Typical sprite of fairies from Mountain of Faith onwards.
More Character Titles
A fairy (妖精 yousei) is a small, simple creature of magic that represents some aspect of nature. Many of them are also simple-minded. They tend to have short lives, but they will regenerate immediately after dying.
Fairies in Touhou
A fairy may have abilities relating to the four seasons, weather, emotions, longevity, decay, fertility, or other aspects of nature. The power exercised by a single fairy is usually harmless and small scale, so they're more suited to playing around rather than causing major happenings. Fortunately, most fairies are easily amused by pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. However, since fairies tend to gather in areas frequented by humans and youkai, a large group of fairies may indicate the presence of a powerful youkai.
In the case for Cirno's game sprites and for the fairies who showed up in Sangetsusei, there were many who took the form of humanoid children with wings, usually mayfly- or butterfly-like, though more unusual cases exist (such as Cirno's triple icicle wings). It is thus common to perceive all fairies to look that way. However, as an exception, the Fairy Maids from the Scarlet Devil Mansion looked more like adults. Therefore, it does not seem like all fairies look like young girls. For those who showed up in Sangetsusei, in terms of design, they actually looked more like little girls than young girls. This is due to the design of Makoto Hirasaka.
Their wings might not be solid; in most depictions, they appear to float over the fairy's clothes, unconnected to their body, and some fairies have shown the ability to hide them.
Fairies spring forth from nature, and as long as that nature is preserved, they're indestructible. On the other hand, if that nature is lost, the fairies who spring forth from that disappear forever. Among the powers of Gensokyo, they exist in considerable numbers, and guessing from sayings in the manga, they are fewer than spirits, but are probably around the same number as phantoms and far greater than the number of humans. As this is merely numbers, it is not related to their strength.
It's not clear what kinds of fairies spring forth from what kinds of nature, but taking Lily White as an example who is the "fairy of spring", it can be conceived that the nature is the season of spring. Other than in spring, it is a mystery what Lily does and where she is. Some logical possibilities include the idea that she would sleep due to losing energy or due to being ill-suited to the conditions, that she disappears due to coming forth only when the condition is met, or that she turns into another kind of fairy. However, in Silent Sinner in Blue, since she made an appearance at the party at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, which opened in winter, the possibility that she disappears or becomes debilitated outside of spring is quite low.
To Cirno, the Three Fairies of Light said, "for your season, when spring arrives, you would then become out of season," and so Cirno provoked that winter ought to fight, thus indicating a high possibility that when the nature from which the fairy sprung forth becomes weak, the fairy would become weaker accordingly, and that the fairies are aware of this themselves. However, when it is not winter, since Cirno does not seem to become extremely weakened, this might just be a mistake due to the Three Fairies of Light. In the first place, since it has not been seen that Cirno becomes stimulated upon the arrival of winter the same way as for Lily White of spring, and since it seems like she does not really like winter all that much due to its boredom, she might not actually be a fairy who springs forth from winter.
Since they spring forth from nature, they do not leave children, as it would be unnecessary in the first place.
Size and height mystery
Their height is uniformly small, where they can fit in the palm of a hand, up to the size of a child below ten years of age; there is hardly any fairy outside of this scope. This was said in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, which is not reliable due to requests from the youkai to change how strong they seem, but due to the number of fairies and their range from the Human Village, it's likely that there'd be no reason to write lies in relation to fairies. However, since it was written that there are merely "hardly any" fairies outside of the scope, that still leaves open the possibility of exceptions.
In reality, girls of 9 years of age have the average height of around 130cm, so a fairies size goes from being in palm of a hand to around 130cm. As for whether there would be an exception to being bigger than this, it is a mystery since there is much conflicting information regarding their size. Since they a characteristic of become stronger or weaker depending on their surroundings, they might possibly also change their size due to their surroundings as well, although that's just speculation.
In chapter 8 of Strange and Bright Nature Deity, Sakuya Izayoi intended to capture Lily White in a bottle. If this is not a misunderstanding, then Lily White would be extremely small. However, it is somewhat of a question as for whether this actually did happen since there were not many scenes in the manga where her size could be compared to surrounding objects, so it is a mystery if Lily White really is tiny. However, she was seen at normal size in chapter 9 of Silent Sinner in Blue, Perfect Cherry Blossom and Phantasmagoria of Flower View.
