Corn Fairies are characters that appeared in “How to Tell Corn Fairies If You See ‘Em” (p. 205) in “Rootabaga Stories” a collection of short tales written in 1922 by Carl Sandberg. He wrote his “Corn Fairies”story while living at 331 South York Street in Elmhurst, Illinois, from 1919 to 1930.
In the story, the author explains to two girls named Spink and Skabootch all about the fairies that live in the cornfields.
Here are some key highlights to the tale:
- “All boys and girls know that corn is no good unless there are corn fairies.”
- “If it is a wild day and a hot sun is pouring down while a cool north wind blows—then you will be sure to see thousands of corn fairies marching over the big, long blanket of green and silver. Then too they sing, only you must listen with your littlest and newest ears if you wish to hear their singing. They sing soft songs that go pla-sizzy pla-sizzy-sizzy, and each song is softer than an eye wink”
- “All corn fairies wear overalls (of corn gold cloth). They work hard, the corn fairies, and they are proud. The reason they are proud is because they work so hard. And the reason they work so hard is because they have overalls.”
- “And whenever the corn fairies laugh then the laugh comes out of the mouth like a thin gold frost….Whenever fairies are sad they wear white.”
- “Each one carries on the left shoulder a mouse brush to brush away the field mice. And over the right shoulder each one has a cricket broom to sweep away the crickets. The brush is a whisk brush to brush away mice that get foolish. And the broom is to sweep away crickets that get foolish.”
- “Around the middle of each corn fairy is a yellow-belly belt. And stuck in this belt is a purple moon shaft hammer. Whenever the wind blows strong and nearly blows the corn down, then the fairies run out and take their purple moon shaft hammers out of their yellow-belly belts and nail down nails to keep the corn from blowing down. When a rain storm is blowing up terrible and driving all kinds of terribles across the cornfield, then you can be sure of one thing. Running like the wind among the corn rows are the fairies, jerking their purple moon shaft hammers out of their belts and nailing nails down to keep the corn standing up so it will grow and be ripe and beautiful when the harvest moon comes again in the fall.”
NOTE: Sandberg, of Swedish descent, was born on January 6, 1878 in a three-room cottage at 313 East Third Street in Galesburg, Illinois.
In 1945, he moved to Connemara, a 246-acre rural estate in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Sandburg died of natural causes on his estate on July 22, 1967.
His cremated ashes were placed under “Remembrance Rock,” a granite boulder located behind his birth house in Galesburg on East Third Street..
Two sites honor his life and memory:
- The Carl Sandburg Historic Site at 313 E. Third St. Galesburg, Illinois.
- His home in Connamara, North Carolina. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1968.