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19 April 2005
Fairy Tree
Visit Melbourne, where the city's children have a long tradition of leaving notes or gifts for fairies at a carved tree in Fitzroy Gardens.

KATHY SWAN: Once upon a time, in a park near the heart of Melbourne, parents, park rangers and the city council were enchanted by children leaving letters and gifts for fairies in the city's famous Fairies Tree.

WOMAN: Because children love to send letters to fairies, and it's a special place, the fairy tree, and all the children know where it is in the garden.

KATHY SWAN: If you were going to write a note to a fairy, what would you say in it?

GIRL: Um...could I capture you and you could be my friend?

KATHY SWAN: But there's always trouble in a fairytale, and this time, the trouble is rot. According to the Melbourne City Council, children may unintentionally be helping the tree's natural enemy - decay - by leaving notes and flowers.

LORD MAYOR JOHN SO (MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL): The tree is nearly a 200 to 300 years old tree stump. Of course, occasionally damage will be done to the tree.

KATHY SWAN: To leave an offering, some of the little folk are getting over a fence and a little too close to the fairy carvings.

The Fairies Tree was once a humble but robust red gum that lived for about 300 years before dying and becoming a stump. Normally, that would mean the end, but not for this stump. It underwent a magical makeover in the 1930s, thanks to sculptor Ola Cohn taking on a sort of fairy godmother role.

Ola Cohn dedicated her sculpture to the fairies and those who love them.

LORD MAYOR JOHN SO: We all have the magic of the fairies, we love the magic of the fairies.

WOMAN: It's just one of those things that kids do and they like doing, and you know, to have that magical experience, that they think their letters are going to the fairies, like they go to Santa.

KATHY SWAN: So would a fairy post-box work down by the Fairies Tree? Some say "yes".

WOMAN: It would be nice to have a post-box.

WOMAN: Why don't they put a post-box in it?

KATHY SWAN: But council says "no". Apparently, fairy notes cause more problems than tree rot.

LORD MAYOR JOHN SO: The council staff, they find it difficult to answer some of the letters. Many of them are quite emotional.

KATHY SWAN: Inspired perhaps by the Tooth Fairy, council may build a wishing well to encourage a non-note method of communing with the fairies.

SCATTERBRAIN (IMP): I reckon a wishing well would be pretty good, yeah. I like wishing wells. Yeah, you can go up, close your eyes, make a wish.

PINK BLOSSOM (FAIRY QUEEN): Absolutely. Every time a child makes a wish, a fairy hears it.

story notes

 once upon a time
Once upon a time means 'a long time ago'. It's a phrase used at the beginning of many children's stories.

The literal meaning of enchanted is to be affected by magic. But here, it means pleased or charmed.

A fairy is an imaginary creature, usually shown as a small person with wings, like this.
Notice that the plural of fairy is fairies. It ends with i-e-s.This is how we form plurals for words that end in a consonant followed by the letter 'y'.
more information: 'y' plurals

The word tale means story. Fairytales are imaginary stories for children. They're not just about fairies. Fairytales are traditional stories that usually involve imaginary creatures and magic.

 according to
The phrase according to means, 'as stated by' or 'as said by'.
Example: According to the weather forecast it should be raining today.

Unintentionally means accidentally. If something is unintentional, it's not done on purpose.

An enemy is someone who hates and opposes another person.


When the word spelled c-l-o-s-e (close) means near, it's pronounced to rhyme with 'dose'. Follow the link to hear the other way we pronounce it and listen for it later in the story.
more information: close

 red gum
The scientific name of this tree is Eucalyptus camaldulensis.

 fairy godmother role
A fairy godmother is someone who helps you in difficult situations.

Follow the link to find out more about the ways of spelling and pronouncing this word
more information: 'cause

 inspired perhaps by
probably got their idea from

 Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy is a special type of fairy. It's the fairy that leaves money in exchange for a tooth.

 wishing well
A well is a hole in the ground where you get water. But you don't collect water from a wishing well. You throw coins into a wishing well, and then you make a wish.

having contact with

Here, close is pronounced to rhyme with 'rose'.