I have a world where the magic system is based pretty much on the Ars Magica RPG and a technological level roughly equivalent to 17th century Earth.

Co-existing (in the same geographical areas but not typically the same settlements) with humans and human-like beings that are approximately the same size as normal humans are fairies - who are effectively humans who average 3" / 7.63cm tall and weigh on average 0.017lb/7.5g with a variety of insect-like and bird-like wings and the ability to fly about as well as the creature their wings resemble.

Through magic, these fairies:

  • Are as intelligent as normal-sized humans.
  • Have the same physical proportions as humans (making them proportionally stronger than normal humans according to the square/cube law, able to lift about 10 times their own mass on average, i.e. 75g).
  • Do not need fur or unusually thick clothing to retain body heat in climates comfortable to normal sized humans.
  • Need to consume only three times the amount of food/energy per unit mass in comparison to normal humans (roughly 9 proportionally-sized meals per day - or fewer larger meals - as opposed to 3 per day for normal humans) instead of 10 times that of normal humans as the mathematics would suggest is necessary.
  • Are each militarily roughly equivalent to an equivalently equipped and trained normal sized non-magical human due to their small size, quickness, proportionally greater strength and magical abilities.
  • Can interbreed with normal sized humans (with considerable difficulty due to the size difference), producing fertile offspring of the same size and ability to fly as the mother.
  • reproduce and mature at the same rate as normal sized humans.
  • speak and hear 2 to 3 octaves higher pitch than normal humans.

Given these factors, what differences would occur in fairy society including both sociology and settlement design, in comparison to normal humans.


Some misapprehension appears to have arisen over fairies' military capabilities. The average normal-sized human peasant conscript is equivalent to the average fairy peasant conscript in combat, given similar equipment. The fairy would need to get a large number of good hits on the normal-sized human to incapacitate or kill him, but the human would only need one good hit to eliminate a fairy, the size, speed and stealth factor is included in this comparison. In contrast, a trained and armoured knight (either fairy or normal-sized) could be expected to be able to cut down dozens of peasants, be they normal sized or fairy. So, given a fairy army of size N, it is considered equivalent to a normal human army of size N. Yes, there is asymmetry, however this is factored in. Finally, fairies do not reproduce any faster than normal-sized humans, so each loss is equally as significant to their society, regardless of the size of the combatant.

Secondly, I didn't adequately explain that Fairies are limited in the places that they can live - they require particularly high levels of background magical aura, without which their magical advantages will be lost, i.e. they would become quite stupid (about as smart as a rat), would need to eat constantly (30 full-sized meals per day, not just 9), and would require a tropical climate or highly insulating clothes to avoid hypothermia, as well as having a much-reduced lifespan - on the order of weeks as opposed to normal humans' years (A 100-week old fairy in a non-magical environment would be positively ancient). Normal humans are not limited in this way in reverse, however given the fairies' advantages in their high-magic-aura environments, this explains the geographical separation (Magicians - fairy or normal human - cannot affect magical auras positively, only negatively, and only indirectly, by over-use of magic). So, a fairy cannot go "anywhere", only where the world is magical enough for them to exist. More magically powerful fairies can go a little further from these places without these ill-effects, but must use their personal magic to compensate for the lack of environmental magic, in turn reducing their usual magical capabilities. Regions of low magic aura are effectively barriers as much as mountains and seas are to normal humans.

Finally, This question was intended to be about how these fairies would live and interact with each-other as much as how they would interact with normal-sized humans; most of the answers seem to be focusing on warfare and species domination as opposed to what this question was actually asking.


How do these fairies live, i.e.: What would their settlements look like and what occupations would they follow? What could they trade with other races?

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    $\begingroup$ In the light of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwarf-tossing ...I figure faerie tossing (faerie sling-shotting?) would be all the rage as a new sport ;) $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ Monty, this question has now changed completely and invalidated all the existing answers. It's also unlikely to get new responses. I suggest rolling back the latest changes so it doesn't invalidate the answers. You can then ask a new question with all the relevant information included (you should try and remove any unneeded information) and focusing on what you wanted to ask. You'll need to be careful not to be overly broad though ("What would fairy society be like" is both broad and opinion based) Asking about fairy architecture on the other hand would be fine. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 10, 2014 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ I recommend asking about "the expected social interactions between Fairies and Humans on both a cultural as individual level." $\endgroup$
    – Pimgd
    Nov 10, 2014 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ If you believe Pratt and DeCamp in their "Elephans Frumenti" an ideal place for a small, flying, high energy needing creature is in a bar. They can steal the high energy hard liquor spilled there. They used small elephants rather than fairies, but the concept remains. $\endgroup$
    – Oldcat
    Nov 13, 2014 at 2:03

5 Answers 5


TL;DR: Fairy society would be very similar to human society. Fairies would be less spread out, and would travel less, and a few industries would be minorly effected by the change in size. Faries could trade with humans. Fairies would offer their magical abilities and size, and the human would trade things nort available in fairy territory.

