Whatchamacallit

The Fairy Queen points out five roads to the Otherworld in Thomas of Erceldoune: heaven, paradise, purgatory, hell, and ‘ȝone es my awenne’. She gives no name for her country, but in Sir Orfeo it is once referred to as ‘lond off fairi’. What then do I call it in my chapter on Otherworlds, including the fairy otherworld?

Not ‘Fairyland’. That sounds like a playhouse sold by Mattel or Disney. ‘Land of Fairy’ is cumbersome and will rack up my wordcount. I had originally thought to call the place simply ‘Fairy’; yet to do so risks confusion between Fairy the concept and Fairy the place. There needs to be a technical reason for whichever term I choose, because I am writing an academic thesis, not a popular nonfiction book.

Do not suggest I use ‘Avalon’, for part of this chapter will determine whether Avalon functions as a type of fairy otherworld in the first place.

So I turn to the Middle English Dictionary. It offers ‘The country or home of supernatural or legendary creatures; also, a land of such creatures’ as the first definition for ‘fairie’ and its variants, but now, then, which spelling to choose?

Just a sampling of the thoughts that pass through this PhD student’s mind…

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