A quotation which I cannot find now has long stayed with me. As I can best recollect, the saying was that elves and fairies still exist, but they’ve become smaller and smaller as people think about them less and less. Do you recall anything like this? As an aid, I’ve found some quotes which point in the right direction.
From Barrie’s Peter Pan:
“Whenever a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there’s a little fairy somewhere that falls right down dead.”
“Do you believe in fairies? If you believe, clap your hands. Don’t let Tinker die.”
William Butler Yeats made quite a different definition of the fairies, said to be influenced by the school of Theosophists:
“The fairies are the lesser spiritual moods of the universal mind, wherein every mood is a soul and every thought is a body.”
Although Yeats seemed to suggest them creatures of the mind, he wrote about finding their tales, only possible if they existed for a collective people:
“Yes, he noticed, if you are a stranger, you will not readily get ghost and fairy legends, even in a western village. You must go adroitly to work, and make friends with the children and the old men, with those who have not felt the pressure of mere daylight existence, and those with whom it is growing less, and will have altogether taken itself off one of these days.”
Yeats thinks fairies may disappear with the coming age, as children and old men work their way into a modern existence.
This reminds me of today’s fascination with visualization, whereby thinking something helps bring that idea about. Conversely, thinking about something less and less should make that thought go away.
As an aside, D. McManus decried the way Disney and popular culture has diminished the importance of the fairies.
“By all these steps the word ’fairy’ has shifted away completely from its medieval concept of a powerful spirit in human form which should be treated with respect, if not with a little fear, and has now become attached to dainty little winged figures flitting like butterflies from flower to flower or doing ballet dances with a starlit wand. The traditional fairies, though rarely dainty are sometimes lovely; but far more often, when small beings are reported to have been seen, they are described as elflike.”
I continue looking for that quote.