In the manga, the Three Fairies of Light were shorter than Marisa Kirisame. Marisa's size is "fairly short", while Cirno's size is "short", where other characters in the same category are Remilia Scarlet, Lyrica Prismriver, Chen, Rumia and Flandre Scarlet. I Due to this, and also due to scenes where Cirno and the three fairies played or performed pranks together, where there is not much of a difference in height to be seen between them, they are probably around the same height as the aforementioned characters as well. Also in Touhou Hisoutensoku, when comparing Cirno against Remilia, their heights are very similar.
However, in Shanghai Alice Correspondence Three Fairies Version Volume 2, concerning the three fairies' place of residence, it stated, "in each of their rooms, it is about one mat spacious, and on the level of 1 metre tall, and a place that is definitely not spacious enough for adult humans to enter." Due to this, it can be understood to be considerably narrow. Interpreted as it is, their height would be less than 100cm, but since in the manga, they reach the ceiling to the extent that others usually do, they're conceivably of a height even shorter than this. However, even if they live in such a small space, it was said that they lived in a large tree, but if their residence is this small, then it becomes impossible to see it as so giant of a tree, thus complicating the issue of their size and residence. There was one time when Cirno went into the three fairies' residence, but it was extremely confined. However, since the size of the room became clear; there are interpretations that they might become smaller upon entering their residence. The world's largest tree is a giant sequoia that's around 11.1m in diameter and it'd probably be difficult to create several rooms 1 mat wide and 1 metre tall.
There's a sense that it'd be impossible consider it a place to live for humans, and for fairies to live there would be a plus to the tree, as it's been confirmed that living there has an effect of promoting its growth, but even considering this, it still seems inconceivable that no damage would be dealt to the tree by physically removing a great amount of space from the middle of the tree, as in the case for flowers, there'd be the possibility of inflicting fatal damage even for fairies at a tiny size. However, one thing to be noted is that when the three fairies change residence, they diligently move all their belongings, but it doesn't seem like they do large-scale work even if the tree was split in two by lightning. This leads to several logical conclusions, such as the possibility that their place of residence is like another dimension, and thus the size of the tree could be smaller than their residence, or that the fairies become smaller when they enter. Of course, they may actually truly be that small.
Life span, going out of commission
Since they exist only in the bounds that the nature they spring from be preserved, they're immortal in some sense. It's unknown if they have everlasting youth, but there hasn't been a depiction where any have been depicted to have aged appearance-wise. In the afterword for Strange and Bright Nature Deity Vol. 1, it stated, "minors are prohibited from drinking sake, but since fairies are long-lived, in order not to misunderstand..." and if this is to be followed, then the Three Fairies of Light would be at least 20 years of age (NB: the drinking age in Japan is 20). In Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Cirno said, "it's the festival that happens once every sixty years!" and if Cirno did experience the previous cycle's incident, then Cirno would've lived for at least 60 years.
However, fairies aren't undying, as it's been made clear that there's a condition that's like death, mentioned in Strange in Bright Nature Deity as "going out of commission" (一回休み), and the fact that Komachi Onozuka states fairies have got no life span, being similar to phantoms. The reasons for death aren't different at all from that of a human, and for example, at New Year's Eve, there was a conversation at the Hakurei Shrine where Star Sapphire said, "I heard the humans have a custom where they'll get drunk and fall asleep and freeze to death in the snow," to which Sunny Milk responded, "Haha, how peaceful. We'd only be dead until sunrise, though." Since this was said on New Year's Eve, in the understanding of the Three Fairies of Light, it seems like they'd recover in a night, but also it seems like this speed would be different depending on the circumstances.
In Subterranean Animism, the Zombie Fairies were merely pretending to be zombies, but in the game itself, they became half-transparent and stopped, and recovered a few seconds later. However it is conceived, they recovered instantly. A possibility is that this is convenient for gameplay, or that they might just be fairies that recovered extremely fast.
