae and very grateful for their help. <3 your stories!!


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