Monster Monday: Leanan Sidhe

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Leanan Sidhe.

Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things by Sophie Gengembre Anderson
Take the Fair Face of Woman, and Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers, and Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy is Made of Most Beautiful Things by Sophie Gengembre Anderson

In Irish folklore, the Leanan Sidhe is a beautiful fairy woman who takes a human male lover. The name “Leanan Sidhe” in fact means something close to “fairly lover.” She is often attracted to artists and poets and can act as a muse, inspiring great artistic achievements, but her devotion has a dark side. She feeds off the creative energy of her human lovers, often driving them mad and sending them to an early grave. In some versions, she appears to her chosen as an impossibly beautiful woman, but to all others, she is invisible.

Of the Leanan Sidhe, poet W.B. Yeats wrote:

The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth—this malignant phantom.

In the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, the name of Harry Dresden’s “faerie godmother” is Leanansidhe.

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