Most Wee Folk who interact with human beings can speak human language, and most of these speak the languages that prevail in the areas where they live. Sprites learn human languages because human beings find it very difficult to learn the languages of sprites.
Strangely, the native languages of Wee Folk are generally too simple, rather than too complex, for most human beings to develop any ability with them. These languages depend on non-linguistic communication skills many of us have never developed. In fact, it could be said that the language is not intended to convey meaning so much as to focus attention on meaning that is communicated in other ways.
Wee Folk use more languages than human beings. Almost any human language has at least some Wee Folk who speak it, and in addition, they have thousands of languages of their own. Nevertheless, nearly all of them can communicate with nearly all others, and the lack of common language is no barrier. The reason for this is that their primary method of communication is by telepathy, instead of, or in addition to, speaking.
Because they use telepathy so heavily, their spoken languages tend to be very simple. In fact, an example of an especially simple language of Wee Folk might consist entirely of words we might identify as nouns. A sentence in such language is simply a set of nouns strung together, without any regard to grammar. Each of these words has a telepathic image connected to it, which modifies it to the point of being far more specific than words in any human language. The words are only things to which ideas are attached, and so a Fairy could say something in the telepathic portion of the message having a meaning the words do not even hint at.
A very sophisticated Elf illustrated this for me by performing an experiment. He sat by the road in front of the house where he lived, until a car went by. It was an antique, black Model A Ford coupe, belonging to the man who lived next door. The Elf noticed that the very simple Flower Fairy who lived in a rose bush in the front yard had just waked up, and missed seeing the car. So the Elf said something that sounds like, “Iobl yng sobly.” These words form a complete sentence in the language of the Flower Fairy. A word-for-word translation into English is, “Car motion road.”
Hearing this the Flower Fairy replied, “Iobl foosh. Rush yng. Zeff.” This translates word-for-word as, “Car feelings. History motion. Air.” The communication is far more extensive than that, however, because most of its meaning is in the telepathic images attached to the words, rather than in the words themselves.
The attached images make the response far clearer than it could be made in three acceptable English sentences. A full translation of the just the first sentence in the response would include a picture of the car with enough detail that a knowledgeable person could identify the make and model; also included would be the facts that the sun was shining when the Elf saw it, that sunlight glinted off the car’s paint, that the trees had green leaves on them, that the sky was blue, that the car was going a certain speed, and that a squirrel ran away, along with hundreds of other things. The reason is that each word has an attached image of the car from the Elf’s memory, with more detail than a human would get seeing a movie of the event. It goes beyond vision and sound, to include the full range of all senses and emotions.
Perhaps an adequate, but very incomplete, translation of the Flower Fairy’s answer would be, “I really hate that old coupe. It went by yesterday afternoon. Its exhaust is vile.”
If a human had said, “Iobl yng sobly,” to the Flower Fairy, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as it did when the Elf said it, because the human would not attach the same images the Elf did. By the standards of Wee Folk, human beings are usually very bad at telepathy, and so very few can attach the correct images well. As a result, they regard human beings as very bad at communication in general.
Later, the Elf went deep into the woods behind the house, to tell a Rock Gnome who lived there about the car. The Rock Gnome’s understanding was very different from the Fairy’s, because his experience was different, and so the images passed to him did not have the same meaning. His experience of motor vehicles was limited to snowmobiles he could see in a nearby field, and so he could only think of a Model A coupe in terms of a snowmobile. He understood motion, but had no idea of a vehicle moving on wheels. He had no concept of what a road is, or even a pathway, because there was none in view and the few snowmobiles that went by did not follow any particular route. So he regarded the entire message as almost meaningless, as though you had said, “Like a snowmobile, moving somehow, whatever.” It was just an annoying distraction from his ponderous and deliberate lifestyle, in which actions take centuries.
Different tribes use different languages, and within a given tribe, there may be many languages spoken, depending on the specific group and where it lives. In addition to the simple languages, there are some that are very complicated. Nevertheless, all Wee Folk I am aware of can still do basic telepathic communication. Words are just sounds to hang ideas on. Actually any sound will do, and some folk usually speak entirely in musical tones, as many Fairies do.
A New England Elf and a Chinese Fairy might have no common language at all. They can talk, however, because their communication is primarily telepathic, and they can have a reasonable conversation, if they can base it on common experiences. The sounds they make are not important. Each hears the entire conversation in his own most familiar language.
A story I was once told might be helpful to illustrate the implications of this. A Swiss Kobold was building a clock. He had a friend who was a Fairy from Sri Lanka, and both were good enough at telepathy that they could just chat at whatever great distance there was between them, without hearing each other’s spoken words at all. The Fairy was a storyteller and a dancer, but was very observant about all sorts of things, so when the Kobold told her he was having a design problem and was wondering if other people had faced the same issue, the Fairy volunteered to go to a display of clocks at a local museum and see if anything they had there might be of help.
A problem arose because that the fairy did not understand the workings of clocks. Even though she could transmit a complete and accurate image of what a clock looked like, the way it worked was not getting through to the Kobold. Even when she looked at the diagrams, the workings were not conveyed, because her understanding did not include how the mechanism functioned. The solution was that the Kobold drew a detailed picture of the image the Fairy sent telepathically, and then analysed the picture to see what he could discover there. It is a credit to both of them that the Kobold was able to come to understand the clock’s mechanism. As it happened, it did not solve his problem, but that was because the mechanism itself was not a useful example for him. Nevertheless, it provided a useful lesson on the limitations of telepathy.
