What Have "Outlander" And The Cottingley Fairies Got In Common?

Updated on July 31, 2016
Nell Rose profile image

Nell is an avid follower of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and absolutely loves the characters and the clothes!

Outlander Jamie and Claire
Outlander Jamie and Claire | Source

'Sing me a song.......!'

God, we love them don't we? Jamie Fraser, all six foot and a bit, flaming red hair and Scottish burr, that makes our toes shrivel up to our knees.

And Claire. Stubborn, caring, English, swears like a trouper while taking the bull, or Jamie, by the horns and telling them to sit, and sit now or else!

Along with the fabulous Scottish landscape, wars, fighting blood and guts, and dollops of such hilarious humor that you want to reach into the screen or book, grab the character out and give them a big hug and a kiss for making you feel so warm, comforted and happy.

Millions of people tune in each week to watch this amazing dose of daring-do. But what is it about this particular series that makes us all burst into tears when Jamie gives her That Look, or cry with laughter when Claire remarks Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, and promptly slaps someone round the face?

Well I will tell you. It's because they are real. Or as real as they can possibly get. Which makes them our heroes. And boy do we need them these days.

What do I mean by real? Well we can't talk about Outlander without mentioning the genius behind the words.

Diana Gabaldon. I have no idea how she does it. She, or Herself as we call her, takes an idea in her mind, weaves it into reality and then puts layers and layers of blood sweat and tears on the bones of each and every character. Then she colors them in another layer. This one is personality, feeling, love, hate, and hurt. Mix in a dollop of humor and boy she has got a winner.

Now this may not be difficult with one or two characters. But Diana does this with every single person in her books. And you know what?

She doesn't forget! From one book to another there is never a flaw, glitch or personality boo boo that makes the readers yell, wrong! Eight books so far, and many side stories with the wonderful Lord John Grey who is coming our way. This guy is going to be huge too. Let's face it, he is going to be Jamie's bestie for at least 30 odd years!

So, we have covered whys and whats, but what is the missing magic ingredient?

Well let me tell you.

It's magical fantasy. Or in plain English: We need them. Why?

Outlander | Source

The World is going Mad!

Wars, murder, race hate you name it, it's happening all over the world. I don't know whats happening to us, but boy every single time we turn on the TV, Internet, or Radio we get great ugly dollops of pain, anguish and bewildering death.

It makes us feel vulnerable, sad, and angry. We get scared for our own families and friends. We despair at the trauma and trouble round the world and we want to yell NO!

When we are surrounded by fear and pain we reach out and grab something so magical we take it to our hearts and immerse ourselves in it. You think Outlander is the first time we have done this? Well no.

Have you ever heard of the real life story of the Cottingley Fairies? Its a fascinating tale of belief, love and overwhelming need. And it happened in 1917.

Cottingley Fairies
Cottingley Fairies | Source
Cottingley Fairies
Cottingley Fairies | Source

The Cottingley Fairies

In 1917 at the height of the First World War in a small village called Cottingley near Bradford, something rather special happened.

Two young cousins, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, 16 and 9 years old told their parents that they had photographed fairies!

9 year old Frances, who had just arrived from South Africa with her mother came to stay with her aunt, Elsie's mother.

There was a small stream or beck at the bottom of the garden, and both children would play there most days.

This was a small haven in a world gone mad. Even though it was so peaceful most of the villagers had family away at war. When the children came back in from playing, covered in mud, leaves, and soaking feet, they told their parents that they had been following the fairies.

Of course to start with the adults believed it was just child's play. But soon, after constantly they constantly insisted that 'There really are fairies," Elsie's father Arthur, who was an amateur photographer decided to lend them his camera. it was an old Midg. Quarter Plate. Very simple and therefore not easy to produce false photos with.

The Cottingley Fairies Still from the Movie
The Cottingley Fairies Still from the Movie | Source

Fairies at the bottom of the Garden!

After 30 minutes the girls returned with a look of triumph on their faces. Arthur, seeing their excitement, took the camera to his Dark Room and set about making the photos. To his astonishment he saw something that he never would have believed.

There in the woods near the beck showed Frances behind a bush, and in the front, in all their glory were four Fairies dancing in front of the camera!

He was astonished! But soon he dismissed the photo and decided that it was fake. After a few more photos had been taken Arthur still didn't believe, but his wife did. Frances then sent the photos to her relatives in South Africa, where they started to circulate.

