I was walking the dog after lunch the other day, when I spotted a perfectly round Fairy Ring of toadstools. Fearing that the toadstools might be destroyed by children coming home from school later in the afternoon, I whizzed back home for my camera and took these pictures.
When I was a child there were many stories about Fairy Rings, but although I kept looking I never found a Fairy Ring of my own. In the stories I read, Fairy Rings became visible in the morning, showing where fairies had danced in the moonlight the night before. Some of the nicer tales told how the fairies sat on the toadstools to rest from their dancing, or used them as dinner tables; but other stories told that mortal folk were lured into the Fairy Ring to dance with the fairies, and were then imprisoned and never allowed to leave. These folk stories date back to medieval times, but fairy imagery was particularly popular during the Victorian era. At school I remember studying ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, where Thomas Hardy uses a Fairy Ring as the symbol of lost love. When the main character Michael Henchard passes a Fairy Ring he recalls how he last saw his wife there many years ago, after he sold her to a sailor in a drunken rage.
So I have waited a long time, but I have finally seen my fairy ring. It wasn’t eerie, or spooky, but to my adult mind it was interesting, interesting enough to go straight home for my camera. I was surprised how large the toadstools were, I would have expected something more like the size of culinary mushrooms, but most of these must have been at least six or eight inches across. And the shapes were pleasing, all smooth contours and gentle shades of colour, the tops scooped out like little bowls.
I saw the Fairy Ring a couple more times, and although not destroyed by children, gradually the toadstools decayed and vanished. I believe that they often reappear in the same place, so who knows, one day I may see my Fairy Ring again.