Even when speaking of a "finished off" state, since it#s an incident occurring within the spell card rules, it can be conceived that they don't die at all, and that to "go out of commission" is something different from death. This somewhat resembles the debate as for whether Fujiwara no Mokou actually dies when she uses "resurrection" (die and immediately recover) or if it is simply a performance in spell card battles. It's been said that in battles under the spell card rules, death does occur due to accidents, but this is probably not something that would occur frequently.
Fairies live all over Gensokyo, and they were also in the Underworld and Makai. Since they receive the influence of the surrounding nature in their environment, they have delicate differences in strength and appearance. The Three Fairies of Light have a residence, but it#s a tree of a forest, and they later moved and lived in a tree near the Hakurei Shrine. Cirno also has a residence close to the Misty Lake that is somewhat like an igloo.
Other fairies also have similar dwellings, but it may take up a great amount of space considering their numbers. As Marisa Kirisame said, "they mostly cleverly hide themselves in nature, like inside flowers or in the soil". When these dwellings are seen by humans, like in the case of the Three Fairies of Light's residence, it looks like an ordinary tree, and is therefore unable to be discovered. Reimu Hakurei didn't notice their dwelling despite having actually arriving at it several times. In other words, although the dwelling of the fairies was inside, humans would generally not notice it.
As an exception, when Marisa was called over for incident resolution regarding the Three Fairies of Light, she was able to recognise their residence. However, she wasn't seen entering it. There were also cases when the fairies themselves invited others over, but it's unclear what can be confirmed about the kind of place they live in. For the tree that Reimu didn't notice as a dwelling, there was a time when Yukari Yakumo saw through that they lived there. In the same way, the Three Fairies of Light were able to discover Cirno's residence, and destroyed it, which became the subject of the game Fairy Wars.
The size of their residence is a mystery (refer to the "Size and height mystery section"). Since there was a scene in Sangetsusei where Reimu and the Three Fairies of Light faced each other through a window, since it at least can't be seen that the window and the Three Fairies became smaller, it may just be like another dimension. However, it can't be confirmed that a window was outside.
There are also fairies who live in human-made residences for humans to live in, who can be said to be represented by the Fairy Maids who live in the Scarlet Devil Mansion. There was also the fairy of rainy season who lived in the attic of Kourindou. It's unknown fairies live the Human Village, but concerning fairies, whose purpose of existence is to perform mischief to humans, it can be considered that there aren't many cases of those who live close to humans.
The Fairy's Appearances
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General fairies that have no identification of character have appeared throughout the Touhou Project.
The fairy's first appearance as a general emery was in Stage 1 of Lotus Land Story. They had blonde hair, a red dress and blue wings (although they likely meant to be transparent due to limitation in 16-colour limits in graphics). They only appeared once in a small group, scrolling down the screen not shooting bullets. However, if playing on lunatic, they'll shoot a few bullets. On stages 4 and 5, there appear to be humanoid-like enemies that appear, although it doesn't confirm that they're fairies due to not having wings; they're likely to be youkai though.
During the Makai route ending of Highly Responsive to Prayers, the Yin-Yang Orb turned into what appears to be a fairy. On stage 4 and the Extra stage of Mystic Square, there were humanoids enemies with blond hair and a white dress that had wings; because of these wings and the fact they appeared in Makai, it can't be definite whether they are fairies or demons. The Stage 4 Midboss of Lotus Land Story, who may also be the Stage 3 midboss of Mystic Square, may also be a fairy.
Throughout every signal main game, unlike the PC-98 canon, fairies have been the most common enemy in the Touhou Project. The way they shoot danmaku all depends on what difficulty the player chooses and what stage they appear in. They can come in different kinds of coloured dresses and hair, and can appear more bigger than usual at times, such as the Sunflower Fairy. In the "first generation" of the Windows era, the sprites of the fairies changed game by game, but as of Mountain of Faith, the sprites were somewhat standardised throughout the rest of the games.
- Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
They first appeared on stage 1, as well as on stage 2, coming down the screen in great numbers and in a line. On stage 3, they were mixed in with Fairy Maids, where on stage 4 and onwards, only Fairy Maids were shown. The stage 2 midboss and boss of the game are also fairies, them being Daiyousei and Cirno respectively.
