In my world there are pixies/fairy's, little humanoids no taller than a standing squirrel, with 4 bug like wings yet intelligent as a human. Unlike traditional lore they have no magic. They do however have strong ties to nature believing that mans encroachment and devastation is an imbalance that must be corrected.

They are masters of camouflage and guerilla warfare. They fight with bows and spears tipped in deadly natural poisons. They can multiply like bunnies.

So question: As a medieval ruler tired of his peoples starving from the pixie raids killing his farmers. How can I organize the eradication of these vermin and bring an end to these tinkerbell like pests.

Ground Rule:

So I get exterminating the little guys is a tough concept given the intellectual confines of the dark ages. I will allow modern science so long as you can justify how a medieval mind could reason such a plan AND how/where they obtained the resources to enact it.

I forbid digital systems because its absurd for any single person in the dark ages to come up with ALL the advances needed to make them work. By consequence this rules out elaborate chemical reactions whose reactants would be difficult to obtain in the dark ages as well as mechanical systems requiring elaborately machined parts. Bare in mind its the dark ages not the renaissance.

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    $\begingroup$ Pesticides? I mean, they're just odd-looking bugs after all. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Sep 1 '18 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ are These pixies tactically minded in any way or just dumb animals with poison tipped spears? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 1 '18 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs "yet intelligent as a human" & "They are masters of camouflage and guerilla warfare" $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ By the way how fast are these pixies? $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Sep 2 '18 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ You could also use a few slingers throwing little peebles instead of big bullets and protected by shields. $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos Sep 3 '18 at 9:31

Wear leather armor, poison is useless if you can't generate the force needed to get it below the skin. A pixie would need something like a war pick or ballista just to penetrate thin soft leather (buckskins) much less leather armor. An armored human with something like a tennis racket would be devastating. Note also poisonous is slow a human can still do a lot of damage before succumbing, also europe does not have an abundance of poisons like some parts of the world.

Clay has a good idea, use size to your advantage, destroy their homes and industry, let natural predators thin their numbers when they have no shelter. And fire has been used for centuries to rid areas of harmful creatures. Another advantage of size is distance a especially for humans, humans could travel very far and just wear down pixies by attacking them then leaving. pixies are going to need to eat several times their body weight a day, large size makes for caloric efficiency. So a pixie will need far more pre-planning to travel than a human will. Pixies will also be a lot more vulnerable to cold than humans, small size works against you again, even more so in a flying creature. In winter humans can attack without much fear of retaliation because pixies will freeze to death if they have to travel any distance to retaliate.

Pixies will be a lot more vulnerable to wildlife than humans, 90% of predators can't kill a human. domestications cats would be like having domesticated tigers to us. Predatory birds would be like having dragons. Hawks, Snakes, falcons, owls, weasels, cats, foxes, dogs, even spiders and bees might be dangerous to pixies and humans can raise these animals. It also means human can do a lot more damage to pixies just by denying them shelter.

Lastly if they are intelligent, then just like humans they will not be monolithic in their beliefs. Some will just want to avoid humans, others will find humans can be quite powerful as allies instead of enemies, and that the abundant food humans produce is very attractive, especially in times of scarcity. They will not have the massive food surpluses humans from farming, yet they will need far more food proportionally. Breeding quickly is not helpful if it just means more starving mouths, there is also a pretty hard limit on how fast an intelligent creature can breed because you still have to teach them things, so don't expect their generation time to be much more than half what humans have. Worst case smarter human settlements will bribe their own pixie mercenaries, its not as if mythology and folklore is not replete with stories of house fairies.

Now don't get me wrong obviously pixies are going to be very dangerous but not as overwhelmingly so as you may have originally imagined.

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    $\begingroup$ I didn't think about armor so +1 because a heavy leather suit would be difficult for their size to pierce, except the eyes. But remember these guys are guerilla fighters to, so they can just as easily burn down homes and the perversion of nature known as crops. FYI clay hasn't gotten near that detailed yet $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ Use gambesons, they're more authentic. Or a brigandine. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Sep 1 '18 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ to be fair in the medieval period homes are not that flammable, a lot of homes are built out of little more than dirt and mud with a few logs for a roof. add slate instead of thatch and setting fire to a house is tricky. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 2 '18 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ come to think of it pixies are not going to be as good with fire as humans, they do not have the mass to generate the forces needed to make it on demand easily. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 2 '18 at 1:44

Start by burning any forest or field that pixies are known to come from. If it's a particularly large forest just burning the edges a few hundred feet back should suffice, but if it's small enough to encircle then burn the whole thing. This should displace the pixies, and hopefully kill a number of them.

Next, dig fire lines around any town/field you want to protect and burn all the grass and plants that you can. A few hundred feet if possible, but 1-2 hundred at the very least. it's harder for pixies to sneak up across open ground.

Supply villages with extra bows and arrows, many of the men should have some experience hunting and will be able to pick off pixies if they aren't fast enough. Also give them gravel, children and women can throw handfuls of gravel at pixies to help chase them off. It may not kill them, but it would hurt any pixie they hit and possibly cripple their wings.

Villagers should be advised to never approach a pixie since the poison has a short range, and villagers probably can't get proper armor. Usually villagers rely on makeshift weapons such as war sickles or pitchforks because of price restrictions, so providing some cheap bows and gravel is an easy way to give them a range advantage over pixies.

Be careful of places where pixies are known to gather, and periodically set fires to burn hiding spots and clear out nests of pixies.

