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Literature / The Fairy Rebel

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The Fairy Rebel is a children's novel by Lynne Reid Banks, author of The Indian in the Cupboard. It's a classic fairy story, filled with magic and wonder... except that the person who meets the fairy is a married adult.

Jan and Charlie are a Happily Married couple, except that they can't have children. When Jan is relaxing in her garden one day, a fairy, Tiki, lands on her. Tiki's different from other fairies—she wears jeans instead of a frilly dress, expresses wonderment about tears and sadness, and vows to help Jan and Charlie have a baby—all things, especially the latter, that are against the rules of the Fairy Queen.


Tiki and her friend Wijic succeed in producing the child, who is given a 'fairy name', Bindi. Bindi, too, is different—she has a tuft of blue hair amidst the brown, and she receives magical presents every birthday. For seven years, the family lives peacefully.

But the Fairy Queen won't let this defiance go unpunished...

This book contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: So very, very much.
    • After Tiki promises to help Jan have a baby, Jan and Charlie are very worried that Tiki will get mixed up and cause the baby to be born with very strange hair or skin colors or otherwise with strange powers.
    • The entirety of Bindi finding the magic wand counts. Jan's feelings about leaving it lying around are explicitly compared to leaving a gun or bottle of poison out in the open, but she's so frightened by it that she can't bring herself to move it. Under the influence of the wand, Bindi lies to her mother and her friends, starts associating with a boy at school who is clearly not nice, and shoplifts candy bars. Her mother only learns about the dark power influencing her daughter when Bindi is trapped in her room, being buried under a mountain of toys she summoned, screaming for her mother. Jan can't get the door to open and can't do anything besides call for Bindi and ask what's wrong. Making it even worse is the fact that Jan has an injured leg and can't run quickly when she hears Bindi screaming. The narration compares it to how it always seems to be impossible to run in a nightmare.
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    • The fairy queen's treatment of her subjects is a disturbingly realistic depiction of brainwashing and abusive relationships. There's no magic involved. The fairies are just told to love her and to not be lonely or unsatisfied and to act as the queen wishes. If they don't, she locks them in unsafe places and sometimes forgets about them, leading to their deaths. Tiki and Wijic accept this as a completely normal and reasonable way of living. Near the end, it's revealed that the queen punished them by cutting off their supplies of magic and leaving them starved and in rags. Even then, they both seem completely unaware that something bad's happening, with Tiki apparently convinced it's winter. It's not until they see each other that they realize the queen's hurting them, at which point Jan nearly breaks down over their treatment.
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  • Bee Bee Gun: The Fairy Queen can control wasps.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Apparently, Mozart was a fairy baby like Bindi.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Tiki and Wijic. They bicker and make fun of one another, but Wijic hurries to the rescue when Tiki's in danger and what truly causes them to turn on the queen is realizing just how much she abused the other.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Fairies seem to pick a color and stick with it. Tiki has pink and green and Wijic has red, both for clothing and for the type of flowers they're associated with.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Bindi's blue hair. It seems to be the only sign that she's a magical child and then it turns out that it has many very powerful properties, being used to heal Tiki and Wijic, halt the fairy queen's power, and - implied at the end - heal Jan's injured leg.
  • Evil Matriarch: The Queen sends fairies babies to raise. God help you if you try to manage it yourself.
    Queen: Of course they love me! It is my first command that they love me!
  • Fairy Godmother: Tiki describes herself as Bindi's "fairy-mother". She also sneaks a special magical gift to Bindi each year, each one with a rose theme. Her lack of any gift is the first sign that there's trouble on the way.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The fairy queen, who demands absolutely obedience from her subjects, from them not thinking or acting in ways she doesn't approve to ordering them to react to thinks in certain ways to please her. Jan even says, at one point, that the queen sounds like a tyrant.
  • Happily Married: Jan and Charlie. The narrative even says that them meeting and getting married was the one good thing that came out of Jan's leg injury.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Wijic, to a degree. He hates all the sweet food fairies eat and thinks of normal schoolboy life as a fascinating, novel experience.
    • A variation holes for Bindi, who her parents very much want to be a normal child and worry that her fairy origins will cause her to have something unusual with her hair, skin, or demeanor.
  • Language Equals Thought: Implied for the fairy society. Their language is missing many words for concepts the Queen doesn't want them to latch onto, including boredom, loneliness, and all familial terms except "baby". Not always effective, as Tiki certainly feels lonely when she's jailed in the wasp's nest; she just didn't know the proper word for it.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: At least at first. Jan and Charlie want very much to have a baby, but for some reason are unable to. It possibly has something to do with the accident that lead to Jan's leg injury, but Tiki is able to use fairy magic to work around that.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Fairies can make their own clothes just by thinking, but Tiki only knows how to make blue jeans or frilly dresses; nothing in between.
    • Unlimited Wardrobe: As she explains to Jan, she can make any clothing she can visualize; her problem is she doesn't have a mental image of other styles. Jan gives her some pictures from fashion magazines and Tiki's wardrobe expands significantly.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Bindi has one tuft of blue hair with her regular brown hair. It's positioned that if her hair is grown out, it can easily be hidden in a ponytail. The end of the book reveals that this blue hair is incredibly magical, but won't regrow once it's pulled out.
  • More Than Mind Control: The Fairy Queen's necklace brings out the worst in Bindi, twisting her normal childish desires into horrible behavior (for example, her love of sweets is changed to her shoplifting candy and her desire for more toys makes her fill the room with them until she's nearly crushed).
  • Not Herself: Bindi, under the influence of the Queen's necklace. Among other things, it causes her to ignore her friend in favor of the class bully (who she suddenly sees as being nice to her) and shoplifts candy.
  • Parents as People: Most of the story centers around Jan and Charlie and their handling the strange things they've found themselves caught up in.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Innesterated". It means exactly the same as incarcerated, only "in a nest".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Wijic, when he hears Tiki has been innesterated, decides that he wants nothing to do with the matter and tries to fly away. Charlie catches him and makes him promise to help, and it later turns out Wijic found Tiki after all.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Wijic, weirdly enough, writes his own name differently from the narration. When he signs his name on the rose petal, it's spelled with a K.
  • Sweet Tooth: Jan, Tiki and Bindi all like their sweets. All three are rather chubby.
    • Fairies as a rule seem to eat and drink sweet things like nectar. Wijic is notable for being completely sick of it.
  • The Tragic Rose: A wilted rose is the first sign that the Fairy Queen has noticed Bindi's existence and taken offense to the situation.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Bindi's blue hair is magic.


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