I know I promised you a weekly video to go along with my blog post, but my camera broke last week. I literally have no idea what’s wrong with it, and I can’t take it to get fixed until after the semester is over. So the rest of my blog posts won’t contain a video, unfortunately.
Today, dear friend, I’m going to be telling you all about changelings. They’re actually quite terrifying like most of the other things I’ve been posting about. If you’ve seen the Angelina Jolie film Changeling you know what I’m talking about. I haven’t seen it, though, so I don’t know exactly what happens apart from a general overview.
Changelings are found in European folklore and a usually described as the offspring of a fairy, troll, or elf that has been left in the place of a human child. Usually, these legends are connected with fairies, but sometimes trolls or elves are involved, as well.
There are a few reasons why a fairy would trade its child in for a human baby. Apparently, fairy/troll/elf babies can be a bit on the ugly side, so they steal humans because they want a pretty child. Other theories are that they want the child to act as a servant, they want the love of a human child, or they just want a toy to play with. In some cases, fairies would show some compassion and take away a human baby that was being abused by his/her parents so that he/she might have a better life in the fairy world.
The theft of a human baby would always take place at night while everyone in the house was asleep. Most times, fairies would leave their own child in the place of the human child. Sometimes though, they would simply leave a piece of wood.
The parents of the human child usually didn’t even notice the switch. They just went about their normal lives until the characteristics of a changeling began to manifest themselves in the child: voracious appetite, malicious behavior, mood swings, or wisdom beyond his/her years.
In Irish folklore, left-handed people were thought to be changelings.
In Welsh folklore, the changeling starts out resembling the human child, but gradually becomes more unattractive, bad tempered, and starts to scream and bite. According to the Welsh, if you suspect that your child is a changeling, cook a full meal in an eggshell. I’m not exactly sure how that would work, and nothing really goes into detail about it. Apparently, though, the changeling will become incredibly confused at the meal and just disappear. The human child will appear in its place.
Some other methods of exposing the changeling for that it is are much more violent. Parents would put their children in the oven or torture them in the hopes of the fairy/troll/elf who made the switch coming back to take away its child and return the human baby.
A Scandinavian story warns against doing harm to the changeling child, though. It is said that a couple realized that their child had been switched with a changeling, but the mother refused to mistreat the child. Eventually, the father leaves the mother and runs into their true child. As it turns out, this child has been well cared for by the trolls as thanks for the good treatment of their changeling child. The human child explains that every mistreatment done to the changeling by the human parents is done to the human child by the fairies/trolls/elves.
The legend tends to blame the human parents for being too complacent and fawning over their child’s looks. The fairies/trolls/elves produced ugly children and wanted to punish the humans for focusing on physical appearance so much. An unbaptized child was more susceptible to being switched, as well.
There are a few methods of protecting your child from being switched with a changeling. Laying a steel object such as scissors or a knife in the cradle of an unbaptized baby was thought to ward off changelings.
It is possible that this legend stems from the misinterpretation of autism or birth defects in the Victorian era. There were various murder cases in the Victorian era that were the result of parents thinking that their child was, in fact, a changeling.
Supernatural approaches the legend of changelings in its third season in “The Kids are Alright.” As always, the show alters the legend a little bit to fit in with their plot. In the episode, human children are switched with changelings. The switch doesn’t happen when they are babies, though. It takes place well into their childhood. These switches aren’t being made by a fairy/troll/elf, they are being made by an alpha changeling mother. While the human mother is sleeping, the changeling children drink the synovial fluid found in her joints until she eventually wastes away. According to Supernatural, the only way to kill a changeling is to burn it.
I don’t know about you, but I find changelings pretty terrifying. That might just be my mama bear instincts, though. What do you think?