Today on the train we are discussing changelings. Who are they...or maybe what are they? Where do they come from? What is their agenda? Well hopefully today we can clear up some of these questions for you...do you even care?
Changeling, in European folklore, are a deformed or imbecilic offspring of fairies or elves substituted by them secretly for a human infant. According to legend, the abducted human children are given to the devil or used to strengthen fairy stock. How do you make the faerie gene pool stronger? You steal human kids! Duh! The return of the original child may be effected by making the changeling laugh or by torturing it; this latter belief was responsible for numerous cases of actual child abuse. The existence of changelings is believed to stem from the idea that infants are susceptible to demonic possession. In the Medieval Chronicles, by Ralph of Coggeshall, and in other sources, the fairies are said expressly to prey upon unbaptized children.
Most stories about changelings describe them as looking like ugly, little old men. Obviously, this can make distinguishing them from your average baby difficult. I’m sure you love your own kid, but let’s be honest. Most babies are horrifyingly strange looking when they are born. Now imagine if they fail to gain weight because of poverty or a condition the parents aren’t aware of. Other descriptions include babies with abnormally sized body parts or facial features. Basically, any defect could be a sign that a fairy took your baby.
Though in other cases, a changeling baby does resemble a human child, but only slightly off. Maybe their eyes contain the wisdom of millennia. Or they seem quieter than they were when firstborn. But if they are alive and getting into mischief, it is still better than the alternative. Sometimes the changeling is said to be a pile of sticks magically made to appear as the mirror-image of the stolen child. The mirage sickens before quickly dying. The parents unknowingly bury the sticks, never knowing their true child was missing. n Irish legend, a fairy child may appear sickly and won't grow in size like a normal child, and may have notable physical characteristics such as a beard or long teeth. They may also display intelligence far beyond their apparent years, as well as possess uncanny insight. A common way that a changeling could identify itself is through displaying unusual behaviour when it thinks it's alone, such as jumping about, dancing or playing an instrument — though this last example is found only within Irish and Scottish legend. So far it kinda looks like we might be changelings… beards and music instruments...also I have uncanny eyesight and Moody likes to dance when he thinks no one is around.
"A human child might be taken due to many factors: to act as a servant, the love of a human child, or malice. Most often it was thought that fairies exchanged the children. In rare cases, the very elderly of the fairy people would be exchanged in the place of a human baby, so that the old fairy could live in comfort, being coddled by its human parents. Simple charms such as an inverted coat or open iron scissors left where the child sleeps, were thought to ward them off; other measures included a constant watch over the child."
D. L. Ashliman points out in his essay 'Changelings' that changeling tales illustrate an aspect of family survival in pre-industrial Europe. A peasant family's subsistence frequently depended upon the productive labour of each member, and it was difficult to provide for a person who was a permanent drain on the family's scarce resources. "The fact that the changelings' ravenous appetite is so frequently mentioned indicates that the parents of these unfortunate children saw in their continuing existence a threat to the sustenance of the entire family. Changeling tales support other historical evidence in suggesting that infanticide was frequently the solution selected."
Fairies would also take adult humans, especially the newly married and new mothers; young adults were taken to marry fairies instead while new mothers were often taken to nurse fairy babies. Often when an adult was taken instead of a child an object such as a log was left in place of the stolen human, enchanted to look like the person. This object in place of the human would seem to sicken and die, to be buried by the human family, while the living human was among the fairies. Bridget Cleary is one of the most well known cases of an adult thought to be a changeling by her family; her husband killed her attempting to force the fairies to return his 'real' wife.
The interesting thing about changelings is that there are tales of changelings in many different cultures and their folklores. Let's check out some of these different versions of changelings throughout folklore.
First up we have Mên-an-Tol. Mên-an-Tol is a small formation of standing stones in Cornwall UK. In Cornish the name means “the stone of the hole”, why call it that you ask...well the main stone is basically a stone donut. Only one other example of a holed stone exists in the county: the Tolvan Stone near Gweek.
The other three stones are more regular granite pillars commonly used in stone circles, with one dressed flat side. There is speculation that these were simply four of the stones of an ancient circle, further large stones having been discovered lying just below the ground nearby. The local moniker the 'Crick Stone' alludes to its alleged ability to aid those with back pain and children suffering from rickets and tuberculosis.
