Fairy Rings and Toadstools by Richard Doyle, 1875
Richard 'Dickie' Doyle, (1824 – 1883) was a well-known Victorian illustrator, and the son of noted political caricaturist, John Doyle. Young Dickie and his brothers, James and Charles, learned their trade in their father's studio, and all three attained some success as artists. From an early age Dickie displayed a talent for depicting fantasy scenes, and throughout his life he was fascinated by fairy tales. He worked for Punch magazine for seven years from 1843, but eventually left there to concentrate on book illustration and painting.
The fairies in this painting are very tiny, misty creatures. They seem to be having a great time, leap-frogging toadstools, dancing in circles, and teasing the local wild-life. The picture is very delicately painted with beautifully rendered ferns and leaves forming the background.
Victorian poets who have referred to fairy rings in their works include:
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Eliza Cook, Robert Stephen Hawker, Felicia Hemans, Gerald Massey, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
W. H. Cummings composed the cantata The Fairy Ring,
and William Butler Yeats wrote of them in The Land of Heart's Desire (1894).
A great deal of folklore surrounds fairy rings.
Their names in European languages often allude to supernatural origins;
they are known asronds de sorciers ("sorcerers' rings") in France,
and Hexenringe ("witches' rings") in German.
In German tradition, fairy rings were thought to mark the site of witches' dancing on Walpurgis Night.