In 1919 Frances mother attended a meeting of the Theosophical Society in Bradford. The talk was on fairies and other mystical figures.

Soon the members of the meeting began to believe, and soon they came to the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holmes series.

But it was when Edward Gardner, one of the leading lights at the Society, decided to look into it further that it really took off. After much publicity the story began to take on its own life.

Soon thousands of people were traveling up to Cottingley, hoping to see with their own eyes the amazing Cottingley fairies.

Soon the family and local villagers decided enough was enough. Trampling through their woodland and causing a mess! Indeed! And so the story died down.

But it didn't stop their. Many years later, after the two girls married and moved away, grew older and then retired, they were tracked down by various reporters. One being the famous Scientific Fraudster James Randi! He went on to claim that "of course the photos are fake" after studying them. This was in 1976. Soon the girls confessed and the truth came out.

They had cut and pasted the fairies from magazines, and had added the wings themselves.

But till their end, both girls claimed that the Cottingley fairies had been real, and one of the photos was also real.

The Fifth Photograph

Elsie claimed that it was a fake, just like the others, but Frances always insisted that it was genuine.

In an interview in the early 1980s Frances said:

'It was a wet Saturday afternoon, and we were just mooching about with our cameras and Elsie had nothing prepared. I saw these fairies building up in the grasses and just aimed the camera and took a photograph'.

Of course we will never really learn the truth. Did they really see a Fairy? I can hear you all laughing saying 'No of course not'.

But let me just remind you of another so called myth and legend.

The Little People. Throughout history people have been saying that they have seen little people, and leaving food outside for them. Especially in Ireland.


Back in 2002, on the Indonesian island of Flores, scientists discovered something amazing.

Little People! Or more precisely, Homo Floresiensis. In fact they have just discovered more bones that point to the fact that those little people were in fact smaller the farther you go back in history. 700,000 years earlier to be precise!

Fairy Tale a True Story Movie
Fairy Tale a True Story Movie | Source

Just Magical.

Real or not, The Cottingley Fairies, Outlander and many more are there for a reason. They keep us sane. In a world that seems to be going mad, we need something magical.

And thank goodness for that!

A Fairy Tale - The True Story

I absolutely loved this film. It's a great introduction to the Cottingley Fairy stories, but brings its own magic when the children meet and photograph the fairies. Great for kids and adults, and as I mentioned above, sometimes you need a magical escape from reality.

This is it.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Nell Rose


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      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 16 months ago from England

        Thanks RedElf, Outlander is amazing isn't it? I love it to bits! and the Lord John side line books too, I only have to open a lord john and I start smiling, waiting for the humor! the cottingley fairies were so interesting for the time, thanks

      • RedElf profile image

        RedElf 17 months ago from Canada

        Awesome article - I loved the "Outlander" books from the first one I ever read, and am now saving (since Christmas) "Written in My Own Heart's Blood" for my next days off. Also am so thrilled no-one tried to put the series on TV before now. The series is almost as gritty as the novels in spots, and would never have made it past the TV police in years gone by.

        Love the Cottingley Faeries - heard about them many years ago - such clever little girls. They kept the world guessing for a long time - but then, as now, sometimes we just need something magical to believe in.

        Thanks for your words, Nell.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 18 months ago from England

        Lol! so confusing isn't it? forgot her name was Gillian, nell

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 18 months ago from Orlando Florida

        I'm on book 4, so I haven't gotten to the explanation yet. So the stones send different people back a different number of years for some reason, but thereafter it is their "internal clocks" that control. Yes, Ghellis, but her name in our time was Gillian. Spend 10 years in the past, and then return to the present and it is 10 years after you left. Thanks for the clarification.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 18 months ago from England

        Hi Catherine, you mean gheillis? yes evidently people keep to the linear or real timeline whatever time they arrive back in the past. In other words not everyone travels to the same past. for example, Claire arrives in, I believe around 1745. Geillis on the other hand arrived on her first trip around 1718 I think. its once you have been on the original trip that you keep to the past time that you went too. In later books there is a reference to someone, can't remember who, who came through in twos. one guy ended up in claires time, the other one totally disappeared, so they believe he arrived around 20 or 30 years before. hope that helps?

