With all the background in place it time to look at some of the important things fairies and the fairy tales do. One is that they remind us that we live in a world which is essentially wild. Imagine an atheistic or materialistic worldview as looking like a well ordered city. Around it is a tall wall which nothing can get through. Inside the wall everything operates according to precise scientific laws, there is no variation in the laws of cause and effect because nothing outside the natural world can intrude. It is a safe city, though one that could easily teeter into fatalism. A worldview which acknowledges a Christian reality is more like a village bordered by a great wood. The boundary between the village and the wood is fluid, between the natural and the supernatural. What goes on in either side will have repercussions on the other side. It is not a safe world for goblins and fairies may intrude in our village, even worse God himself may step into the picture. Whatever fairies do, they seldom cause comfort. Fairies tales keep this tension in the forefront.
This walled city mentality is the arrogance that can result from scientific exploration. Because we cannot see God in a microscope or a telescope we may be led to believe that we are masters of a solitary world, floating through space. Fairies remind us that this world is filled with more than we can observe. Fairies are the antidote to the materialist point of view which tries to shut God out.
Another thing fairies do is reintroduce beauty into the world. For a child the world is a wonderful place because everything is new. Life has a way of pounding this out of us so that we forget that a tree or a pond is really a marvelous thing. When we read stories of woods filled with fairies it puts them in a slightly different context causing them to jump out at us in fresh ways. Fairy tales are marvelous at doing this not only for trees and ponds but for familiar truths as well. This renewed significance is carried back with us from the secondary world of the story into the primary one in which we live. Fairies and goblins may be living in the woods which we drive past every day to work. The old tree behind our house may come alive at night and the human beings we come in contact with every day may just be wearing the image of God.
Lastly is that fairies are inevitable. Scholars still debate whether the medievals gave primary or secondary belief to the existence of fairies, the difference between believing that something exists as a physical reality and believing in Santa Claus or zombies, for example. (You may argue that you don’t believe in Santa Claus but if asked to describe him I am sure you could tell me exactly what he looks like down to his rosy cheeks. You could also recognize a hundred different versions of the man himself). The difference might have also been less important for medieval people.
As the woods were explored and paved over by subdivisions and fairies disappeared or shrank a new terra incognito was discovered; outer space, not the beautiful medieval version, but the vast emptiness filled with galaxies, stars, and planets of which the Earth was only an insignificant speck. This new frontier was filled with aliens. We cannot help but imitate God by filling empty space with beings created in our own image.
While we don’t have a choice whether we will create beings to filled empty space, we do have a choice on what they will be like. As it is aliens have tended to inherit all of our falleness, personified as slimy insects or emotionless robots, full of greed and bent on dominating all that is not like them. (George Lucas’ aliens are a rare exception). I would welcome some writers and filmmakers who could take on this challenge. In the end one of the best things about fairies is that in stories about them one senses that the author has not created them, he or she is merely recording what took place. An author cannot do this unless they believe what they are writing to be true. I believe there are races of creatures out in the stars waiting to be discovered by writers who are firmly grounded in truth.