Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Fairy Queen

Several names have been attributed to the Queen of the Fairies. In Greek Mythology Diana the huntress, with her attendant nymphs, was their queen, and this name was corrupted into Titania, the wife of Oberon. Morgan Le Fay was queen in Avalon. The original phrase Faerie Queene may well have been invented by Edmund Spenser for The Faerie Queene (1590-1596). This tells of a Quest for Gloriana, the eponymous FQ, who is symbolic of Elizabeth I (1533-1603). The main storyline is obfuscated by many subtexts and adventures, which characteristic in itself demonstrates the complications and machinations of the Elizabethan court. However, the tale also captures the love the nation has for the FQ, offsetting it against her retention of distance and an extensive power base. This image of a powerful but distant FQ has remained part of the iconography of Faerie ever since.

The development and maturity of the FQ is explored with considerable flair in Jean Ingelow's Mopsa the Fairy (1869), an early feminist Fairytale. That Very Mab (1885) by Andrew Lang and May Kendall (real name Emma Goldworth; 1861-?1931) tells of an FQ who left England after Puritanism took hold and who returned to find a much sadder state. Mab is a name often attributed to the FQ, though the origin of the title "queen" (from the Saxon cwén) really meant just "woman", so the name might be equally expressed as "Lady" Mab. "Mab" may have come from Medb or Maeve, the Warrior Queen of Connacht in Irish mythology. Her supernatural adventures are recast by James Stephens in In the Land of Youth (coll of linked stories 1924). [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.