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 18 months ago from Orlando Florida

        Outlander is my guilty pleasure. I watched the show on TV because I like stories about time travel. Then I started reading the books. I'm almost done with Voyager. I don't know how the author does it. Each book is about 1000 pages and she seems expert in so many things. Scotland, history, medicine, farming, sailing, and one passage I will never forget, how drawn and quartering is done.

        I did find one puzzling thing, but perhaps it will be explained later. The passage of time is for Claire. vs. Gillian. Claire spends 3 years in the past and when she returns to the future 3 years have past in the present time. Then she spends 20 years in the present time and when she returns to the past, it is 20 years after she left. But Gillian goes back in the same year as Claire's second time travel, and is already in the past when Claire arrives the first time. Why does time work differently for the two women? And since Claire knew the dates for Gillian, why is she so confident she will arrive the second time when 20 years have elapsed for Jaime?

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 19 months ago from England

        Thanks Rolly, the series of books and tv are great aren't they? Always great to hear from you.

      • Rolly A Chabot profile image

        Rolly A Chabot 19 months ago from Alberta Canada

        Hi Nell... what a great piece of work you have created here... gives me a whole new look at what I have seen. I have the entire 9 book series on audio. After watching the series in it entirety I decided to listen. There are so many powerful messages in both... well done.

        Hugs from Canada

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 21 months ago from England

        Thanks Jean, I do know what you mean, when there is something going on in your own life sometimes you need a bit of sanity! hope everything gets better soon, and thanks so much for reading, nell

      • Jean Bakula profile image

        Jean Bakula 21 months ago from New Jersey

        I never heard of the fairies, but got hooked on the Outlander books just in time to read them all before the series came to TV.

        Right after that, I had a serious legal situation (false) that my son was accused of, and I think watching Outlander was the last normal thing I did before his luck turned so bad. The situation is slowly moving forward. I hope by Season 3 it will be a memory. But Outlander has helped me a lot and Jamie is hot! I love Claire, and all the characters. It's hard to like Frank after Black Jack, but it shows what a good actor Tobias is.

        Take care Nell.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

        Thanks Deb, yes never thought of that! lol!

      • profile image

        Deb Hirt 22 months ago

        Tell Bill that he needs to read Gulliver's Travels, which included The Lilliputians.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

        Thanks Eddy, great to see you back!

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 22 months ago from Wales

        How nice it is to be back and able to read interesting hubs like this again. A wonderful read and here's to many more to come.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

        Thanks so much DDE!

      • profile image

        DDE 22 months ago

        I loved this story and you told it with so beautifully.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        LOL! raymond is a pain in the butt! he keeps putting spam on here, 'i have earned blah blah etc' every time I get rid of him he comes back like a dirty smell, so! lol! Yes Outlander is amazing, I am totally hooked, more so than any other program ever been on TV! and the cottingley fairies have always fascinated me purely because of the psychological thing around it, how we all believed because we, back then, really needed too, always great to see you! nell

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 23 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Hi Nell.....Gosh, I love the way you write! This is so fascinating as well as all new to me. Seems I may have heard something about "Outlander," but you have seriously stirred my curiosity and interest!

        I'm sure I will love the tale of the "Fairies,"....we all need a bit of fantasy now and then. It's even more fun when we wonder if it could be true or not!

        Thanks Nell!......BTW, Who's Raymond? What am I missing girlfriend? Peace, Paula/Effer

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Raymond, keep putting it here, I will keep deleting!!

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Hi Penelope, that movie is great isn't it? thanks so much for reading, nell

      • Penelope Bucket profile image

        Penelope Bucket 23 months ago from Seattle area

        Great article and thanks I loved that movie. And I believe in all fairies.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Thanks Dianna, this was started in the middle of all the troubles going on, then I put on Outlander and felt much better, then realised thats what we needed, which took me to the Fairies, which was a similar thing, thanks so much as always, nell

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 23 months ago

        I will have to look these up on the BBC channel. As always, your writing is so entertaining and unique.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Hi Ruby, that's it exactly! I used to love the Waltons too, bring back all the good old stuff! great to see you as always, nell

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Thanks Frank, the show is relatively new, the Cottingley fairies were real history over here in England, it was a fascinating story, thanks so much for reading, nell

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 23 months ago from Southern Illinois

        LOL, I must be living in a box too. This is all new to me, but I love it. The idea of fairy's being around is charming and comforting. That's the reason I watch The Walton's, a simple time when goodness prevailed.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 23 months ago from Shelton

        I must be living in a box.. I've never heard of any of these show..maybe because it is an American British.. I don't know.. but I think I'm going to check them out and see what they have in common.. Nell thank you for the hub and the heads up...:) Frank

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Thanks Fiona, yes the fairies were fake, but I do believe there is something that started off the stories of fairies, thanks for reading, nell

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Short and sweet edgy, but thank you! LOL!

