The Victorian image of a fairy is a tiny creature, perhaps the size of your palm, with dragonfly-like wings. Unsurprising that a creature that resembles an insect and is only slightly larger than one, then, would frequently find itself caught in a jar like an oversized firefly. It's also a visual pun on the Victorian "fairy light", a candle with a porcelain hood, since fireflies captured in a bottle can be used as a light source.
Fairies in a bottle have many different purposes. They can be used to heal you, grant you wishes and combine their abilities with yours to make you stronger or to grant you powers.
Although she might have been captured for legitimate reasons, far more often the fairy is innocent of wrongdoing, and will reward you for saving them. Although frequently no mention of the reasons or lack thereof will be made, as the fairy will be used more like an object or tool rather than a living being.
Because of this abuse from other species — generally humans — the tiny fairies may despise humans and distrust them. This view can be changed by a kindly human setting them free, although they may be ostracized from the fae community for their new beliefs.
In spite of the trope name, this can apply to fairies in mason jars, glass lanterns, and other small prisons, especially if they are often used for light or catching insects or small animals.
Not to be confused with the anime Bottle Fairy.
- The Legend of Zelda example is discussed and deconstructed in The Legend of Anju. Inquisitor Maximilian Forthwind notes that soldiers, such as his bodyguard, sometimes keep bottled fairies in hopes of being brought back to life by a fairy's magic. He dismisses the idea as being superstitious nonsense, since a captive fairy would probably loath their captors. Subverted when it turns out that Opal isn't being held captive at all. She's simply too afraid of the outside world to leave her bottle, and the aforementioned bodyguard, Jade, had sworn to protect her.
- In the opening montage of Shrek 2, bottled fairies are used for background lighting, to create a romantic atmosphere while newlyweds Shrek and Fiona are taking a mudbath.
- Captain Hook captures Tinker Bell in a lantern in the Disney adaptation of Peter Pan. Although the container is different, the effect is the same.
- When Captain Hook used to be called James, he did the same thing to Zarina in The Pirate Fairy when he and the other pirates betrayed her and even said she would make a "fine little nightlight". He later throws her into the water after threatening Tinker Bell and her friends that he'll do it if they don't give back the blue pixie dust.
- Subverted in Great Fairy Rescue when Lizzie's father was going to trap Tinker Bell in a jar, but caught Vidia instead. However, if Tink and the other fairies hadn't got there in time, she may have suffered a worse fate than Tink and Zarina almost suffered later on.
- In the very weird 1909 short film Princess Nicotine, a man smokes a cigar and then falls asleep, whereupon he has a very strange dream in which two fairies appear and cavort around the table for him. One of the fairies gets stuck in a jar temporarily.
- The evil wizard Dolon in L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's The Incomplete Enchanter keeps a collection of fey in bottles, apparently just because he can.
- The Dresden Files: In White Night, Harry Dresden on a subsequent visit to the Raith Deeps, which he forcefully disapproves of, later:
This time, there was a lighted path, with a red carpet, no less, leading down between the trees. The lights were all of soft blues and greens, small lamps that, a closer glance, proved to be elegant little crystal cages containing tiny, humanoid forms with wings. Faeries, tiny pixies, each surrounded by its own sphere of light, trapped and miserable, crouched in the cages.
- In the short story "Fairy in a Bottle" from In the Land of the Lawn Weenies, a boy catches a vicious fairy. He's unwilling to release it out of self-preservation, so it tries to bargain with him. Said bargain ends up being a trick that allows it to escape.
- Brazilian Folklore: The Saci, mischievous fairy-like beings with the appearance of a single-legged black boy, can be trapped inside of a bottle by catching one with a sieve while they are using a dust devil to travel, putting him inside and locking the bottle with a cork with the mark of a cross. Once trapped, they will grant wishes to whoever captured them, but if they manage to escape from the bottle, they'll do everything to get their revenge.
- In Rifts, the Splugorth capture fairies to power their Bio-Wizard creations, which is noted in most cases to be extremely painful. Some of them need to be lobotomized first.
- Kitschy restaurant chain Cracker Barrel is selling My Pet Fairy with a tiny fairy that actually flutters around inside a mason jar.
- The Wowee toy company recently created "Got2Glow Fairy Finder" which doubles as a Virtual Pet. Since the console is jar-shaped, and you can capture fairies and care for them. Thankfully, they don't seem to mind it.
- Bright Fairy Friends is a line of fairy dolls, and the packages they come in are jar-shaped.
- Ever since Link to the Past, this has been a staple of the The Legend of Zelda series, where a captured fairy in a bottle will restore all your Heart Containers or restore you to life if you die, depending on the game. The fandom has a disturbing tendency to show the fairies as entirely unwilling captives.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker doesn't help, since it dispenses with the Spark Fairy design from previous game and portrays its fairies as tiny Winged Humanoids who look distinctly unhappy when they're bottled up◊.