At first glance fairies and humans would have few differences. But fairy society would generally be more ingrown than human society. Fairies have very limited ability to travel outside of their homeland, which makes them more focused on their own village. While humans can cross a mountain range, or sail across a sea, few fairies can travel across non-magical areas. This means each fairy village will be more isolated than a normal human village.

Fairy exiles will have less places to hide. The areas where normal fairies won't travel, also happen to be deadly to almost all fairies. Powerful fairy exiles could survive outside of the magical regions, but they would be vulnerable to unfriendly humans and other predators.

Fairy occupations in their own villages would be similar humans' occupations in many ways. Although all jobs would be done on a smaller physical scale, but fairies have similar physical needs to humans. Fairies would focus more on food, because they need to grow proportionally more food to feed the same number of humans. However, food would also be easier to grow, because a grain of wheat is fairy sized. i.e. One grain can feed a lot more fairies than it can feed humans. So the food issue can be looked at from either direction. It depends on whether or not fairies use fairy sized crops.

The clothing industry would be less important in fairy society, because there isn't as much need for it. Transport would be significantly less valuable, because flying is more efficient than most ground transport. However, when fairies need to transport large amounts of goods, they would likely use some form of ground transport. Fairies can't carry that much while flying. The military in fairy societies would be roughly the same as in human societies. Military tactics in battles would be significantly different, but the basic numbers and training required for a fairy army would be approximately the equal to human society. Fairy armies would also include magicians, which would allow special sneak attacks, because these magicians can leave fairy territory.

Fairies could trade with humans. There is no reason fairies couldn't grow human food or create cloth human sized. It would be more difficult for fairies, but it could be done. Fairies can't get resources outside of their territory. Humans would serve to get these unavailable resources. Many luxury items would be things found only outside of the magical realms, and so they would need to be brought in by humans. Fairies may also be able to trade magical training. That is, a fairy magician can train a human to perform magic, in return for some trade goods. In addition, fairies would have an exceptional ability to fix things, because they could see them at a closer range. A fairy can fit into a pipe, or seal a small crack on a pot. Fairy strength can be focused on a very small area, making them good at fixing small and delicate things.

Original post:

  • Jobs for fairies would appear. Plumbing would be revolutionized! Fairies would be able to more easily enter tight spaces, and would be better at jobs that required delicate work. Likewise, human work would be more concentrated in areas that require bigger workers. For example, humans would more likely work felling trees or digging canals. Fairies can also fly, which opens up new opportunities for transport. Groups of fairies could possible lift quite heavy things when they worked together.
  • Towns would adjust to have two different types of inhabitants. No doubt there would be the occasional town with just humans or just fairies. Depending on how each race viewed the other, these segregated towns may be common. But towns that do have both races would be set up differently. A fairy and a human inhabitant different levels of living space. Fairy homes could easily be built underneath or on-top of human ones, saving some expense. Stores would also need to cater to both types of customers. Most likely, stores would hire salesman of both races, each to cater to his own size.
  • Technology would be dual created for both races. So a plow would first be invented for, say humans, and then inventors would work on transforming it to fit fairies.
  • Games would be different, both children's games and "adult" games. Children would invent games that could be easily played by both races, or games where each race a particular part. Adult games, for example sports, might be specific to one race. Or the games would include roles for a specific race (fairies playing football would definitely change the game).
  • The military would change. Fairies would become an important part of an army, and new military tactics would emerge. Fairies would also be exceptional at reconnaissance, due to their small size and relative strength.
  • $\begingroup$ Even when they are friendly to each other, a fairy can still do the same physical work as a human. They have magical abilities, after all. With that in place, what jobs are possibly left for humans? $\endgroup$
    – Pimgd
    Nov 6, 2014 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ This is the best answer of the lot so far IMO, since it actually goes further toward answering the question I was asking: how do fairies live? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 9, 2014 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Pimgd while faries have similar physical strength they could still have problems, predators are going to be a bigger deal for a fairy (a hawk could take out a full grown fairy with one bite). I should probably add that to the answer. $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Nov 10, 2014 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild thanks! Just saw the edit to the question, I'll update my answer. $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Nov 10, 2014 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild finished editing. $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Nov 10, 2014 at 3:59

This postulates a being that is as capable as a human, or even more capable, in many important situations, at a fraction of the cost of energy and space. I would expect humans to play a minor role as manual workers in a society dominated by fairies.