The languages of Wee Folk are usually recorded differently from those of human beings. With some notable exceptions, they do not write, but embed images into objects or sounds instead, by using a system called charging. They can charge written language, if they desire, but they usually do not find a need for such things, unless they are engaging in calligraphy as an art form. (For more information on embedding images, please see the ancillary article An Art Lesson.)
Actions can also have telepathic images embedded into them. Music can be charged by a composer, and the telepathic image is available when it is played, regardless of the performer; an exception to this is that music that is recorded or played by electronic instruments loses its charge. Some good musicians can embed a telepathic charge into music they are performing, though, again, this really requires acoustic instruments, rather than electronic.
Artwork can be charged. In fact, any object can be charged, though some things are better than others. It is easiest for people to do this with things they make themselves, or with things that are precious. Gemstones are fairly easily charged, as is gold. Silver is not so easy as gold, but easier than copper, which is, in turn, easier than iron. Anything shaped by hand is easily charged, woodwork and hand-made ceramic objects being excellent examples. Textiles can be charged, as can almost any artwork of any kind.
Interestingly, water is fairly easily charged. Also, the alcohol people drink is easier, which is why it is called spirits.
In effect, this means that a work of art, of whatever kind, and many seemingly ordinary objects can have the images attached, and the images are part of the language of the folk. The literature of sprites is heavily dependent on this, as is described in A Brief Overview of the Literature of Wee Folk, and Wee Folk Poetry.
The objects that can be charged are also important to Wee Folk, because it is in them that Wee Folk record their literature. Things that are hand crafted are valuable for the same reason gold is.
A story can be recorded in a string of beads for future generations. Stories relating to such things as the cycles of the seasons, lessons of cause and effect, or the wheel of life, can be recorded objects ranging from a simple spinning wheel to a great circle of stones. A complete story can be recorded in a single painting, if the painter is sufficiently skilled.
A complete course of spiritual discovery can be recorded in a maze or labyrinth, or even a drawing of a maze, for a later generation of students to learn from. I once knew a man who learned valuable lessons while tracing the path of a maze in an artwork. The original work was centuries old, but the master who created it was very much in the present for him.
Embedding images into strings of beads is the most common way for Wee Folk to record literature and messages. A string of beads can contain a story, with a single bead recording a sentence, and this works well, because the string keeps the ideas organized properly. In the hands of one skilled at the craft, a bead can contain much more than a sentence; a whole scene of a play or an entire short story can be recorded in a piece on a string that looks to the casual observer like a simple set of decorative pieces of ceramic. So a simple looking necklace could contain the whole of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a collection of short stories. Stories told in the Drogheda are recorded in strings of beads, and the recordings sent to related groups of Brownies as gifts.
Charging work with embedded telepathic images is an important secret of great art, according to the Fairies I have known. Whether it is in language, dance, visual art, or music, the image is embedded, charged, into the work. Both rational truths and emotional values are put into the product with as much understanding of beauty as all the technical details of execution. So a plain piece of craftsmanship can be great art, if the artist is has the talent and expertise to do such work.
Human beings embed ideas in artwork. Most are not conscious of it. A few are taught how to do it, as I know, having learned about it when I studied art in college. The teacher never explained it explicitly, so most of the people in the class had no idea whatever what was being imparted to them, but it was taught in a rather roundabout fashion. It is very likely most have never figured it out, but some learned to do it, and were better artists for it.
I should note the concept of truth, and how it relates to both language and beauty. A beautiful idea can be expressed with hateful images, but when that happens, the whole is ugly. A true idea can be expressed with false images, and the whole that results is a lie, because it is misleading. In the invisible world, this is recognized. As far as a Fairy or Elf is concerned, a statement that is factually true is a lie, if the embedded images are deceptive. Many human beings also understand it, but many do not.
Great literature has not only beautiful words. It is also charged with beautiful images embedded by skilled intention. Chaucer could do this, as could Shakespeare. As I write this, I recall being told that both had help learning how to write from Fairies they knew.
We should also bear in mind that different people have very different telepathic abilities. Most human beings tend to think of telepathy as sending and receiving thoughts. In fact, these two are different processes. Some people are very good at telepathy in general, both sending and receiving. Others do one much better than the other.
Human beings tend to be rather bad at receiving thoughts. They do it unconsciously, and filter the images as they come in, to fit their own prejudices, hopes, and fears. They are a little better at sending images, but often do this with all sorts of inappropriate emotions, so the words, “It is a nice, sunny day here,” might have an image attached that says additionally, “and I am still very angry about all those nasty things you did when we were children.”
The ordinary working Kobold is probably better at getting images than at sending them. Kobolds are not really good at telling things, but they are very interested in knowing how to do things, and their abilities reflect that. By contrast an Elf or a Fairy who is a storyteller is usually expert at presenting images very well as they say their words. The result is that it is very easy for an Elf to express an idea to a Kobold, but rather more difficult for ideas to go the other way.
There is an interesting effect of the telepathic languages of Wee Folk. They know their limitations in regards to language, because they understand that telepathic images can only be sent and received by people who understand them. Without a full understanding, part of the information is lost. They experience this as they learn from their parents or teach their young. A new concept cannot be simply shoved into a child’s mind, but has to be developed, as a sequence of understandings, that eventually lead to understanding that is full enough to be an object of communication.
So, Wee Folk understand that the truth of something absolute or infinite cannot be expressed in a way that can be fully understood by a person with a limited mind. They know that person, sprite or human, cannot understand the infinite. In practice, this means that they are far more tolerant than human beings about anything that relates to the infinite, such as religion, because the truths of such things are not fully comprehensible to the point. Views that appear conflicting may do so only because they are not completely understood.