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My fairies need to travel very far as they are nomadic, however they can only fly for around five minutes without getting tired. They most likely couldn't tame creatures due to their size and the fact that most things that they could tame would just eat them. They also have a low tech level, and magic wouldn't help them. They are 1-5 inches tall, depending upon what strain.

How can they travel?

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    $\begingroup$ Remember worldbuilders: if you like this question enough to post an answer you like it enough to upvote it! $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 19 '20 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ they won't, with the constraints you have they will be hard pressed to survive much less travel. every predatory bird will see them as an easy meal. is there a reason you want them to be such bad fliers? $\endgroup$ – John Nov 19 '20 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ @john that is an answer. it's one in the negative, but still an answer. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Nov 19 '20 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ Traditionally, fairies ride upon the backs of Corgis. There is even a legend about how Pembroke Welsh Corgis lost their tail because they refused to let the fairies ride them. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz Nov 19 '20 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ When you're that small, you don't need a high tech level. Given a gust of wind, everything that small with enough surface area wants to fly. They could easily make hang-gliders or kites to extend their range. $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Nov 20 '20 at 10:56
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They soar.

Your fairies fly 5 minutes, straight up. By timing their ascent to the right time of day the lightweight fairies can climb to altitude using thermals to give them a boost. Then they open the fan strapped onto their back, artificially extending their wingspan out to about 8 inches.

Then they soar. It takes almost no energy to steer by leaning and your fairies are masters at finding and using the right breezes. Once they are up in the clouds, fairies can soar for hundreds of miles each day.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the answer, but maybe you can improve it. Many birds are flying with barely flapping their wings, using warmer drafts of air to go up and then gliding further. Even gliding planes use this to their advantage. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Nov 19 '20 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ A slight drawback is that most soaring creatures are medium-to-large birds — much larger than OP’s fairies. The smallest soaring bird (going by this Wikipedia list) is the Little Woodswallow, typically 12–14cm, i.e. about 5inches — just matching OP’s largest fairies — but most are much larger. OP didn’t ask for “hard science”, but the fact that small birds/insects generally don’t soar makes the idea of tiny soaring fairies a bit less intuitively resonant/convincing, I feel. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Nov 19 '20 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ Some spiders use a strand of spidersilk to paraglide. Since your fairies can fly up they could use some sort of leaf structure to paraglide. So i find this somewhat plausible. $\endgroup$ – joojaa Nov 19 '20 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ butterflies migrate hundreds of miles, using air currents and thermals. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 19 '20 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine Drivers for birds are the opposite though. The "default" flight mode for birds is flapping, and they've evolved a bodyplan and muscles to allow that. For small bird with small wings, this is fine. As the bird gets bigger, it gets less able to flap, hence a tendency to use soaring flight more. So the issue for birds isn't that they can't soar/glide, it's that there's never been a reason for them to. And in fact many birds fly with a short burst of flapping following by a short phase of gliding. $\endgroup$ – Graham Nov 19 '20 at 16:29
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"They most likely couldn't tame creatures due to their size and the fact that most things that they could tame would just eat them."

Why do you say that? We've domesticated horses and cows and tamed elephants, and they're much bigger than we are. And there are certainly zookeepers and similar professionals who have bonded with large predators as well, so even that could possibly be overcome.

Just pick an animal that you think would be suitable, and figure out how their relationship with the fairies might work. Maybe the fairies help a herd of deer keep watch for hunters. Perhaps they've pack-bonded with wolves or wild dogs just like humans have. Or maybe they can talk to birds, and can hitch rides on the backs of geese for long-distance flights.

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    $\begingroup$ Lol I didn't think of that for whatever reason... $\endgroup$ – Fae Nov 19 '20 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ we domesticate herbivores that cannot eat us in one bite, a deer would be more than happy to eat a fairy, they eat baby birds when they can. Any zookeeper worth their salt will tell you an undomesticated animals is always dangerous and cannot be trusted. The stupid ones that forget this get mauled or eaten. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 19 '20 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ Well, domestication's gotta start somewhere. Given the obvious advantages there'd be plenty of reasons for sufficiently bold fairies to take risks figuring out which animals are receptive to taming $\endgroup$ – Pingcode Nov 19 '20 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ @JRE We tamed wild dogs despite the danger they pose. Fey may be significantly smaller than us, but if they're as intelligent then they should see the benefit in taking a risk to form a bond with animals. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz Nov 19 '20 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ On the other side of the size scale, humans also have a relationship with honeyguides. This isn't just a matter of humans following honeyguides; many honeyguides have learned to recognize specific humans calls as being a prompt to go find a bee colony. In contrast to the other animal-human relationships described in this answer, honeyguides are otherwise wild. It's possible that fairies could assist other animals in finding food, with fairies using any leftovers as both a source of food and as material for tools. $\endgroup$ – Brian Nov 19 '20 at 18:27
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Why Tame?