- It also doesn't help that this is the most common usage of bottles, given that the healing effect triggers immediately upon losing all of your hearts. Most Zelda players have nothing but fairies in all their bottles unless a Sidequest or other event requires otherwise. It's also cost-effective, since there's always at least one fairy outside major boss doors (not to mention Fairy Fountains, where there are more fairies in one place than you have bottles to hold), making fairy-farming easy.
- Hyrule Warriors provides a bit of karmic payback: equipping the Great Fairy "weapon" results in said giant fairy putting Link in a bottle while she has fun on the battlefield.
- In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, you can create one of these for each stat using the game's crafting system. Their only use was synthesizing onto weapons and armor, which made the item much more powerful.
- In Final Fantasy, a desert caravan has a mysterious bottle for sale. Using the bottle releases the fairy trapped inside it. The fairy helps the party by drawing Oxyale from the spring, which enables underwater breathing.
- In Chrono Cross, you rescue the fairy Razzly from a tiny bird cage. Although the fairies don't like or trust humans, she will join your party in gratitude for saving her.
- The Crystal of Kings have captive fairies in bottles, after they're captured by Nightspirit's minions. You release the fairies by opening the bottles, and they'll either cast spells to restore your health or grant you point bonuses in return.
- The introductory cutscene of Super Mario 3D World sees Bowser stuffing the Sprixie Princess in a bottle. At the end credits of the game, he gets karmic payback.
- Aire meets the fairy Lilibelle this way in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light when she opens an artistic glass vase. Lilibelle follows her and eventually performs a Heroic Sacrifice in gratitude. Her imprisonment was quite accidental, however—she had agreed to pose in the jar for an art festival, but it was stolen by pirates while she was stuck inside.
- A mod adds several of these into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, saying that sailors keep them on their ships for good luck (so naturally, you find all of them on ships or docks around Skyrim). Since they're items, the fairies don't move, but they're still implied to be living beings since you can find a couple of dead fairies.
- The Dreadful initially uses this as a parody of the Zelda example, where Liz remembers that she's got one when she pulls out a long-dead bottled fairy and throws it at Erin. It's made more plot relevant when it turns out that the fairy, Ith, was a necromancer, and proceeds to possess/resurrect (apparently something goes wrong and they end up Sharing a Body) Erin after Kit and Liz have left.
- In Elf Life, fairies can be magically trapped in a bottle, which completely disables them. However, one character is also able to disable one by closing a big book on her.
- In The Dragon Doctors, a fairy accomplice to a murderer is told that her prison will effectively be this, a shoebox-sized maximum security cell. She opts to be turned into a human so she can be sent to regular prison instead.
- Rusty and Co. got one here. On the next page she's out of the bottle, but still quite saturated with its other contents and seems to also be the other kind of Bottle Fairy.
- Nerf NOW!! used this for "You Bastard!" effect: hunt cute little fairies to grab and cram them in bottles? You're one creepy fairy kidnapper, Link.
- Hookie Dookie Panic has the "shake the shit outta the fairy" game.
Fairy: Heeeellllp meeeeeeeeee!!
- In Dragon Mango, Crumpet. She's actually a sprite, but she can help out.
- This is brought up twice in The GaMERCaT with The Legend of Zelda. Gamercat is horrified to learn that bottled fairies die when they're used as healing items, so he switches to potions instead. The Annoying Fairy then shows him how the potions are made: fairies are literally blended into juice and poured into potion bottles.
- Slightly Damned: Well, Fairy in a Jar, but close enough. It's someone containing fairies, in a small container, meaning that that's something worth doing, and that they fit in such a container. As shown in comic 252, a Jakkai is trapping and selling them like that. He later gets brutally murdered by the fairy queen, who reduces him to nothing but a glitter-covered skull.
- In The Legend of Zelda parody The Legend of Neil, the moblins keep bottled fairies so they can snort fairy dust for kicks.
- In Neopets there are six types of bottled faeries that, once freed, will bless a pet with an element of their respective type. According to the back story, they are put in the bottles by a faerie hating Lupe named Balthazar.
- In one episode of Samurai Jack, we hear a legend of a fairy who can grant any wish, but only one in her entire life. When Jack tries to acquire her so he can go back to the past, his hand ends up trapped in the magic sphere where she was captured and the key to open it was useless because it also required a password only known to the fairy's captor, who Jack killed. Jack uses the wish to set them both free.
- A rare male example of this trope: Funjl the Mold Pixie from Chowder is imprisoned in a bottle. And while he doesn't register as a fairy at first glance, he does somewhat act like a mild version of The Fair Folk, given that he tricks Chowder, specifically he lies to him about being a spice.