- Perfect Cherry Blossom
The fairies once again appeared as general enemies in Perfect Cherry Blossom throughout the game. A new feature is that a number of fairies have a magic circle around them, which indicates that they're stronger fairies that'll shoot more danmaku and that they're non-trivial to defeat. On stage 4 and onwards, there appears to be fairies that are re-used from the previous game, being identical to the Fairy Maids, although they can be presumed not to be fairy maids due to not being a the Scarlet Devil Mansion and the fact Sakuya Izayoi can take them down, knowing that she wouldn't attack her own staff.
On stage 2, they'll first appear in transparent orbs, then after a while of waiting, they'll pop out and immediately shoot danmaku. On stages 5 and 6, they appear to have some kind of ghost theme amongst them because each fairies' entrance on the screen start with spiritual-like material flowing through the screen, then appearing as normal. When defeated, they'll return into their spiritual dwellings and move off the screen.
- Imperishable Night
Fairies again make an appearance in Imperishable Night. There are four different coloured fairies that appear over all: blonde hair with a blue dress (stage 1, 3, 4); blonde hair with a red dress; brown hair with a green dress (stage 2); and blue hair with a yellow dress. There are also another version of these fairies in exact appearance with an hat, where they shown to be more stronger and non-trivial to take care of; they may also have a magic circle around them. Red dress ones appear on stages 2, 3 and 4, green ones appear on stages 1, 3 and 4; and yellow ones appear on stage 3.
On stage 5 onwards, there are another version that has rabbit ears, along with wearing-hat versions. Whether these meant to be rabbits is unknown. Blue dress ones appear on stage 5. With hat versions, while blue are on Extra stage, red ones are on stage 5, 6 and Extra, green ones are on stage 5 and 6; and yellow ones are on stage 5.
- Phantasmagoria of Flower View
Fairies are yet again the common enemy in Phantasmagoria of Flower View, being the primary targets in the game. However, they don't shoot bullets, are extremely easy to destroy by shooting bullets and come in infinity numbers, making Reimu Hakurei wonder why there are so many fairies. There are four types of fairies; blue dressed with blonde hair holding a leaf, red dressed with silver hair holding what appears to be a white dandelion with somewhat bigger wings, green dressed with brown hair holding some sunflowers with fairly big wings, and white dressed with blue hair holding two big sunflowers with large wings . The later is known as the Sunflower Fairy and this is their first appearance in the games, along with the former being standardized throughout the rest of the games. Additionally, a fairy named Cirno appeared as a playable character.
The fairies come in from the edges of the screen or from the top. Once a fairy is hit, it's defeated, leaving an explosive impact for objects around them (although this does not hurt the player). Shooting one of the fairies in a row usually causes a chain reaction along the entire row. There is one particular fairy that isn't non-trivial to deal with – that being Lily White. She'll randomly appear on the screen if a fight has gone on for a long time, appearing on both players' fields simultaneously. She will release a large number of large and white bullets before she leaves, which even ZUN says it's "annoying". An EX Attacks appears if she's defeated and she can re-appear.
On the stages for Reimu Hakurei, Marisa Kirisame, Reisen Udongein Inaba and Tewi Inaba's, the fairies have rabbit ears, possibly making a reference to Reisen and Tewi, or being in the Bamboo Forest of the Lost. On Eiki Shiki, Yamaxanadu's stage, the fairies (along with Lily White) are seen dressing like Eiki. ZUN has stated in a Livestream that the fairies and Lily are simply cosplaying as the yama herself.
- Mountain of Faith
Fairies again make an appearance in Mountain of Faith, shooting danmaku at the player. The game re-uses the blue dressed, blonde hair fairies from the previous game, where they were given three extra colours; red dress with yellow hair, green dress with pink hair, and yellow dress with silver hair. There are also another version of these fairies in exact appearance with an hat, which seems to resemble Suwako Moriya's, and that they hold a sword. This could give an hint as to what can be expected later in the game. These types first appeared on stage 3, and re-appeared on stage 4, 5, 6 and Extra.
