The Cottingley Fairies
Guy Lochhead, 08/09/10
A series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in 1917, when Wright was 16 and Griffiths was 10. The pictures show the girls interacting with supposed fairies behind the family house in Cottingley, near Bradford, England, on Griffiths’ father’s camera. The photos fooled some people for 40 years, but the cousins admitted in 1981 that they were a hoax – cardboard cutouts held up by hatpins. The story is a fantastic example of two children using their imagination and limited resources to make something wonderful. The stories mock unquestioning acceptance and cod-scientific spiritualists, and unite the ‘intelligentsia’ and two village girls in a desire to believe. I will include a visual reference to the pictures and a reference in dialogue to the fascinating way that the cousins spoke about the incident in later interviews – an amazing study of familial loyalty, guilt and social correctness.

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