Costume Candidate for 2013: Queen Mab

Thanks to our Kickstarter campaign for 2013, we’re adding 19 new costumes this season, 7 of which our backers and supporters will get to vote on. This series of posts is designed to briefly introduce the many notable women and legendary figures we’ll be considering. Voting will take place spring/summer of 2013.


“I see Queen Mab hath been with you,” says Mercutio to Romeo, thus beginning one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches:

She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spiders’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.

So, she’s small.

Where did this tiny personage come from? Did Shakespeare invent her? The name “Mab” is Welsh, and may represent an echo of pre-Christian Celtic mythology. In Ireland the great goddess Medb was transformed into the legendary Queen Medb, cattle thief extraordinaire. It’s quite possible that the same Celtic goddess underwent a similar downsizing in Wales—except instead of becoming a mortal queen, she became a fairy. Whatever the case, it’s likely that Shakespeare was drawing on existing tradition in the folklore of the British Isles.

Think we should add a Queen Mab costume to Take Back Halloween? If you missed our Kickstarter campaign you can still become a supporter and get to vote on the new costumes.

Illustration credit: The beautiful fairy painting is “The Spell Fairy” by Welsh artist Trudi Finch. It’s available as a greeting card in her shop (click the link), along with her other gorgeous work.


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