Long before stories of pixies were confined to the pages of children's books, pixies were said to roam the rolling hills and deep forests of Devon and Cornwall.
While the belief in pixies was localized to Britain, there are similar creatures (such as the northern fairies and Scandinavian elves) that also interact with humans, and they are commonly mistaken for one another, despite being very different. Pixies are much smaller than fairies, with pointed ears. Some of them have wings, while others look more like trolls and travel on horseback - some even prefer to shape-shift into hedgehogs.
But not all the myths about pixies are cute or full of whimsy. There are evil pixies who enjoy causing chaos for unlucky humans. The scary stories about pixies usually start with the little creature feeling slighted or disrespected in some way - but pixies tend to overreact, and the punishment rarely fits the crime. Even Tinkerbell, Disney’s beloved pixie, was a temperamental and violent little monster when it came to her jealousy of Wendy. Pixies don’t share, they take whatever they want, and they don’t play well with others. Gathered here are some creepy pixie stories that prove pixies aren’t always the benign, adorable creatures on greeting cards.
They Steal BabiesPhoto: Henry Fussli / via Wikimedia Commons
Several cultures have myths about changelings replacing human infants. It could be a fairy, pixie, or a troll that’s put in the child’s place. Some lore says it can even be an enchanted stone or wooden "child" the pixies swap out for a human baby.
In Cornwall, England, there's a tradition that if a baby is identified as a changeling, a good pixie can bring it back. The changeling must be brought to the Mên-an-Tol stone so that the pixie guardian who dwells there can reverse the evil pixie's spell and return the real child to its parents.
They Kidnap Children For Their Own Amusement And Return Them LaterPhoto: John Bauer / via Wikimedia Commons
In Dartmoor, the pixies (or "piskeys") disguise themselves as bundles of rags. Little children find these rags and play with them, becoming ensnared by the pixies. Pixies have been accused of luring children out to their caves with the promise of treasure and keeping them for days. Then, when the pixies get sick of the children, they knock them out (magically, not physically) and return them to the very same spot from where they abducted them. The children wake up and have no idea how much time has gone by or what has happened to them.
They Lead Travelers Astray
If a human traveling through pixie territory fails to show respect for the little people of the land, they’ll be misled (or "pixie-led") on the moors as punishment. Pixies can confuse mortals so badly, they never recover. These lost humans are reduced to wandering aimlessly, singing to themselves or speaking an unidentifiable language.
They Went To War With The Fairies Over Land And Won
The fairies who dwelled in Somerset wanted a change of scenery, so they attempted to move to Devon and extend their territory. Unfortunately, the Devonian pixies already had stake in that land and they were not going to share. They declared war on the fae and waged a bloody, violent battle in which the pixies were victorious. The surviving fairies were booted out of Devon and sent right back to where they came from. It's believed that to this day, Devon has pixies only and no fairies within its borders.