I have a group of pixies fighting a group of humans. The pixies are about 4-6 inch tall humanoids, which seems like it puts them at a big disadvantage unless they seriously outnumber the humans, or are using guerilla tactics, both of which I would prefer to avoid.

The pixies have a medieval level of technology, so no firearms. They are proportionally stronger than humans, and can lift at minimum their own body weight. They're as fast as a human, but more agile due to their smaller size. For the sake of this question, the pixies can not fly, nor do they have combat magic, though if magic would help them prepare a weapon beforehand, that is worth considering.

The humans have modern-day technology, primarily a couple of handguns between them for weapons. They are wearing regular street clothes, no special armor for this fight.

I'm unsure how many humans will be in the group when they get there, but I'd guess the ratio to be something between 1:1 and 2:1 pixies:humans. This is not a military v. military situation, just a small group of humans vs a small group of pixies.

Given that, what kind of weapons would the pixies use? What kind of advantage would those weapons give them?

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    $\begingroup$ Anything coated with poison. Poisoned blades, poisoned food, poisoned pins, poisoned car keys... Your pixies do not intend to eat their victims, don't they? $\endgroup$
    – kikirex
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ It has been discussed elsewhere, the smaller the bow the lesser the power.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/10533/… $\endgroup$
    – Tomás
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ Done. Sorry about that, there were quite a few more clarification questions than I expected. $\endgroup$
    – Tesset
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ ^ snares, pits & other traps are also old favorites. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ From a historical recreation documentary about woolly mammoths, the humans were using spears against the mastodons. And also steering them over a cliff. Also watch/read the story of Gulliver's Travels, esp. regarding the Lilliputians. $\endgroup$
    – Chloe
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 4:34

16 Answers 16


Short Answer: Anchoring Weapons and Bows

Regardless of what weapons Pixies use they need to be able to get their weapons to a height where they can attack human vital areas. This means the terrain will matter a lot. With the ratio given if pixies attack human's on flat ground they will be at a heavy disadvantage. If they fight in a forest where pixies can jump or swing from tress onto the shoulders of human's it will be much easier.

The other problem is that pixie weapons due to their smaller size will have lower inertia and thus even relatively useless armor for humans (cloth and leather) become fairly effective against pixies. You also need to consider the increase in the relative distance needed to get through a human's muscles and skin to do damage. Assuming a generally similar ration of sword length to height our pixies have sword a little under two and a half inches. This means that trying to stab a human in the heart is pretty much impossible for a pixie but cutting an artery in the neck is feasible.

The next problem is that human's size advantage makes unarmed attacks much more lethal from kicks to punches to throws. If you don't restrain a human it can use bare strength to rip through a group of pixies.

Combining all these problems and you're left with two options: using bows or other ranged weapons to attack the eyes and neck, using some kind of anchoring weapon to restrain and then scale humans.

Ideal Tactics

Half of the fairies aim to shoot arrows into vulnerable eyes in order to blind them. Another half will then shoot human's with tethered ballistae with one end weighed into the ground and the other end designed to be hard to pull out. These pixies will then scale the tethers in order to get onto a human in order to deal a killing bow by doing their best to open up the carotid artery.

Extra: You could try and trip humans up but personally I don't think this would work well unless you were using guerrilla tactics or catching humans off guard which relies too much on luck.

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    $\begingroup$ Also, attacks to the eyes from pixies this size and strength don't just blind, they can kill. Imagine a 6" spear going through the eye into the brain. I don't think I have seen anyone mention the steel the pixies are using either. Because of their size, the pixie's steel weapons are going to be razor sharp. So now imagine a razor sharp 6" spear to the eye... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Guerrilla tactics also require the element of of surprise. Unless these pixies are those sparkling pixies you find on fairy tales, they have quite an advantage at stealth. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ @takintoolong Think: intelligent, weapon wielding, uber-sized Japanese Giant Hornets. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 22:16

If flying, firearms and magic are out, I'd say the best option for them would be poison. Perhaps they have access to poison dart frogs or else some plant based poison. Of course, having access to poison is one thing, delivering the poison is another question. They may use tiny bows and arrows, and the bravest of them may run to the humans and stab spears in ankles. (Or even climb the legs of the humans and stab them elsewhere). Without poison, such spear and arrow wounds would just be a nuisance, but with a potent enough poison, just a scratch may be enough.

The odds are still not in favour of the pixies though.