Encourage villagers to make sure their doors (and windows if they have them) are completely sealed at night. Fighting pixies at night is a losing battle and should be discouraged. The only saving grace hear is that such small creatures will probably have worse night vision than humans and will prefer day strikes.

And remind them to never leave an outdoor fire burning. Pixies will find it hard to create fires do to their small size, but stealing a 'matchstick' from the villagers fire and using it on their crops is possible.

Iron: it was often believed in the past that fairies were repelled by iron. Now this may not be true, and people might know it if fairies were real, but if it is true or is still believed, then commissions a smith to make thin steel wires to put around important crops. Small villages probably won't get this treatment, but important fields, like the ones that feed the castle, should be protected in this way. Remember to execute anyone who would try to steal this iron to discourage thieves.

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    $\begingroup$ This would have been my first answer, then I remembered how well napalm worked in Vietnam. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 1 '18 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs They could at lease clear a buffer of empty land between farms and woods. The buffer would prevent the fairies from getting close without being spotted, at least, which would hurt their guerilla tactics a lot. $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Sep 1 '18 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Never said they were purely forest dwellers, like they could also live in burrows made by various animals. $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @anon Luckily fire and burrows don't mix either. Either way eliminating areas where they are densely packed will help slow them down. And if you add the whole buffer land idea from my comment you've got a reasonable way to protect your farmers. Its cost effective unlike some types of extermination. $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Sep 1 '18 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ClayDeitas you haven't yet pushed the whole buffer land concept in your answer. I haven't downvoted your answer either because I do think it solves some of the issues but I don't yet think it is a fully baked solution. $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 21:30

Bubonic Plague: Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender

Since the pixies are skilled at using poisons they can easily be blamed for the Black Death(it might even be true but that's neither here nor there). Thus, areas known to be infested with pixies would be outlets for both the corpses of the afflicted and the religious zealotry caused by it.

Instead of simply quarantining the sick and burning the corpses, the humans could set up batteries of siege catapults dedicated to hurling the infected at pixie forests and such. With a sufficient saturation of dead bodies, their forests could be rendered "unlivable". If you don't have enough humans to do the job, infected animals could be "delivered" the same way too.

Pounding the Earth

As for the underground, you could churn the earth and those living/hiding in it by repeated heavy impacts, like a mine flail. A certain amount of churning is good for agriculture, but to accomplish the aim of harassing pixies in burrows you need to go well beyond that. Thumping the earth until even grass cannot take root should do the trick; it'd probably be quite disruptive to pixies if they can't sleep for the constant hammering and their "ceilings" are constantly falling on their heads.

Justifying it to a feudal lord is the easy part, the tricky bit would be doing it with medieval levels of technology. It may have to be done manually with elbow grease by teams of men on oxen carts. Otherwise you might need large dedicated mechanisms like the kind used to open/close city gates.


Chemical and biological warfare could be helpful.

Contrary to popular belief people used gases and diseases way before the industrial era. Set up your gas tanks and blowers somewhere good, wait until the wind goes to the right direction and unleash hell. Not a lot of things will escape a deadly fog. You could also spray toxic liquids on the plants (not necesarrily pesticides). The pixies might find a way to clean the food, but the animals and plants wont.

As for the biological warfare. Kill some animals and let their carcasses rot. Do it with enough and the flies will quickly make the forest an unwelcome place to live.

Rinse and repeat, whilst trying to drive them to an area of your choosing, surround them and then finish them off. Fire would be effective for this. Flamethrowers exised in medieval times. Most were mounted on ships, but there were hand portable models as well. The Byzantine empire was a big fan of these.

Take care of ensuring your actions don't backfire. Plagues can be notoriously hard to control in a Medieval era. People didn't know about bacteria, but they definitely knew that rotting corpses brought disease. The logic was faulty (they thought it had something to do with stench), but they did get the end result right. Hence why they threw excrement and rotting carcasses using trebuchets and catapults. (It was also a usefull way for trash disposal)

When heating Arsenic you can get poisonous clouds, which with wind can be spread around.

Quicklime can be finely grinded and then with blowers spread in the air. Check out the additional links. It's not as great as WW1 era gas warfare, but...I think it should still work fairly well.

-Chemical warfare -Biological Warfare -Quicklime -Arsenic

  • $\begingroup$ You've made some points I was considering (though I think I need to add a new ground rule). Microbial theory did not exist in the medieval era so you need to rationalize that to a feudal lord. A gas attack is interesting though you need to explain how a medieval army can adopt a WW1 invention. $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ Biological warfare was used in medieval times. Catapults with corpses would fling them into the city or castle under siege and use them to infect the people inside. @anon $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Sep 1 '18 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ClayDeitas you are right, but that was human vs human and they didn't understand microbial theory. So by that extension I (the lord) would be throwing rotting human bodies at the pixies hoping that a pathogen would cross species and they wouldn't be immune to it. (granted I already have an idea along these lines, I was just hoping that this answerer would fill in the small gaps) $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ Arsenic is indeed poisonous, it takes a lot and doesn't kill quickly, its not a very effective warfare poison. If you remember in the medieval era it was actually considered medicine too. $\endgroup$ – anon Sep 1 '18 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ @anon they would just catch pixies and use their bodies, I would think. And I've heard they would also fling dead/sick cows, but I would need to double check that one. $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Sep 1 '18 at 23:54

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