Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Channeling Changelings

Hey, friends! It’s Mythical Monday!

Before, I kick off today’s star mythology player, I want to announce the winner of my Vampires vs. Werewolves Blog Hop giveaway. Congrats to Tracey D. who won an ebook copy of my paranormal/time travel romance, WEAHTERING ROCK. Tracey, I will contact you by email to see if you prefer a Kindle or Nook version.

Also, congratulations to Joder, who won the Kindle copy of Deborah Palumbo’s paranormal novel, THE UNDERPARTED. Deborah will contact you directly regarding her giveaway. Thanks to everyone who participated and dropped by my blog.

And now, I’d like to channel some changelings 🙂

bigstock-Twilight-in-the-forest-mystic-16150733There is an old legend that circulates among the varied cultures of Western Europe about humans who were spirited away by faeries, with changelings left in their place.

Although adults were often taken, infants were most at risk. New parents were wise to watch their babies closely and stand guard through the dark hours of the night until the day the child was baptized. Left untended for even a brief time, an unbaptized baby might be snatched away and replaced with the unwanted offspring of a faerie, elf or troll. To protect from such calamity, crucifixes or iron could be placed by the cradle as defensive wards. An article of the father’s clothing or a sprig of boxwood blessed by a priest served the same purpose.

Why would the Fae abandon their children? Many were born sickly or frail and deemed a nuisance by their ethereal parents who much preferred a healthy human babe. The changeling child would be placed in the cradle, characteristics like wizened, parchment skin and licorice-black eyes concealed by faerie glamour. Sometimes an enchanted piece of wood, called a stock, would be left instead, magic employed to make it look like the child. Unsuspecting parents wouldn’t realize what had happened until the changeling was presented for baptism and the touch of holy water made the child scream uncontrollably. If a stock, it would wither and die in a short time.

Although changelings were evil creatures, bringing ill fortune to those that housed them, they were not long for the mortal world. Perhaps because they were such a miserable lot, shrieking and howling throughout the day, biting, ravenous of appetite, delighting in mishap. They rarely lived more than two to three years, though even that span was a harsh eternity to any family burdened with one.

It’s no wonder attempts were made to drive the changeling off. Some methods included ignoring its constant wailing, abandoning it on a hillside, threatening it with a heated ploughshare or making it laugh. Given its nature, gaiety of any sort must have been equivalent to a death knell should it hang around.  In many respects, it’s hard not to feel sorry for these wretched creatures who were unwanted by their natural parents. If the changeling was successfully driven away, even years later, the human child would be returned. Those who found their way back to their real parents reported being treated kindly in the Faerie Court.  How pitiful the Fae didn’t extend that same courtesy and love to their own children.

Woman with a nest in hairI think of changelings as one of the darker aspects of fairytales and mythology.  Although I can’t recall a specific book, I know I’ve read several tales in which changelings played a part. Can you think of any fairytale, book or movie that included a changeling? If you’d lived in a time/reality where changelings were real, do you think you could have sympathy for such a pathetic and malicious creature? Do you think a changeling could be turned if treated as a human child?


16 thoughts on “Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Channeling Changelings

  1. interesting especially since I am considering using faeries in my newest wip but I’m thinking they take human form and then return to fae. Not sure it will make sense


    • Love the fae, Sue, whatever form they take. I’ve got a fantasy trilogy with them and an urban fantasy/new adult novel – – all written years ago. I would love to resurrect them at some point if I can just find the time. I’ll be looking forward to seeing glimpses of yours.


  2. Do you ever wonder where all these legends begin? I’ve often wondered if somewhere along the way a child with a deformity was born and the parents insisted their “normal” beautiful child was stolen by other worldly creatures who craved a perfect child… and then other parents followed suit (that way they couldn’t be faulted). Just a thought! Lovely post Mae!


  3. Oh my gosh, all I can think of is Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers! I know it isn’t representative, but it’s all that came to mind as I read about the changelings. I do think its a dark, sad tale 😦 those poor things being left behind. But I guess it’s not too far from some of the dark things done in reality, sad to say.


    • You’re right, L.J. Whatever the time period (today or eons ago) there is/was always a darkness woven between myth and reality. Some of the posts I found while researching changelings suggested had they been real, they may have been autistic children of the past. The parents didn’t know any better or understand their child’s affliction.

      As for Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, I remember that one, LOL!


  4. I’m thinking of the film with Angelina Jolie, though there is obviously nothing supernatural about that one. I can’t think of a book that features a changeling child. Hmm, I know I must have read one at some point.


    • That’s like me, Emma. I know I’ve read several, but when I tried to recall a specific title or even plot, I couldn’t come up with one. I read an endless supply of sci-fi and fantasy as a teen and in my 20s, (although we won’t discuss how long ago that was). Hmmm. Those intervening years could be why I don’t remember!


  5. You’ve got some great creepy pictures in your post today!

    I imagine the Changeling as more of misunderstood rather than malevolent being, but that’s probably because I prefer my conflict a little less dark than the typical fantasy lover:)


    • I don’t know, Jessi,. I’m kind of with you. According to folklore, changelings were horrible, malevolent creatures, but the more I read about them, the more I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. After all, they were unwanted, spurned by their parents. I like my fantasy dark, but only as long as there is redemption for the misunderstood at the time. Probably why I am besotted with Mr. Gold on the TV show, Once Upon a Time 🙂


  6. I can’t help but feel there is a strong real world connection – how these lore were likely created to try to explain things people didn’t understand or simply couldn’t accept about their own babies.

    I wonder how many really “returned” from the fae world – that is what I find really curious. Was someone scamming the poor family who’d abandoned their own child on the side of a hill? Hmm… there is possibly a story there… 😉


    • Oh, yes, story fodder for certain! And do think you’re on the right track in that the myth may have been invented to address what parents (at the time) couldn’t understand. Much of the research I did on chaneglings tied it to autisim. Although it was mostly children who were taken, adults were taken too.

      For some reason I was thinking about this post earlier, trying to remember where I had read a story involving changelings (which I know I have) and then it dawned on me: I wrote one years ago! Duh! Actually, I started reworking it earlier in the year. It’s a short, I hope to find a home for in an anthology. Talk about a lightbulb moment *sheepishly hangs head* LOL


  7. Great post, Mae! I kept meaning to come by and check it out. I did tons of research on changelings while writing Gossamer.

    Often folklore was created to explain natural occurrences in life, like tragedy or misunderstood medical ailments. It’s believed that when a baby was replaced for a changeling the human child was living a wonderful life in the Land of Sidhe, growing strong and healthy. Some stories say they left behind elderly fae nearing death others say it was an unhealthy fae baby who often died shortly after being left behind. If you think about it, it’s better to imagine (and accept) your baby is alive and well, living a blissful eternal life with faeries as opposed to dying as an infant.


    • Definitely! I would much rather think of my child living a happy, healthy life with all of their needs met than imagine them dying. I hadn’t known about the eldery fae which is interesting. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing! 🙂


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