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    $\begingroup$ in a warfare situation just smearing the points with their feces will be fairly effective. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ I tried to find alternatives to deliver fire, poison or irritating powder, like traps of invisible cables, balistas, caltrops, two handed slings and arbalests, but the direct charge seems the best options since they are fast and small. $\endgroup$
    – Tomás
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ Apply saliva from an animal with rabies, and eventual death is certain with no access to modern healthcare. $\endgroup$
    – user10328
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ They can easily stab the humans while they sleep. Pixies are tiny and would be hard to spot at night, so the would easily be able to sneak in and poke the people with needles. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ blowdarts could be an excellent weapon. $\endgroup$
    – sid
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 20:09


In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target.


pixie and wolf https://www.wattpad.com/story/76016114-the-fairy-wolves

Your pixies are good with animals. Six pixies on the ground are not much to fear. Three bears, an owl, an auroch and a wolf, each with a pixie rider are much to fear. The combination of the physical abilities of the animals with the cunning and intelligence of the pixies makes them more than a match for the humans.


It doesn't matter that your pixies haven't invented guns because a bullet fired from the kind of gun a 6" critter can handle won't put down a 6' human. Or a 4'6" human for that matter. The pixies need something small that can cause big damage. Their best options then are poisons and incendiaries. A small amount of accelerant can start a big fire, not that it has to be big, even small burns are excruciatingly painful. Then of course you have different kinds of poisons and different ways to deliver them like blow darts, crossbows, catapults, poisoned blades. Better yet have them burn something that gives off poisonous fumes.

  • $\begingroup$ A volatile compound with vapors poisonous to humans but not pixies would be especially useful. $\endgroup$
    – Vaelus
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 4:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Vaelus The pixies don't even have to be immune to the vapors, as long as the vapors are lighter than air. Then the vapors reach the people but stay above the pixies. You know how if you're escaping a burning building full of smoke you're supposed to crawl on the ground b/c the smoke is lighter than air so there's a bit if air left near the floor? Same concept. $\endgroup$
    – nagamani
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ Oh jeeze. The pixies just set your house on fire and then, when you're trying to do the smart thing by crawling out under the smoke, they stab you in the face. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ couldn't they use rocket launchers with high explosive munitions. It very well may do the same damage as a bullet $\endgroup$
    – TruthOf42
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 15:33

Biological warfare should not be ruled out, I think. Any number of delivery mechanisms could be leveraged to inoculate a target with all manner of nasty microbial death. Of course, if you don't kill them, you'll have to deal with possible immunity...

One nice thing about this is you don't necessarily need direct exposure, you could simply pelt the target with disease ridden boogers (or putrifying animals...) or even just aerosolize your microbes. Given the tech level, flinging balls of thorns and dead rats might be a viable strategy; or if you want to avoid a direct confrontation, throw all the death and disease into those darn humans' provisions. They might take you out, but you only need a few successes to ruin everything.

EDIT: Another thing I just thought of is hallucinogenics. An enemy isn't much of a threat if they're tripping out of their minds. Add to that scary sounds, spider puppets (or just real spiders), fire, and whatever else, and your human foes are swinging at apparitions, jumping into pits, and whatever else. I suppose you could argue something like Ergot covers both biological warfare and hallucinogenics, with a bunch of other nasty debilitating symptoms to boot.

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    $\begingroup$ Yup, bioweapons. A comment has already suggested rabies but that's not contagious and it almost certainly is a threat to the pixies. Smallpox, however, is infectious and is very unlikely to be a threat to the pixies. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 3:35

My first thought was "stingers". Anyone who has ever been stung by a bullet ant or a tarantula hawk (closer to the size of your pixies) knows that an inch tall creature can be absolutely lethal. Contact poisons, psychotropic drugs, alkaloids, and acids should all be possibilities; and where armor goes, there are always incendiaries and, at a stretch, radiologicals. There's some absolutely horrifying stuff out there if you know where to look.

Additionally, I would encourage you to pick up "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs" by Adrienne Mayor. It goes over the long history of biological, chemical, and zoological warfare, dating back well into the BCEs. I'm sure you'll find some ideas in there. The things we humans have done to each other are crazy.

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    $\begingroup$ As a 9-hour-later side note, you should definitely look up "Mad Honey". $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ If "an inch tall creature can be absolutely lethal" then it might be more accurate to say "Anyone who has ever seen someone else stung by..." $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 19:35

Go for the legs. Split the pixies into two groups (or more) and wrap a strong piece of rope, or something similar, around the ankles of each human.