This cute little stone formation is thought to be from the late neolithic to early bronze age. Now you may be asking yourselves what this thing has to do with changelings, well, we are gonna tell ya. So according to local legend, a woman had a child that was supposedly replaced with a changeling by pixies. The woman did not know what to do. Under the suggestion of some locals, she took the child to the stone and passed him through 9 times. 9 seems to be the magic number here, as for the curing of rickets and tuberculosis, children were passed through the hole naked nine times. After the woman passed the changeling through the stone it allegedly cured the child of the changeling issues. Ok so its not much but fuck it, its a relatable changeling story.
According to Karl Haupt in the book The Legend Book of Lausitz, A child must always have someone nearby until it is six weeks old. Otherwise, an old woman from the woods or the mountains could come and exchange a physically and mentally retarded, malformed changeling for the infant. At the very least, one must place a hymnbook near the child's head before leaving the room. However, if--through negligence--the misfortune does occur, you should take prompt notice of it. Then you need only make a switch from the branches of a weeping birch tree and beat the changeling severely with it. The old woman will respond to his cries by bringing back the exchanged child and taking the beastly child away. You must allow her to depart unhindered, neither scolding nor cursing her, otherwise you will be left with the changeling hanging on your neck.
Wow. This is one of the descriptions that have actually led to cases of child abuse as stated at the beginning of the episode. There are many tales of changelings in german folklore. The belief in changelings was strong and widespread. These beliefs continued to exert influence well into the nineteenth century, and in some areas even later. As late as 1924 it was reported that in sections of rural Germany many people were still taking traditional precautions against the demonic exchange of infants. The Germans had some precautions to help aid in the combating of changelings being swapped out for human children. Here are some according to Jacob Grimm from the book Deutsche Mythologie:
Placing a key next to an infant will prevent him from being exchanged.
Women may never be left alone during the first six weeks following childbirth, for the devil then has more power over them.
During the first six weeks following childbirth, mothers may not go to sleep until someone has come to watch the child. If mothers are overcome by sleep, changelings are often laid in the cradle. To prevent this one should lay a pair of men's pants over the cradle.
Whenever the mother leaves the infant's room she should lay an article of the father's clothing on the child, so that it cannot be exchanged
In the town of Altmark they believe in what are sometimes called dickkopfe or thick heads. In the area itself they are usually referred to as “the underground People”. The underground people are dwarves. They have names like sleepy, grumpy, and dopey. According to J. D. H. Temme in his book Folk Legends from Altmark, to prevent the underground spirits from exchanging a newborn child, it must be continuously watched until it is baptized. For this reason the baptism takes place as soon as possible. Dwarfs are often called "the underground people." They live beneath the earth and would like nothing more than to have beautiful, well-formed human children. They will steal newborns, leaving their own malformed children, called changelings, in their place. Therefore there is always a great rush to have the child baptized, and until this happens the mother and child will not be left alone for even an instant. Furthermore, until then there must always be a burning light near them, even in broad daylight, because the underground people are afraid of light.
A child must carefully and continuously be protected against exchange by the underground people until it is baptized. Therefore the so-called "word of God," a leaf from the Bible from a hymnbook, is either wrapped up with the child in its blanket or laid in its cradle.
Here's a few stories of changelings in different parts of Germany:
The Changeling of Spornitz
(Source: Karl Bartsch, Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Meklenburg)
A young peasant woman in Spornitz had her child stolen by an underground person or a Mönk, and a changeling put in its place in the cradle. The mother saw it happen, but she could neither move nor call out. The maniken told her that her son would someday become the king of the underground people. From time to time they had to exchange one of their king's children for a human child so that earthly beauty would not entirely die out among them. She was told to take good care of the little dwarf prince, and her house would be blessed with good fortune. With that the Mönk laid the changeling on her breast and disappeared with her child. She took care of the child, and the prosperity of her household increased visibly. However, the changeling remained small and ugly, and died in his twentieth year.
Source: Karl Bartsch, Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Meklenburg (Vienna, Wilhelm Braumüller, 1879), vol. 1, p. 62.