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Hi alicia, yes this program has a fan base probably the best in the world! millions of followers because its so special, not like all the other same old same old programs! well worth catching up on, and you can buy the dvds too! lol! look at me trying to sell it! thanks for reading, nell

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Hi flourish, no its written by an american author, Diana Gabaldon, mainly filmed in Scotland, but its huge all over the world. evidently in america its on Starz, I watch it on amazon prime. You gotta watch it! lol! best thing since sliced bread, or maybe wine....! lol! thanks for reading, nell

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Hi Faith, You have to start at the beginning, you mustn't miss a second! lol! its the best thing thats ever been on tv, you are going to love it! And yes those Cottingley fairies definitely stirred up the village at the time, even as far as london, with Conan Doyle involved! thanks so much for reading, nell

      • Fiona Jean Mckay profile image

        Fiona 23 months ago from South Africa

        I don't believe that the photos were real but I do believe that there are fairies - it's nice to think that there is some magic in the world. I enjoyed reading this article, thanks :)

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I've never seen Outlander, but since you've mentioned it I'll look out for the show. I agree very much with what you say, Nell - we do need some fantasy to help us through these difficult times.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

        I haven't heard of this but enjoyed the escapism from all the stuff going on in the world. Must be a British show?

      • Faith Reaper profile image

        Faith Reaper 23 months ago from southern USA

        Hi Nell,

        Well, I've been trying to come up with something new to watch, as my husband seems to enjoy so many series and such, that I gave up LOL. But now that I know what I've been missing, I am going to get him to watch it with me too! It sounds wonderful from what you've described and so I am looking forward to watching it. I am one to not watch too much tv, but if it is something great like this sounds, I will take time to watch it and become obsessed LOL.

        I actually know of the Cottingley Fairies and it is a fascinating phenomenon of how it all came about and kept such a secret for so long throughout their lives of the truth.

        Great hub!

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Thanks Louise, yes I completely agree with you!

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        LOL! Thanks Lori! I think its a bit of both to be honest! but I do need to turn my brain off totally sometimes with all the horrible stuff in the world, just seeing Sam makes me smile!

      • profile image

        Louise 23 months ago

        I always told my children and grandchildren, isn't it more fun to believe than to always degbunk! Imagination explands the mind in many ways.Believe!

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Hi Miz, its not shown over here, but we have to buy it from Amazon Prime, so I watch it on my pc. I have loved the books for 20 years! and I really do feel like this when I watch it. especially after seeing the news recently, what a nightmare! the fairies were fascinating weren't they? thanks so much for reading, nell

      • MizBejabbers profile image

        Doris James-MizBejabbers 23 months ago

        Nell, this is great! I'm not sure I've ever heard of the Cottingley Fairies. I would really like to see Outlander but it is on the Starz channel here, which is a pay extra channel, and we don't do those. After the series is old enough, hopefully it will be switched to regular cable channels or even local channels that run old series, and then I will be able to watch LOL.

        But you're right in that we all need a little dose of fantasy to help us keep our sanity. Right now our reality is too unreal, so something out of this world gives us a diversion.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

        Thanks Billy, no Outlander is huge in America, but thats okay, lol! and it was just one of those whimsy hubs, so if it sinks then, never mind! lol!

      • profile image

        Lori 23 months ago

        Nell, Nice synthesis! I like that fairy story and the movie too.I am glad to hear that my Outlander obsession is in response to stressful times. I thought it was menopause! (Or worse, Celebrity Worship Disorder!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

        This must be a British thing. LOL I've never heard, seen or read about either of them, so thanks for the education. We Yanks aren't too bright sometimes. What sets us apart is we are proud of our ignorance. LMAO

        Nice article, Nell! Hope you are feeling better.


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