I am thinking about the miniature kind of fae, like Tinker Bell. I think that class of faery would be the most likely to be able to fly realistically, due to the wingspan/body weight ratio.

But would their lungs support their bodies if they were like our own?

What do they eat? Where do they live? How did they evolve?

This question is part of the Anatomically Correct Series.

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    $\begingroup$ "How much would they be willing to pay for my removed wisdom teeth?" I'm pretty sure this question is completely unrelated to anatomy. Tempted to flag as Too Broad. $\endgroup$
    – jpmc26
    Jul 29, 2016 at 0:13

5 Answers 5


Start with a hummingbird and anthropomorphize it into fairy-form. Long thin legs when held together can serve as a tail. With arms that can reach into the flowers for food, they no longer need long beaks. Ditch the feathers everywhere, except where modesty requires.

Do they really have to be as intelligent as Tinker Bell? That might be tough on such a small frame. How about making them trainable like a miniature "purse" dog and let that training (provided by larger anatomically correct fae) fuel the myth that they have human intelligence.

How did they evolve? There is a Darwinistic advantage to looking like a miniature human-being. Birds of Prey who might usually feed on creatures of pixie size, have only survived themselves by staying clear of the bigger humans; so they hesitate. And that hesitation buys the quick little pixies just enough time to escape becoming lunch.

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    $\begingroup$ the advantage of looking like a human is very recent, I think. $\endgroup$
    – njzk2
    Jul 28, 2016 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ @njzk2, True. But without giving them hire intelligence, I could really allow them proper advantage from their arms. Tool use would be a great long-term advantage (it worked for us) but I dont' think it is believable at that brain size. (Crows not withstanding) $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know, people might like them more if NOTHING was covered. ;) $\endgroup$ May 19, 2021 at 15:30

Flying fish fairy is good enough ? They are small and cute so to me it seems a good start.enter image description here

When I'm in boat these fish always come along to avoid predators, Sure if there were mutant fish that looked just slightly like a small humanoid someone would want to help them survive or adopt em and breed them to look cute and more human then ending with a fairy like animal .

Some hundred of generations and they might look like a little person of 19 centimeters 7'4 inches with four big fins on the back. Here a fast 3D sketch with size comparison enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Flying fish are not really flying. They're jumping out of the water and then gliding in the air for about 30 seconds and a distance of about 400m $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ ehm they move their fins like Hummingbird wings, that gives the illusion they actually fly $\endgroup$
    – user22398
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ Never heard of that but they gain height by jumping out of the water and slowly fall back into it. They cannot use their wings to fly up 100m or anything like that. A flying fish-like fairy would have to climb up trees and then glide (or flap) down but that's far from the Tinkerbell imagination $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 14:07

The shortest documented adult ever became only 54.6cm (21.5"). Even though this is quite small, I'd say it is definitely way too large to be able to fly with (butter)fly wings. I could rather imagine bird or bat wings. I also assume you cannot simply gain a human in a form as tiny as one wants to imagine as many of our organs probably have a limited minimum size to function properly. You'd have to change the internal body massively and throw out anything not absolutely necessary. Also they'd probably not as slim but rather have a stocky body and a quite oversized head.

Retaining human intelligence with a brain a fraction of the size of ours is hardly possible. They may have a slightly improved efficiency but barely anywhere close to human intelligence. Also a more efficient brain would raise the demand of energy so they'd have to eat and sleep very much. In addition to the high energy demand for their flying ability I'd say that's a very limiting factor.

As for your last question, that's a matter of supply and demand. Since human teeth are like ivory to them they create jewelry from, less people believing in fairies mean less teeth and thus higher value per tooth.

The much more important question is: why would such a creature develop? Did they develop out of a hominid or an insect, and why would it shrink and develop full wings but not change anything else (or vice versa, why would it change its body into the human form)? The human body has specialized to living on the ground and it's obviously totally ineffective and useless if it was able to fly.

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    $\begingroup$ "we only use about 5% of our brain at a time" Absolute nonsense. While we may only be able to think with 5-10% of our brain capacity, the other 90% is keeping us alive. $\endgroup$
    – SGR
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ I think that relating brain size to intelligence is a dead end anyway. Elephant brain is 3-4 times the human and whales have brains 6 times ours. I don't think intelligence is directly tied to brain size $\endgroup$
    – Agent_L
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Nobody ever said a larger brain size means a higher intelligence ;) I'm saying the same intelligence with a smaller brain requires it to be more effective and I believe a raise in efficiency is highly limited, especially with a brain being THAT small. $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand much about animal neurology and the brain size to body size relationship, but I believe pixies could be as intelligent as rats and ravens. These animals show great cunning and problem solving ability, so this just made this answer more interesting. $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @jpa yeah, that man is not alone. There are thousands of cases of people living in society with non-functioning or perhaps missing brain cells. I think they are called "customers". $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jul 28, 2016 at 22:58

Intelligence doesn't necessarily need a large brain. Of course there's debate about this, but there's a definite hypothesis that what matters is the brain-to-body-size ratio. Possibly your fae might have a larger head relative to their body size than we do, but that's well within the bounds of fairy artwork.

No problems with lungs. Birds manage it, so a fairy the size of a bird can too.

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly, only an incredibly small part of our brain is used for consciousness the rest is used for controlling the muscles, organs or processing data from the sensory system. $\endgroup$
    – user22398
    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ It usually depends what people mean by intelligence. Some of the smartest animals we know are also the smallest, namely rats and crows and maybe parrots. However, the tasks we see them doing don't require as much processing power as, say, mastery of languages and mathematics. So those are easily out of bounds, but much of everything else is completely plausible. $\endgroup$
    – JD Solomon
    Jul 31, 2016 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ About the lungs, I'd say, the physiology of a bird's body is uncomparable to a human one's. They have thick, round bodies while humans rather have long stretched, slim bodies. Compare the chest only to a bird's body to get comparable room for lungs, and then you'd still miss all the organs from the regions below the chest. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2016 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @OttoAbnormalverbraucher Fair point. However small fairies are typically illustrated with child-like features, not adult features. Children do have thicker, rounder bodies than an adult (relative to their height). Tinkerbell might be a bit too Barbie-like, but the old Flower Fairies could well be in the right kind of area. More of a problem is that under the "four limbs" body plan inherited by all warm-blooded animals, wings have to replace arms. Fingers may still survive at the wingtips for fine manipulation (and carrying children's teeth :) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Aug 1, 2016 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ A quick google image search for "fairy" resolved a rather 1:1 distribution of chil-like and adult-like display. Mainly more comically drawn images feature child characteristics (well, actually mostly a larger head on a still quite slim body) while the more realistic ones feature grown up women. As for the "old Flower Fairies", I'm not sure what kind of fairies you're referring to. $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2016 at 12:47

What about distributed processing for brain power? Like octopus limbs, have most of the body take care of itself and only update the primary brain as needed, as well as additional processing in the spine. This would free up space for cognition. A human brain the size of a bird brain would be pathetic compared to the bird because bird brains have higher neuron density and have a higher processing efficiency. Your fairy could be better then a bird brain and have distributed processing power. The fairy will probably be totally covered in fur as well unless its in a very warm area, or itll need to wear lightweight insulating clothes.


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