New collection of fairy houses on exhibit at Dollhouse and Toy Museum
BENNINGTON >> The fairies of legend generally hid from real people and could be mischievous and malevolent. The fairies now at the Dollhouse and Toy Museum of Vermont are neither, nor are they — as some of the folklore bogeymen, goblins, and trolls who also were considered to be fairies were — wizened and bearded men with humped backs and bulging red eyes. Instead, they are tiny winged pixies like Tinkerbell who are anxious to show off their homes in the new collection of fairy houses now on exhibit there.
The fairy houses are imaginative and enchanting creations that were carved mainly from gourds by Helen Greene, who is retiring this year after having been an art teacher at Bennington Elementary School and Monument Elementary School since 1998. Photographs of them will form the core of children's book about fairies and fairy houses that she hopes to publish, along with poems about fairies by her husband, Mitch Greene, and drawings of fairies by Adrian Sweeney, who has been teaching art at the Village School in North Bennington since 1992. Some of the drawings and poems are included in the exhibit along with the fairy houses and fairies themselves, and with several other rustic and fully furnished fairy houses that are part of the museum's permanent collection.
Fairies are magical creatures that have long been part of the folklore of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as part of Germany and France and elsewhere. The term "fairie" originally meant "enchanted," and all the different kinds of fairies had some sort of magical powers. In the distant past they were depicted either as tall angelic beings or short and wizened creatures like gnomes or trolls. But since the Victorian Era they mainly have been depicted as tiny winged creatures, like miniature young women. In the past, they often were shown flying on ragwort stems or on the backs of birds, but fairies today generally are pictured as flying with insect wings or butterfly wings of their own.
Fairies have been a part of folklore for thousands of years, but constructing fairy houses — which in recent years has become something of a phenomenon — dates back just about a hundred years, when people began making them in coastal Maine to attract fairies that were thought to protect livestock and children in the harsh winters.
Most fairy houses are small structures made from natural materials such as rocks, twigs, moss, acorns, shells and bark. All of these are incorporated into the Helen Greene fairy houses in this collection, in which some of the gourds that form the main part of the houses are carved in the form of jack-o-lanterns or combined with toadstools and tree trunks and all are inhabited by many of tiny fairies also made by Helen Greene. The exhibit will stay in place until autumn.
The permanent collection of the dollhouse museum includes many large and fully-furnished dollhouses, from modest Cape Cods to elaborate Victorian homes; a large collection of Madam Alexander dolls; an exciting collection of puppets and marionettes, one of which has a rabbit magician pulling a man out of a hat; and such toys for boys as vintage trains, planes, circus wagons and Erector sets.
The museum is located at 212 Union St. (at the corner of Valentine Street), and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $2 for children 3 and older, $4 for adults, and $10 for families. For more information, visit dollhouseandtoymuseumofvermont.com or call 802-681-3767.
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