Bartsch's source for this legend is Pastor Dolberg from Hinrichshagen.
In Rövershagen the underground people once exchanged a woman's unbaptized child for one of their own. Following the advice of a wise man, she laid the underground people's child on the chopping block as though she were going to kill it with an ax. The dwarf's child immediately disappeared, and her own child was returned.
The Changeling of Plau
Source: Karl Bartsch, Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Meklenburg (Vienna, Wilhelm Braumüller, 1879), vol. 1, p. 42.
A married couple in Plau had a child that after two years was still only as long as a shoe. It had an enormously large head and could not learn to talk. They shared their concern with an old man, who said: "For sure the underground people have exchanged your child. If you want to be certain about this, then take an empty eggshell and in the presence of the child pour fresh beer into it, then add yeast to make it ferment. If the child then starts to talk, then my suspicion is right." They followed this advice. The beer had scarcely begun to ferment when the child called out from its cradle:
Now I am as old
As Bohemian gold,
But this is the first I've ever heard tell,
Of beer being brewed in an eggshell.
The dwarf's actual words, in the original Low German:
Ik bün so olt
as Böhmer Gold,
doch dat seih ik taum irsten Mal,
dat man Bier brugt in Eierschal.
The parents determined that the very next night they would throw the child into the Elbe River. They arose after midnight and went to the cradle, where they discovered a strong and healthy child. The underground people had taken back their own child.
Up next...the changeling in Irish folklore…
In Ireland, the Faerie folk are always treated with respect, but many accusations are hurled at them as well, from making crops wither to milk turning sour. One of the most common accusations is that they steal humans and spirit them away to live in the Faerie realm, whilst leaving an unwanted faerie in their place, which becomes known as...you fucking know it...a changeling.
Humans at risk of being taken are said to include handsome young men as they are taken to become lovers of the female Faeries. One theory why this happens is that the Faeries see humans as a stronger and healthier race and try to enhance their own bloodline by breeding with humans. Midwives and new mothers are also favoured by the Faeries because they can be made servants of the Faerie queens and easily tend to the Faerie children. It is said that Faerie women find childbirth very difficult and if the pregnancy even lasts until birth then the Faerie babies that survive are often deformed and stunted.
Very occasionally, some people leave the mortal world to live in the Faerie realm by choice. They don’t usually stay in the Faerie realm for life and will return to their home after several years. Of course, none of them returns the same person after so long in the Faerie realm and often people will recognise that these people have ‘changed’ in some way. Traditionally, the person who returns will possess a ‘gift’ of some type and may be a master of herbal or magical knowledge.
Humans most at risk of the Faeries are babies and young children. It is suggested that babies are taken as it is easier to integrate them into the Faerie community and there is less chance of them remembering their real parents. When they are taken, a Faerie child, disguised to look like the human child, is left in their place hence the name, ‘Changeling’. Although most Changelings don’t get to return to the Faerie realm, there have been tales of this happening and the Human child finally returned to its rightful family.
The Faeries envy human babies as they tend to be happy, healthy, and sturdy beings. On occasion, they have been known to take a child because they simply believe it is not loved enough by its human parents or even take the child out of malice or spite, especially if someone from that family has disrespected someone from the Faerie Realm. One can never be too sure what a Faerie’s motive is.
So how do the Irish recognize a changeling? Well let's find out! It is said that you can tell a Changeling baby by the fact that it is ill-tempered and looks wizened in appearance. Most will have very dark eyes and if you look into them you can see wisdom well beyond their age. A Changeling will also grow and develop a lot quicker than a human baby and within a few weeks the Changeling will have a full set of teeth and their legs and arms will be quite bony and thin.
A changeling doesn’t always appear as a baby and occasionally the Faeries will leave a piece of enchanted wood called a ‘stock’ in the cradle instead. This stock will appear to grow sick and die right in front of the ‘parents’ eyes.
The changelings’ new family will never have any good luck while the changeling resides in the family home as the changeling will drain the family of any good fortune that will come their way. A warning though to all those people who become parents to a changeling, it must be loved and cared for like it is your own if you ever want to have a chance of seeing your own child again.
The unspoken threat is that if the changeling is harmed or abandoned in any way, the Faeries will treat your child just as badly or possibly even worse, a risk any parents would not be willing to take.
