Fairy rings are naturally occurring arcs or rings of mushrooms that mostly appear in forests or grasslands. Depending on the species of fungus and environmental conditions, the rings may produce necrotic zone rings of dead grass due to the fungi draining the nutrients or, conversely, may instead fertilize their growing area and create circles of unusually thick, tall and lush grass that stand out even when the mushrooms aren't present.
In folklore and myths, fairy rings are frequently considered dangerous or hazardous, occasionally even linked to witches or the Devil himself. However, fairy rings are sometimes seen as omens of good luck. Finally, as implied by their name, fairy rings are often thought to be the result of elves or fairies dancing in circles. Interacting directly with these rings is a dicey proposition — they are often described as portals to the Land of Faerie, whisking incautious travelers away to the otherworld, or may still hold nightly dances that intruders may find themselves compelled to join until they die of exhaustion.
Related to and may overlap with Magic Mushroom. Also compare to Circle of Standing Stones.
- A Centaur's Life: Chapter 89 deals with Maki, Shino, Sue, and the Chi-triplets getting lost and separated in a mysterious forest after stepping through a ring of strange mushrooms in the back forest of the Mitama shrine. They encounter a fourth Chi while there, who Sue and the other Chis immediately recognize as an imposter even before all the children manage to reunite with each other. The last page reveals the fourth Chi is actually the shrine's spirit, who tried to help them only to end up getting stuck, too. The spirit had to escape with the others. Later chapters reveal the mushrooms are actually extraterrestrial in origin.
- Delicious in Dungeon: Changeling myths are revealed to be the result of the magical spores of a certain mushroom species. When an animal or object picks up the spores and then crosses through a ring, it is transformed into something different but similar: sapient beings get swapped into other sapient beings, dumplings turn into other kinds of dumplings, and so on. These mushrooms often grow in rings, thus triggering the effect automatically, but any kind of ring will do: a ring of arms, the open mouth of a statue...
- A Certain Magical Friendship: An improvised version of fairy rings with store-bought mushrooms causes the magical portal between worlds that fuels the plot.
- Elatsoe: The descendants of the fae build mushroom rings that they use for Fast Travel.
- The Mayor of Casterbridge: Thomas Hardy uses fairy rings as symbols of lost love. The character Michael Henchard passes a fairy ring and remembers that he last saw his wife Susan there when he sold her to a sailor in a drunken rage.
- October Daye: Fairy rings are a kind of magic spell that freezes its target in time until either the spell wears down or the ring is broken, and are the reason for stories of humans vanishing into the woods and reappearing a century later. While they're very easy to make, they still have their downsides, as the target can't be moved without breaking the circle, and someone has to keep watch in order to keep the spell going and stop anyone from disrupting the circle.
- In keeping with the Alien Fair Folk of Lords and Ladies, Crop Circles are presented as analogous to fairy rings.
- Changeling: The Lost: Wandering into a fairy ring is suggested as one of many ways a player character could have attracted the attention of their Keeper before they became a changeling. Fairy rings could also be used as doorways into the Hedge.
- A Midsummer Night's Dream: William Shakespeare alludes to fairy rings in Act II, Scene 1 ("And I serve the fairy queen, / To dew her orbs upon the green" and "To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind").
- The Tempest: Fairy rings are referenced in Act V, Scene 1 (... you demi-puppets that / By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make, / Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime / Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice / To hear the solemn curfew...)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Two fairy circles can be found in Falkreath Hold. Disturbingly, one of these rings appears to have been the site of a Human Sacrifice.
- Heroes of Might and Magic: Faerie Rings are adventure map objects that can be visited to grant +1 Luck until the end of the next battle.
- Quest for Glory I: There is a ring of magic mushrooms in the forest, which is protected by the fairies at night. If they see you go inside their ring, they will dance you to death. Their only true use is to be given to the healer for a gold coin apiece. Eating one will make the screen briefly flash with colors. Eating more will kill you.
- RuneScape: There exists a fairy ring teleportation network that the Fairy Godfather can grant access to. Each ring is made of concentric circles of mushrooms; high-level Inventors can craft a temporary, portable version.
- Warcraft III: A pair of fairy rings appear as part of an Easter Egg in the first Ashenvale mission of the orc campaign. Taking Grom to two hidden Circles of Power will cause a free artifact to spawn in each ring. Additionally, grabbing the item causes ghosts to appear and attack him.
- Warlords Battlecry III: The Fey have a Faerie Ring as one of their buildings, which holds several lines of upgrades for nearly all Fey units; researching everything in it will strengthen your armies considerably. The building itself, being a simple ring of mushrooms, is very fragile, even by the faction's Glass Cannon standards.
- Tales of the Questor: Fairy rings allow the passage of sound, especially music, from one word to another. Bards prize them, looking for inspiration in otherwordly music.
- Amphibia: During Hop Pop's story in "The Shut-In!", the first hint that Mr. Littlepod is more than just another traveler for Hop Pop's wagon business is that Littlepod's introduced standing within a fairy ring, having not been there when Hop Pop first pulled up.
- The Magic Roundabout: In "Magic Fairy Ring", Dougal's friends tried relentlessly to get him to believe in fairies. As such, Florence took him to a circle of mushrooms. She called it a fairy ring and cited it as evidence that fairies are real, but he dismissed it as simply "a load of old mushrooms."
- Toad Patrol: The premise of the first season is that the Toadlets have to find the fairy ring and pass through it to Toad Hollow. Once it closes, any toadlets left behind become toadstools.