The food consumption already hints that this is going nuts: a human with 50kg has over 6000 times the weight of fairy of 7.5g. At three times the food consumption per weight, that still means one human's food can sustain over 2000 fairies!

What makes matters worse is that these fairies excel at the most problematic parts of a pre-industrial society. Construction? Much easier if rooms and houses are tiny. Defense? Just fly anyone or -thing in danger up to a safe spot. Clothing? These fairies are temperature-resistant. This ability will dominate over clothing, which wouldn't work well for them anyway. Unless there's need for protection from sunburns, they'll be naked (or mostly naked) without any problems.

Compare a few jobs:

  • Intellectual: one human scholar against 2000 that can fly anywhere to look at things. Huge counts of them could be in range to meet up and discuss on short notice, due to both high population density and fairies' mobility.
  • Scout: a fairy scout has increased range over bad terrain since its efficiency in transporting rations is higher (by about a factor three before taking reduced clothing into account). And again, they can fly, taking paths impossible for humans and observing from the sky. I didn't even start with the part where it's again one compared to thousands.
  • Soldier: The sheer count ends this battle immediately, since fairies are by definition as dangerous as a human in combat. But what does this mean in practice, in an actual war over time? They won't be fighting in symmetrical battles between soldiers. Fairies' real advantage comes from agility, stealth, range, and reconnaissance, not from who dies first in a duel. An enemy would be raided and bombarded at the worst locations, with little casualties on the fairy side. A counter-attack would find a deserted target, except maybe for a team raining projectiles on it. There just wouldn't be a fair battle in the first place.
  • King, or commander in general: here, numbers, cost, strength, and size are not important. What counts is the mind and the ability to receive information and convey commands. Fairy commanders are mobile. There will be occasions on which a fairy can fly from one location to the next, to look at a problem or shift focus quickly -- or to flee when cornered. Why use a human commander, when suitable candidates are rare and only bring disadvantages?

I'll stop here since that is enough to determine who dominates. Maybe there will be work on farms for humans. Maybe a human is useful here or there due to size. But it is very unlikely that humans would be more than smart workhorses.


With the edits to the question, a magical aura is introduced, which becomes a vital resource to fairies. Fairies moving out of this aura are as good as dead without help.

The resulting world depends strongly on the spread and shape of this aura, as fairies would be at a grave disadvantage at practically everything when approaching its border. I would assume that symbiosis with humans becomes very important to fairies, as a human can help them overcome rifts in the aura, or save them if they end up outside of the aura for whatever reason.

Thus, even if I can't "zoom in" much, I'd say that the lands far from the aura's borders would be strongly human- or fairy- dominated, depending which side they're on, while the border would be dominated by human-fairy symbiotic settlements.

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    $\begingroup$ Good points...In other words humans are obsolete unless the OP introduces some serious disadvantages for the fairies. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 3, 2014 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ One of the key tenants of the argument is that the faeries have the same intelligence as humans. This artificial assumption causes many of the comparasons Vandoiy made. Even in the most simple comparason possible, the rules indicate that the Faeries are "as intelegent" as humans with only a gram of braincells with which to form that intelligence. Sentience Quotient (SQ) is a measure of brainpower which you can look up on wikipedia. The difference in SQ of these faeries to us is the same as the difference between us and amphibians! $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 6, 2014 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer the question: How do fairies organise their society and settlements. See my edited question. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 9, 2014 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild The edits change the limiting factor for fairies by making the presence of magic a vital resource. (IMO, this is the dominating change. I never assumed differing reproduction rate; through most of history, population was limited by sustainability.) To me, the new question becomes difficult to interpret, as the result strongly depends on the exact constraints. And I still can't quite imagine how a human soldier would land any hit on a fairy. Try shooting a bird with bow and arrow...? Still, I'd generally say that if both species can compete, they'd be symbiotic. $\endgroup$
    – Vandroiy
    Nov 10, 2014 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, hunting birds with bows goes back to medieval times - either with arrows or stones. Also, in the 17th century setting, black powder muzzle-loaders are being experimented with, and a load of fine shot would be devastating. On the fairies side - poison... Anyway, this answer is more on military matters than the question which was - How would fairies organise their society and settlements? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 10, 2014 at 22:48

Fairies become humans. The original humans go extinct.