However, don’t despair! There are certain methods one can use in the event of returning a Changeling from where it came from and ensuring the safe return of the child that has been taken. Below you will find some of the most traditional methods used.
Trooping Faeries leave their barrow, (their home) several times a year. A direct swap is possible at this time although to be successful, specific spells and rituals need to be performed.
A Faerie changeling is often weak and feeble so they must be nurtured and loved so that he/she becomes healthy and happy. When this occurs the Faerie parents usually decide that they want their natural child back and will switch them, themselves. This is probably the best and safest way to return a changeling to its proper parents as I really wouldn’t recommend the next method myself.
In some areas in Ireland, Faeries are seen as demons. So because of this, the stolen person is not seen as kidnapped but possessed and it is believed that Faeries can be exorcised just like demons. The victim is beaten or tortured in the hope that life within the ‘host’ will become so unpleasant the Faerie be cast out.
In Ireland, it is widely believed that the Faeries are terrified of fire and some alleged Changelings have been badly burned or even killed by the efforts of others in order to make the Faerie leave.
If attempts at returning the changeling fail the unlucky ‘parents’ can expect the Changeling to grow up to be a snivelling, dim-witted person who will no longer be a changeling but will be known as an ‘oaf’.
So if the Changeling becomes an oaf, what becomes of the human child living in the Faerie realm? Some are reported to pine and grieve so much for their loved ones in the mortal world that they wither and die. While others can adapt quite well and live happily within the Faerie realm enjoying a long life filled with cheerfulness, Irish music and Irish dancing.
You want stories? Here's a couple for ya.
This is the story of Bridget Cleary. On March 15, 1895, Bridget Cleary, the 28-year-old wife of a copper, went missing from her cottage near Clonmel in County Tipperary. Days later her body was found in a shallow grave, burned to death by her husband and family members who suspected her of being possessed by a fairy.
Cleary, believed to be 'the last witch burned in Ireland,' was the victim of dangerous superstitious beliefs. Her story has become part of Irish folklore, and her tragic tale has been immortalized in the children’s rhyme “Are you a witch or are you a fairy, Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?”
Books have been written about her and filmmakers are currently trying to raise funds to make a movie loosely based on her story.
Cleary and her husband Michael were a well-off but childless couple. Bridget was a dressmaker who made additional independent income from keeping hens.
According to accounts, she caught a cold that possibly developed into pneumonia, or she may have had tuberculosis.
As her condition worsened, her husband and her uncle, Jack Dunne, began to circulate the story that Bridget had been taken by fairies and the woman in the bed was a changeling. According to Irishidentity.com, herbal cures were forced down her throat and she was held over the fire while being asked repeatedly if she was a changeling. Several family members assisted and neighbors were present the evening before her death as more tests were conducted on her.
On March 15, 1895, her husband set fire to her nightgown and threw lamp-oil on her.
“She’s not my wife,” he said. “You’ll soon see her go up the chimney.”
Jack Dunne forced one of Bridget's brothers to carry her to a shallow grave.
Some time afterward, it was reported to the local priest that Bridget had been burned to death by her husband and other family members. The priest went to the police who found her charred body and arrested nine people, including Bridget’s family members, neighbors, and friends, in connection with the murder.
Michael Cleary served 15 years for the crime, after which he emigrated to Canada.
According to the New York Times, the case was used as a weapon against Irish Home Rule, asking how could a people who still believed in fairies and spirits be trusted to govern themselves in the modern world?
A REAL CHANGELING
In a little village on the Cavan/Leitrim border, there lived a man who had disappeared and was said to have been taken by faeries. Miraculously he returned 10 years later out of the blue. While this story is said to be retold all the time even up to this, we could not find the details of this story anywhere, no names, no dates, no nothing. That being said … get your shit together people out there.
