The Fairy Godmother Archetype


“Each of us the child may bless with a single gift no more, no less.”  ― Flora (Sleeping Beauty)

This is the archetype for the characters that possess or have traits of the Fairy Godmother;  it is a variation of the Magician or the Enchantress Archetypes.

As an archetype, the fairy godmother is magical fairy-type being whose role is to help out others, sometimes appearing in another’s darkest hour to grant their fondest wish, sometimes through less direct methods and often with the aid of their magic wand.  Why these types of archetypes appear are rarely specified other than when a life lesson needs to be learned.  Occasionally these archetypes can de darker in nature, working less for the benefit of the main character, and more their own goals (especially in the fairytale of les precieuses).  Fairy godfathers, their male counterparts, are an even rarer sight, but they do occasionally show up, e.g., Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.

Here is a description from

Once upon a time, I was in a grocery store check-out line and struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me.  We were talking about good deeds and she mentioned how her friend liked to put quarters in parking meters for total strangers.  She called her friend the ‘Parking Meter Fairy’.

While we often associate the Fairy Godmother archetype with children’s stories and  fairy tales, they do walk among us.  They might not have a talking umbrella or a magic wand, but Fairy Godmothers (or those who embody that archetype) are real.

What makes a Fairy Godmother in terms of an archetype?

The Fairy Godmother and Fairy Godfather archetypes are closely related to the Angel archetype in that they generally have loving, nurturing qualities and a tendency to help those in need, either anonymously or with no expectation of any return.  While their natures can be maternal, they don’t necessarily have children of their own but often serve as foster parents or guides to others.  Some other tell-tale characteristics are:

  • Enjoy throwing parties, dressing up and helping others to have a good time

  • Provide make-overs and ways people can feel better about themselves

  • They can see the potential in something or someone and can help bring that to life

  • Excellent gift-givers (and many times anonymously)

  • Adopts or otherwise takes on a protégé (or several)

  • Has unbridled support of one’s growth and achievement

  • The FGM/FGF might grant a wish or two but nearly always teach how we have magic of our own

  • The ability to see the best in someone but also administer a stern word or two if necessary

  • Tends to be smart, knowing, wise, and slightly aloof — that is, benevolent but detached

  • Often portrayed as eccentric or quirky if not down right odd

As with any archetype, the expression is up to the individual, so not all of these characteristics will be the same person to person.

Film:  Mary Poppins;  Wizard of Oz;  Sleeping Beauty;  The Princess and the Frog;  Cinderella;  Auntie Mame — these all feature a Fairy Godmother archetype in action.  The title character in ‘Amelie’ is a Fairy Godmother/Angel as she anonymously does good deeds for people as well as some mischievous ones.    Dustin Hoffman’s role in ‘Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium‘ is a prime example of a very endearing Fairy Godfather as is Robert DeNiro’s Captain Shakespeare in ‘Stardust’.

Literature:  Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series;  Aunt March in Little Women, Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew;  Lady Lilith de Tempscire of the Discworld series;  Leanansidhe from the Dresden Files series;  Mrs. Madrigal in the Tales of the City series

Television:  Oprah,  Stacy and Clinton from the make-over show ‘What Not To Wear’;   they might be catty, but you can also tell they really enjoy helping people feel better about themselves;  the animated series The Fairly Odd Parents;  Stephen Root as Jimmy James in ‘News Radio’

And here is a further description from

Fairy Godmother Archetype Examples

The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella is perhaps the most famous example of this archetype, with the Fairy Godmother ensuring that Cinderella is able to go to the Ball in suitable attire in order to meet and eventually marry her Prince Charming.

Other more modern examples include Mary Poppins, Lady Lilith de Tempscire of the Discworld series, Leanansidhe from the Dresden Files series, Mrs. Madrigal in the Tales of the City series and Amelie in the 2001 French romantic comedy film.