- Subterranean Animism
Fairies again make an appearance in Subterranean Animism, shooting danmaku at the player and re-using sprites from the previous game. Fairies don't appear on stages 5 and 6, that being in the Remains of Blazing Hell. However, during Rin Kaenbyou boss fight, she'll summon fairies before her first Spell Card Cursed Sprite "Zombie Fairy", where if they're defeated, they'll give the appearance of being dead with a halo. When the spell card starts, they'll turn into Zombie Fairies. They're not dead nor are they zombies, they're just acting as though they are. Rin will regularly use the Zombie Fairies during her boss fight.
It should be noted that only the red dress, blonde hair fairies are used in the game, where the other coloured sprites of fairies weren't used.
- Undefined Fantastic Object
Fairies yet again re-appeared in Undefined Fantastic Object, shooting danmaku at the player and re-using sprites from the previous game. On stages 5 and 6, the fairies have a unique colour that blends them in with Makai. One type is pure purple, while the other three types have a black dress, with each other three have pink hair, blue hair and blonde hair. The latter two have scarlet wings, while the former has purple wings.
On stage 6, the fairies travel down in a similar fashion to the Invaders of the Space Invaders series, creating an obvious reference in gameplay. They'll shoot bullets downwards and move from left to right and back again, slowly coming downwards. Also, Nue Houjuu used these fairies during her stage 6 appearance. On stage 4, she used fairies that appear to be a ghost of some sort, wearing an hitaikakushi. It's unknown if these relate to the Zombie Fairies.
- Double Spoiler
- Fairy Wars
Fairies are the main focussed theme and prime species in Fairy Wars, where it's Cirno (the protagonist) versus the Three Mischievous Fairies (the antagonists), along with Daiyousei and Lily White being midbosses and the Sunflower Fairies with regular fairies being the only enemies to appear in the game. The three fairies destroyed Cirno's home at the Misty Lake, so she takes revenge by declaring war on them. To get to them, Cirno must fight various fairies on her paths towards her target. She can use her new freezing ability to freeze danmaku. She cannot freeze fire bullets, which is a new bullet feature the fairy enemies use. As usual on the Extra stage, the fairies are brutal with their danmaku.
Sprites from previous games are used for the different types of fairies, including two that were last seen in Phantasmagoria of Flower View (Shown to the right). First type has silver hair while the next type has light brown hair. They both come in their own two pair; the the first types having a blue dress and a red dress while the second types have a light brown dress and an aqua dress. These fairies are not trivial to deal with, but Cirno's ability can make the defeated quicker. Also, the Makai sprites of the fairies are re-used from Undefined Fantastic Object. From the looks are these fairies, it appears that ZUN tried to include as many fairies as possible that've appeared in the games, except for pre-PoFV ones.
Characters under this Bestiary
- Fairy Maids
- Sunny Milk
- Luna Child
- Star Sapphire
- Fairy of rainy season (梅霖の妖精) (fairies who make rain fall around their surroundings. They settled down around Kourindou but ran away due to Reimu Hakurei's threats) (Curiosities of Lotus Asia, Chapter 9)
- Fairy from the forest (森の妖精) (a fairy who does not seem to do such dangerous play as making icicles fall) (Curiosities of Lotus Asia, Chapter 12)
- Fairy who lived in the Mongolian oak (ミズナラの木に住んでいた妖精) (they lived in a Mongolian Oak behind the Hakurei Shrine, but due to lightning, they seemed to have gone out of commission) (Strange and Bright Nature Deity Vol. 3, Chapter 21)
- Rain fairy (雨の妖精) (fairies who make rain fall. They are said to be active from the morning on hot days) (Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth, Chapter 9)
Books and articles
- Wikipedia entry for Fairy
- Strange and Bright Nature Deity]]: Chapter 1
- Strange and Bright Nature Deity: Chapter 19
- Perfect Memento in Strict Sense: Fairy
- ZUN's E-mails
- Strange and Bright Nature Deity - Chapter number needed
- Phantasmagoria of Flower View: Komachi's Script
- Strange and Bright Nature Deity: Chapter 15
- The Grimoire of Marisa: Orin's Spell Cards
- Double Spoiler: Level 8 spell cards
- Strange and Bright Nature Deity Vol. 2 Special
- Oriental Sacred Place, Chapter 1