They could hitch a ride parasitically from a migratory animal already going in the right direction

The remora is a type of fish that attaches itself to larger animals like sharks and whales and is carried around by them

enter image description here

There is no reason why your fairies couldn't sit on a migratory animal heading in the right direction or strap themselves to a migratory bird for faster travel.

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    $\begingroup$ Although if you're riding a tiger, as the saying goes, the problem comes when you try to get off. $\endgroup$ – Graham Nov 19 '20 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham, which is why you don't ride a tiger, you ride an elephant. $\endgroup$ – Mark Nov 19 '20 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ A flea can ride a tiger without a problem. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Nov 19 '20 at 23:52
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The same way that marching ants do: by marching.

A demotivational image saying "until you spread your wings, you'll have no idea how far you can walk

Insects generally spend more energy to fly than to walk. For many species this pays because they also cover more distance while flying. Some are lousy flyers though (some beetles and mantises), some only fly in specific stages of their lives (ants). Some arachnids also fly (some spiders make a silk "parachute" and let the wind take them), but most of their mileage is on foot.

So our little guys better be good shoemakers

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  • $\begingroup$ Upvote for despair.com! $\endgroup$ – Graham Nov 19 '20 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ And ants are basically wasps which lost their wings (except for the mating season), because they found a lifestyle where they don't need wings. $\endgroup$ – vsz Nov 19 '20 at 16:19
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I'm going to make the assumption that these are pixies / pixie-sized.

  • If the geography of your world allows, and if there are no freshwater fish who may make a quick meal of them, they could float themselves down rivers or streams on their path.
  • Given their small size, they could stow away on unsuspecting animals (or travelers / carts / etc.) without them any the wiser.
  • It's your world! You could have a dandelion-esque plant that they grasp onto and get whisked away by the wind. (Bonus if this coincides with "migration season")
  • Some race who dwells in the same environment (high elves or similar) reveres the fae and actively assists them with their migration.
  • If magic is in the cards, they could teleport / have some form of magical fairy passage.

And many others.

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This well-known photograph shows what is possible.

enter image description here

There is a good discussion about this in the National Geographic as follows:

Weasel Rides Woodpecker in Viral Photo—But Is It Real?

The conclusion seems to be that it is indeed a likely result of a weasel attacking the woodpecker which then flies off.

Surely fairies can train certain birds to carry them. After all human fishermen have trained cormorants to help them fish.

Cormorant fishing

enter image description here

enter image description here


If you want to know what it might look like when a fairy rides a bird, here is a Photoshopped picture from the internet. I don't know the artist.

enter image description here

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Fairy Circles

You've probably heard of, if not seen a Fairy Circle before. Turns out they are aptly named, as they an artifact of the fae using hidden, extra planer travel. Much like wormholes or portals, various remote and hidden spots in the wilderness are connected, and a fairy who knows where one is can slip through to some other remote location in the blink of an eye.

Depending on your story's needs they can be used only during specific times, or with particular offerings made. They will likely be fairly small so maybe a small child could fit through, but an adult human certainly couldn't. They can also only be seen from below and generally float only a few inches off the ground.

Fairy Circles

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    $\begingroup$ "They also have a low tech level, and magic wouldn't help them" $\endgroup$ – Captain Man Nov 19 '20 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @CaptainMan If the fairy circles are naturally occurring then it's neither technology nor magic, merely utilizing a an existing easement, not particularly different from riding hot air currents or following animal paths through the forest. $\endgroup$ – aslum Nov 19 '20 at 16:40
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They could just... fly?

If their migration is characterized by a series of movements followed by rest, then they could still manage a migratory life while only moving 5 minutes at a time. Assuming they fly at 10 mph and moved four times a day, then they would be able to migrate over 1k miles in a year.

You might also consider that most nomadic cultures need to bring materials with them for carrying water, food, and shelter. That would effect how far they could travel.

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