How do you get a one armed polish guy out of a tree? How many pollocks does it take to screw in a light bulb? Screen door on a submarine...you've heard them all, but have you heard about the changeling in Polish folklore? Doubt it, but that is why we are here. To inform you on the coolest shit around...like the Dziwozona. Also known as the Mamuna or Boginka, they were thought to be the spirits of a girl who died in childhood or women who killed their child (oddly connected), but they could also be women who died during pregnancy or women who had a child out of wedlock. Basically, the demon was often meant to represent things that were considered bad for women and represented an unnatural life or death. Depictions vary, but the most common description is that she’s an old hag with breasts so large she washes her clothes with them. Damn thats hot...anyway… Dziwożona was thought to appear during foul weather among the trees and swamps. Unlike many demons who would attack directly (though depictions of the boginka did include attacks), Dziwożona waited and observed mothers with their children. During this time she could make the children ill and would often come up with elaborate schemes to draw the mother away. She would then strike when the mother was gone, replacing the child with a changeling – the hag’s own child. Changelings were creatures that appear throughout Slavic myth. Demons would use them to replace the children they stole, but the changelings did not grow like normal humans. They had massive abdomens and small, disfigured heads. Which is different from the German myths if you remember from earlier as theirs had the big heads. They rarely slept, screaming into the night, and sometimes they even grew claws and jagged teeth. Almost all changelings died in childhood, but if they survived, they were little more than spiteful, mumbling loners.
It’s likely that changelings and the connection with Dziwożona were simply the early Slavs’ ways of understanding disabilities among children. Beyond it being a warning for mothers not to abandon their children, it was easier to explain away that a demon stole the child than to accept disabilities are a part of human life. It’s brutal but unfortunately was common among early cultures.
There were ways to protect your child against the Dziwożona, though. Parents would tie a red ribbon around the baby’s hand (a tradition still continued today in some Slavic countries) and also give the child a red cap to wear, protecting their face from the moon.
The folk belief regarding the interchanging of children by the subterraneans is prevalent and old – in Norse times, the changeling was called vixlingr and skiptingr – and was most likely founded on the physical fact that a seemingly healthy and normal child could change drastically over a short period of time, and develop abnormal features. The portrayals often include the child having a big head, yellow and sallow complexion, "old man's face", bulging eyes, long hands and short feet and pointy teeth. Being "hungry as a watchdog," crying day and night, the changeling was described as a obstinate and imbecile being, and a slow learner, whether it came to walking, reading or talking.
Contemporary medicine would most likely recognize symptoms of jaundice, rickets, atrophy (muscle wasting) and other defects caused by heredity and malnutrition. But for people without this medical knowledge, the "healing" simply consisted in getting rid of the changeling as soon as possible, in order to get the “rightful'' child in return. The treatment performed to attain such, was nothing less than horrible; among the many tricks in the book were to pretend to throw the child in the oven, pinch his nose with red-hot irons, and whipping him naked on a pile of garbage three Thursday evenings in a row. The idea was of course to frighten and abuse the poor creature to such a degree that the child’s “real” mother would feel sorry for him and reverse the switch.
The legends recounting stories about elderly changelings prove however that this procedure was far from effective. At worst, they could be hundreds of years old, it was said. But it was never too late to get them out of the house. You could just lure them to talk and reluctantly divulge their age, they were exposed and made ready to die. The more outrageous the attempts were, the greater was the chance to fool them.
A legend from Southern Norway, tells the story of an elderly changeling; the household put forward for him a huge pot of just a tiny bit of porridge in it, yet as many spoons as they could muster.
Then he said: "I'm older than the mountains, and as gray as a scythe, but never have I seen so great a barrel and so little food and so many spoons before!" Then they knew that he was a changeling.
On a farm in Eastern Norway they pretended to brew ale in an eggshell. But when the old man awoke and saw this, he burst out laughing:
"No, now I have been around for so long that I've seen the old forest burn down and grow up again seven times, but never have I seen anyone brew beer in an eggshell."
Then, someone asked. "Are you finished?"
"Yes, "replied the old man. At the blink of an eye he was gone, and there was only a crumbling bone remaining. "
Norwegian poet Haldis Moren Vesaas (1907-1995) wrote a poem about the changeling that might be easier to relate to than the old legends. This poem however, speaks of loving your child no matter how tired you are. For the changeling and the sweet, gentle child is the same, but sometimes it feels as if your little angel has been replaced with a nasty, vicious troll that nobody likes. Wanna hear it? Well you’re gonna anyways cus its out fucking show!
Rockabye rockabye big, ugly child,
troll is your surname, no doubt.