Once tripped over, the pixies have access to all sort of places which offer a good advantage. These can be "underwear area" where there are "points of ingress" or just generally blood vessels closer to the skin (on the stomach above the pubis, if the humans are slim). Or the neck, or the mouth, or the ears, etc.

If the pixies are vicious, upon falling down, the first thing would be the perforate the eardrums using some sharp projectile (a sewing needle as a javelin, for example). If shot strongly enough, it might even be lethal. But in any case it would cause extreme discomfort and possibly additional balance problems.

The point is that the pixies should work together to take the humans one at a time.


While many have suggested poison, it's been either slow-acting poisons (or diseases) or poison meant to kill right away. The former doesn't stop the attack and the (likely) death of all the pixies involved in the fight. The latter is really hard to do, especially without also killing the pixies.

Try anesthesia.

Either a vapor cloud or something the pixies put in the human's drinking water or other drinks (perhaps even a stash of alcohol the humans find and "raid").

Once the humans are unconscious (or at least on the ground in a state near unconsciousness, the pixies just have to use mini-sized axes or swords to cut one of the non-distal arteries and let the humans bleed out. Anesthesia that keeps them down for at least 30 minutes should be sufficient. Even less will work if the pixies have enough time to be done and out of there. With the larger arteries, there's no way to apply pressure or stop the bleeding in the field.

enter image description here

As for what to use, this is a bit harder. When you think of knock-out drugs in food or drink, their purpose isn't generally unconsciousness, but retrograde amnesia combined with being too mentally impaired to stop assault or robbery. We don't want the humans the pixies attack to be generally functional (even if it's just swatting and stepping on annoying creatures) then forget about it the next day. Knock-out drugs are also more complex in their use than most think.

Knock-out gas is another way to go. While the perfect gas that renders total unconsciousness for exactly the right amount of time (without affecting the criminals because they enter after the gas has dissipated (yet it's still affecting the victims) or are wearing masks (toxins can still enter via eyes and can cause symptoms via the skin) is a fictional troupe and myth, there are things that come close.

The use of remifentanil and carfentanil, derivatives of the drug fentanyl by Russian authorities in the 2002 Moscow hostage crisis[26] is arguably a real-life use of a "knockout gas" which, while bringing the crisis to an end, also caused undesired fatalities among the hostages. Ref.

Now, the pixies can't make advanced drugs like these, but they can steal them. Or steal the fentanyl or other base and use magic to create the derivatives. There are other gases that can work as well, such as sleeping gasses (which include the fentanyl derivatives), ether or chloroform (if delivered to the lungs precisely enough), or a special extract of the handwavium plant.

It would be best to deploy the gas when the humans are indoors. If that's not possible, then use magic to make gas pods that explode at human face level. Some pixies might die from being caught in the wrong breeze, and a few more might be unconscious. The unconscious ones aren't a problem as they can be carried off by the well pixies later. As long as there are enough pixies left to bleed out the unconscious humans (some of whom might die from the gas), they're good.


Your pixies can make use of bee alarm pheromone which cause bees to attack the source of the pheromone which delivered by the some other attacking bee or bees.

Let say your pixies able to extract bee alarm pheromone (sssh..! don't ask how..? it's their trade secret...) like extracting honey from the bees and amplify its effect orders of magnitude. With some delivery system (blow darts, arrows, throw sticks etc.) which can mark the target adversary from some distance.

Soon it will become the living source of hatred for the bee colonies mindlessly attacking the target adversary.

It is very distracting if it is not fatal for the adversary. Your pixies can do other type of attacks after the "marking shot" also...

Of course your pixies are show great care and affection of their guard or protector bee colonies (like guard dogs) around the premises, pathways, gathering points for their honey, "pheromones" and other benefits. It is a symbiotic win-win situation for both parties.


Thee is an old story called "The Mad Moon" by Stanley G. Weinbaum, set on Io, where a human with a deadly ray gun gets into several fights with slinkers, tiny intelligent beings about six inches tall with a medieval technological level.

Firing a ray gun blast at a single slinker would be like shooting a cannon at a mosquito. And his ray gun only has a few charges.

He is as huge compared to the slinkers as a giant monster in a monster movie, but movie monsters are usually killed by the tiny, numerous, and intelligent humans in the end. His ray gun makes him as dangerous as a fire breathing dragon or Godzilla with his atomic breath, but fictional dragons usually get killed in the end like movie monsters do.

And in the story the slinkers usually have the upper hand vs the human.



Pygmys can, why can't pixie?

Pygmy tribes of humans have long hunted things larger then them.

