A fairy, fata, fay, fey, fae, or member of the fair folk, is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore (and particularly British, Slavic, German, and French folklore), a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural. Fairyland, traditionally Faerie, is the fabulous land or abode of fairies, either located in a hidden part of Earth, or in a parallel universe accessible by certain forest gateways on Earth.
Myths and stories about Faerie and fairies do not have a single origin, but are rather a collection of folk beliefs from disparate sources. Therefore, modern fantasy writers can pick and choose from many different qualities to give to their fairies: beautiful or ugly, benevolent or malevolent, miniscule or gigantic, strong or weak, etc. Creatures such as gnomes, goblins, etc., may be considered a subspecies of fairy or a wholly different taxon, as the author chooses. The government of Faerie, assuming it has one in any relevant story, is usually depicted as monarchical in nature, with Oberon, Titania, and their analogues being frequently used as stock characters for this purpose.
Various folk theories about the origins of fairies include casting them as either demoted angels or demons in a Christian tradition, as minor deities in pre-Christian Pagan belief systems, as spirits of the dead, as prehistoric precursors to humans, or as personifications of natural forces.