European Mythical Creatures: Pixies and Sprites

The Europeans were known for telling tales that centered on the smallest of mythical creatures. Usually blue and green in color, pixies and sprites may or may not have wings. Some are attached to elements, such as air and water, while others are described as mischievous, but not evil. In this article, you will learn more about pixies and sprites.

What is a Pixie?

The mythical creatures known as pixies appear in a variety of folklore tales, and are called by many different names, such as Pixy, Pixi, Pizkie, Piskies, and Pigsies. The notion of a pixy is one found in parts of Devon and Cornwall. Some believe that the origin of the creature has roots in Celtic storytelling. A pixie is often described as having pointed ears with eyes that point upwards at the ends of their temples. Some often wear a green-colored outfit. Most of the depictions we know today have come out of the Victorian Era and do not reflect the imagery used in older myths.

The myths that mention pixies seem to pre-date the Christian influence in Britain. During the Christian era, pixies were believed to have been the souls of children that died without being baptized. In 1869, some people thought the name pixie made a reference to the Pictic tribes that used paint and other methods to turn their skin blue. Others believed that pixies originated from the mythological creatures named Puck, who was sometimes called a fairy with a mischievous nature.

In fiction works, the pixie often appeared naked or with little clothing. The lines of what a pixie does or didn’t do have become blurred over the years, as some attributes belonged to other similarly-sized creatures, such as fairies. Some pixies were thought to steal children, while others had a reputation for leading travelers in the wrong direction. Other information about a pixie is that they were attracted to horses (enjoying to hitch a ride in their mane), and they took pleasure in exploring caves of the ocean and other hidden places in nature.

What is a Sprite?

With a connection to nature, the term sprite was used as a broadened reference to legendary creatures that had features similar to an elf. A sprite could be a fairy to someone, while another viewed them as a spiritual being, such as a ghost. European folklore depicted sprites as being lively, spirited creatures , thus the reason for their name.

In fiction tales, sprites were described as a race of fairies. For Eoin Colfer, who penned ‘Artemis Fowl’ books , he described the mythical creatures as having green skin and wings. In the Spiderwick Chronicles, sprites looked like flowers and insects.  The Europeans are not the only culture that believes in the small statured sprites in their folk tales , the concept is found in other parts of the world.

The Japanese, Spanish, Slavics, and Latin Americans have versions of sprites that they refer to by different names. There are also some cultures that see the sprite as an elemental figure. For example, a water sprite is one that is associated with water. These types of sprites are said to have the ability to breathe water or air.