Typical methods included poison darts and arrows for monkeys (these days poisoned bolts with crossbows are used), low lying nets strung between trees for tripping antelope, and pits spiked or otherwise for elephants.

A quick Google search will turn up a number of sources, including certain tribes who raise money by bringing interested tourists along with them on hunts.

The pygmy versus elephant comparison would likely be the most useful comparison for a pixie versus human fight; for those who aren't able to figure or the appropriate comparison to use on their own.

I suggest the YouTube article by Shadiversity: What weapons would a pixie really use?

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    $\begingroup$ I would note that the difference between the pygmys' targets and the pixies' would be the intelligence and/or knowledge of warfare. Frightening an elephant with a loud bang so it runs into a pit is one thing, with a human you do it once and next they run toward the bang to find its source. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ Pixie are smart. So are the pygmy tribes people. They obviously use different tactics when dealing with humans. There is a reason why the pygmy tribes of the jungles were feared by all, which is also why they survived more or less intact into the modern age. $\endgroup$
    – nijineko
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ You know, it very much reminds me of the halflings of Athas, whom I believe were based off exactly those pygmy peoples. $\endgroup$
    – nijineko
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ The peoples referred to as pygmies have adults whose average adult height is in the range of 4:5 to 4:11 (about 143-150 cm). That's around a foot shorter than non-pygmy humans. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_peoples It's rather dismaying to see you compare that small size difference with those of standard humans and fictional pixies who are (in OP's world) 4-6 inches tall (10-15 cm). Not to mention that you compare humans hunting wild animals to pixies attacking intelligent humans with modern weapons. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ You obviously haven't studied history. That or you aren't able to see the parallels? Let's move this to chat, please. $\endgroup$
    – nijineko
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 16:50

While the currently accepted answer talks about inertia briefly, I thought I'd expand on it. A couple years ago I made this axe: An axe with a handle about 5cm long

Due to it's small size, it weighs only a gram or two. No matter how hard you swing it, it would not penetrate human skin (though that may also say something about my poor sharpening skills). I also made a bunch of tiny swords, and they were more effective because you could actually push them through things using physical strength.

But this inertia limitation is true of nearly all scaled down weapons: How much would an arrow weigh? You can try this yourself. Grab a sewing needle, hold it 30cm above the palm of your hand, and drop it point first. It will bounce right off your skin. [disclaimer: tested with a normal size sewing needle of ~5cm length].

As pointed out @nagamani, a bullet would weigh very little, but here's a video of a 2" long gun being fired and I wouldn't want to be in the way of that! If travelling fast enough, a small weapon can still be painful or deadly. In the case of an axe, you're limited by the radius from the pixie and how fast they can swing it, but for other weapons, you are limited by other factors.

While your pixies don't have firearms, a medieval technology level does give them access to bows. A couple months back I carved half a dozen bows from bamboo barbecue skewers: enter image description here These can shoot another skewer well into corrugated cardboard, and years ago I made a 12" bow from a hardwood that could lob sharp pointy things about a dozen meters. This is possible because the velocity of the arrow is constrained by the elasticity of the bow, and the critical velocity of wood is relatively constant. If you need a testament to the hazards of these things: a few years ago, I managed to sink about 5mm of an unsharpened wooden kebab skewer into one of my fingers from a rubber-band powered crosbow-gun-thing (it was the pointy end, but from the packet, a skewer isn't particularly sharp).

What this means is that a small bow and arrow may be usable by a pixie. @ChrisW calculated that a 6" pixie capable of lifting it's own weight can exert about 100 grams of force. I don't have any little bows on me currently (perhaps I'll make one tomorrow), but I think this is enough for a gang of pixie-longbow-archers.

Considering that your pixies have to hunt to survive, I suspect they would know a fair bit about poisons because just about everything they encounter will be larger and tougher than them. If this is the case, a single bow-wielding pixie is probably capable of taking down a human from several feet range if they have a sufficiently powerful toxin.

If your pixies are able to scavenge things off the human world, I could suggest raiding a craft/diy store and taking a stack of #11 exacto blades: enter image description here

These things are super-sharp, and would be well wielded by fairies either as daggers (see this book cover), or as tips for spears, arrows etc. They come in handy packs of ten, enough for a whole gang of pixies....

