Fairy Defect

Among the many beliefs held about the fairies, there is one strand which describes them as beautiful in appearance, but with a deformity which they cannot always hide. The Scandinavian ellewomen, for instance, have beautiful faces, but if looked at from behind are seen to be hollow. The evil but beautiful Glaistigs of the Highlands wear trailing green dresses to conceal their goat's hoofs.

The Shetland Henkies were given that name because they limped in their dancing. J. G. Campbell, in his SUPERSTITIONS OF THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND, says: 'Generally some personal defect is ascribed to them by which they become known to be of no mortal race. In Mull and the neighbourhood they are said to have only one nostril, the other being imperforate.' The physical defects of the Bean Sidhe as described by him are such that she could never under any circumstance be called beautiful: 'The Bean Sith was detected by her extraordinary voracity (a cow at a meal), a frightful front tooth, the entire want of a nostril, a web foot, preternaturally long breasts, etc.

According to George MacDonald,The Aberdeenshire Brownies had a thumb with the rest of the fingers joined together. It seems likely that these characteristics were given to the fairies by people who believed them to be fallen angels, or yet more closely related to the Devil. The Devil's cloven hoof is perhaps one of the most common articles of folk belief. As Alexander Roberts put it in his TREATISE OF WITCHCRAFT, 'Yet he cannot so perfectly represent the fashion of a man's body but that there is some sensible deformity by which he bewrayeth himself.'