Humans and Fairies are not equal in a fight.

Are each militarily roughly equivalent to an equivalently equipped and trained normal sized non-magical human due to their small size, quickness, proportionally greater strength and magical abilities.

Any fairy (are each) is as strong as a human soldier with full equipment. Guess what happens if you have trained fairies. They tear humans apart.

Fairies have a greater economical efficiency.

They require less space, can do more work and eat more. They're also more agile.

When faced with a power that is greater in both economics and military strength, you lose unless you can find a strength of your own.

But humans can't shun fairies from their society. Fairies are so small, they can live in the places where you didn't think to look. So fairies can't be wiped out, for they'll live everywhere. Humans don't have the means to detect them either.

It's not possible to end up with peaceful coexistence. Not even if both sides agree to such a thing. The population limiting factor for humans is economical and medical.

The economical constraint falls away for the fairies.

Short of a plague, there's nothing to inhibit fairy population growth. You've made them too strong. They have magic to help them in their tasks such as moving things, cooking things...

The fairy population will expand across the globe. Human territory cannot be defended and falls. Without education, you don't end up with very smart humans. You get inefficient working animals. Humans go extinct.

The only thing that would stop this is if fairies agree to leave certain areas alone.

Humans end up in a wildlife preserve.

Your question boils down to

"What happens if we add a"

  • Stronger, and
  • Magical, and
  • Equally intelligent, and
  • Environmentally resistant, and
  • Flying

race of beings?

Well guess what. The previously existing race disappears.

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer the question: How do fairies organise their society and settlements. See my edited question. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 9, 2014 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild You cannot edit the question and expect the answers to change. $\endgroup$
    – Pimgd
    Nov 10, 2014 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Pimgd, I think its more that the question was unclear, and so he edited it. You don't have to change your answer, Monty has designated which areas were added later. If you don't want to change the answer, you can just put something at the top of the answer saying that this answer addresses the un-edited question. For example, fairies don't actually have the same strength as humans, they can only lift about 75 g. $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Nov 10, 2014 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ @DonyorM I presume their magical abilities allow them to lift things. This all comes from the "are each". It was a poorly worded sentence, and it's that sentence that makes for this cascade of power. $\endgroup$
    – Pimgd
    Nov 10, 2014 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ Pimgd, Actually, no, their relative physical strength comes from the square/cube law - if a human was reduced to a mass of 7.5g, they'd be able to lift at most 75g on average. A 75kg human can lift at most about 150kg on average. @DonyorM, yes, I edited the question for clarity, since most of the answers seem to have gone off on the wrong tack, concentrating on military matters when I thought that I was asking about town planning and trade. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 10, 2014 at 22:59

I can't imagine it ending well. The fairies you've described have very few disadvantages compared to humans. Given that their intelligence and lifespan are the same as humans, I'd imagine that in fairly short order in a mixed settlement pretty much all of the jobs which don't require brute force or size would be held by fairies, simply because their cost of living is orders of magnitude less. Certainly clerical work and most crafts could be performed significantly more efficiently, even by whole groups of fairies. And given that fairies and humans are equals in a fight, I'd foresee a fairy-led society with humans as an underclass within a couple of generations, especially in an early modern society, which is transitioning toward industrialization.

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer the question: How do fairies organise their society and settlements. See my edited question. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 9, 2014 at 23:48

Other answers have pointed out that humans would have a hard time keeping a niche in this world. So to keep stories set in this world interesting, you might have to compromise a bit on the "intelligent as normal-sized humans" condition by giving them psychology quirks. Consider fairies in J. M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy and Disney's Disney Fairies franchise, which are a little bigger than your fairies (roughly as tall as Jonathan Swift's Lilliputians) but have the disadvantage of a one-track mind because a fairy's brain is only big enough for one emotion at once. Tinker Bell's jealousy over losing Peter to Wendy drives much of the plot. This might give humans one advantage over the fairy menace: ability to hold more than one thing in a single mind at once, as opposed to a couple dozen or hundred arguing fairies.

But in a way, some humans would too develop a one-track mind, obsessing over jealousy of the magic that gives fairies an unfair advantage. This would make humans desperate to figure out the nature of magical phenomena on which fairykind relies. And with their attention span, they just might crack it.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for taking the breaking issues and turning them into interesting solutions. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 8, 2014 at 2:50

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