One final thing. A couple years back, I encountered an oystercatcher (type of bird) that was protecting it's (ground based) nest. Somehow or other, we angered it, and it stalked towards us. Yes, it's only a couple inches high, and none of the photos make it's beak look particularly sharp, but when it's looking at you aggressively it's quite a scary thing. In that case, it's helped by the fact that a bird can fly up at you so it's not quite equivalent to a pixie, but if I were approached by a knife, spear or bow wielding pixie, I would suggest to be very polite to it. While half a dozen tiny cuts won't kill you (probably) they sure would hurt.


It depends on what the pixies have to start with.

This isn't a situation where the pixies have developed technologically to counter the threat of humanity. It isn't even a war, where they might spend months or years adjusting the technologies they have to better handle the situation. It's a case where two groups are just getting into a fight.

At 4-6 inches tall, they are at a massive disadvantage to the humans, unless they have huge numerical advantage, tremendous upgrades to things like speed or durability, and the like. The humans are wearing street clothes, which includes shoes, and can lift the pixie for a fair distance with just foot power. Ranged weapons are unlikely to have the penetration necessary to punch through reasonably thick street clothing unless they're build t siege weapon scale, and it takes a while to load and prep siege weapons... and so on.

So, in the vast majority of plausible cases, the best bet for the pixies is going to be fleeing and/or diplomacy. The next best is assault by intrigue (attempt at diplomacy, get them to let their guard down, use poison), and after that comes various guerrilla warfare attempts in heavily prepped ground... but that's not what you're looking for. Okay. What might a group of pixies plausibly have had that might threaten a group of humans?

First, you're going to have to posit that the pixies are specifically preparing themselves to fight larger foes (just maybe not these humans). If you don't, they're sunk. They won't have the strategies, and they won't have the gear.

Beyond that...

  • Tamed beasts can assist. The pixies could plausibly tame creatures much larger than they are, or, alternately, work in symbiosis with them. Regardless, if you can stiffen the pixie offensive with something else significantly larger, that would help a lot.
  • Knowledge of the terrain and situation can help. They don't need to have tamed the bear if they can get one to show up and then manage to ensure that they are not its targets.
  • Poison, as mentioned elsewhere, is a way to cause potentially significant effects with only minor injuries. As you're going to have difficulty getting major injuries, that's a draw. Make them extra-durable and extra-fast, with a sufficiently poisonous bite, and that could do the job all by itself. Might present a rather different image than your standard pixie, though.
  • The best use for pre-fight magic is probably in enchanting ranged weapons so as to have better penetration. At the highest end, you get arrows that ignore clothing and skin entirely. Combo that with a strong enough poison, and all you need to worry about is accuracy. That sort of combination could even the odds quite quickly.

6" is 15 cm. If a 185 cm man weighs 85 kg, then a proportional 15 cm pixie would weigh (85 x ((15/185)^3) =) 100 grams i.e. about 4 ounces.

So your writing, "They are proportionally stronger than humans, and can lift at minimum their own body weight" isn't saying much.

"They can lift at least 4 ounces!"

So I recommend they use biological weapons -- mosquitoes for example to cause malaria, or the Sleeping sickness, etc.


If the pixies are as fast as a human, but only 6 inches tall, then they will be a very difficult target to hit with almost anything the humans use, especially if there is any cover. Shotguns with buckshot would be an exception, though! As others have pointed out, any projectile weapon small enough for the pixies to use will not be effective against humans, either, unless they use poison; so this will primarily be a hand-to-hand fight.

Something as agile and strong as a pixie would have no trouble climbing a human, even an unwilling one, provided it had the tools - a couple of ice climbing picks perhaps.

Once in position, the pixie would want to use something that can penetrate deeply and cause bleeding. Something that used leverage to magnify the power in a swing would be effective - a scythe-like weapon, with a lot of weight and a wedge-shaped head at the end of a pole. The picks could be separate, or they could use one pick and the scythe for climbing.

If this sounds unlikely, bear in mind there is anecdotal evidence that creatures this small will beat humans in unarmed combat even without weaponry.


I think some people aren't thinking about how muscles and biomechanics work. If your pixes have a musculature anything similar to a human just smaller they will be proportionally much stronger per unit of body mass than a human. If a human were to try and wield a sword with a blade that was 3 meters long and half a meter wide, they wouldn't be able to lift it much less use it in combat. But a 15cm tall pixie would have no trouble wielding a weapon with a 30cm blade as long as its grip was designed for the pixie's smaller hands. Imagine an army of hundreds of pixies coming at you, each one wielding a large steak knife. Death from a thousand cuts, anyone? Here's a youtube video discussing the subject. It's about fairies, but I think it's close enough.



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