The hugest boiler is in use as we speak,
no less, to silence your trout
The cradle you lie in will soon be too small,
this hardship sure takes its toll
You are heavy, so heavy, and the night is so long,
for she who must cradle a troll
All that see you, give me advice,
that I should torment you, kick and toss.
Then they will come for you, and I can get back
the long lost child I’ve lost
Rockabye changeling, big and foul
Please, keep the fear at bay
I will not hit you, trust me on that,
and no one shall take you away
The other, the cutie, can stay where she is
While you, who is hated so deep,
needs me to love and care for you
And look! Now you’ve fallen asleep
The tales vary from country to country and region to region in Scandinavian folklore. Scandinavian parents would often place an iron tool such as a pair of scissors or a knife on top of the cradle of an unbaptised infant to prevent its being abducted by the trolls. It was believed that if a human child were still taken, in spite of such measures, the parents could force the return of the child by treating the changeling cruelly, using methods such as whipping or even inserting it in a heated oven. In at least one case, a woman was taken to court for having killed her child in an oven. In Sweden, it is believed that a fire must be kept lit in the room housing a child before it is christened, and ,furthermore, that the water used to bathe the child should not be thrown out, since both of these precautions will prevent the child from being taken by trolls.
In one Swedish tale, the human mother is advised to brutalize the changeling (bortbyting) so that the trolls will return her son, but she refuses, unable to mistreat an innocent child despite knowing its nature. When her husband demands she abandon the changeling, she refuses, and he leaves her – whereupon he meets their son in the forest, wandering free. The son explains that since his mother had never been cruel to the changeling, the troll mother had never been cruel to him, and when she sacrificed what was dearest to her, her husband, they had realized they had no power over her and released him.
The next legend comes from Spain, more specifically Asturias. Asturias is an autonomous community in northwest Spain. Their mythology contains tales of the Xana. The Xana is a beautiful fairy said to dwell wherever pure bodies of water flow, combing her long curly hair with a comb made of sun or moonbeams, using the water as a mirror. This bad fairy may also live in a cave, safeguarding her immense collection of ill-gained treasure. The Xana reminds us of sea nymphs and nixies, who also spend time near water using their beauty to lure humans.
One of the key defining characteristics of the Xana is their thievery. Many tales describe the Xana acquiring a plethora of earthly treasures, and many myths talk of young adventurers who unsuccessfully attempt to gain the treasure of the Xana.
Tales of Xanas also often involve the kidnapping of a human child, replacing it with their own offspring (called Xaninos). The Xana will make this swap by entering a human home through a keyhole. They cannot care for the children themselves. They find themselves ill-equipped to feed their children, due to their lack of lactation. So instead of dooming their own child to the fate of starvation, they take a human child from their cradle and replace it with their own fairy child. This behavior is reminiscent of changelings in other cultures. Eventually, the human mother will realize that their child has been replaced.
“Tylwyth Teg,” (Welsh fairies) or “Fair folk” were thought to have sought-after human babies and would steal them whenever they could, swapping them with a poor weak substitute of fairy descent. The new fairy baby displayed crabbiness and ugliness which would be visible.
The distraught families, upon suspecting their child to have been “swapped” would seek the most horrific solutions to the problem, often employing a “fairy doctor” to diagnose the child as a fairy using various torturous methods which would lead to the death of the poor child. Some practices involved burning the child with hot coals, holding them over a fire or boiling water, leaving them exposed to the elements, or drowning them in the belief that the fairies would rush to save their own and give back the “real” child. Such was superstition and so intense was the fear of the fair folk, this practice was sadly common and widespread.
Unchristened children were thought to be most at risk as were girls and twins. In all households, there were routine precautions aimed to prevent child theft. A prevalent one involved putting fire tongs over a cradle, because of the fairies’ well-known antipathy to iron.
In the parish of Trefeglwys, near Llanidloes, Montgomery, a little shepherd’s cottage dubbed the Place of Strife, on account of the trouble recorded there. A couple that once resided there had twins, when they were a few months old the wife went to the house of neighbors, leaving both babies alone. When she returned, she saw the “blue petticoats of the old elves'' fleeing from her home. Hurrying indoors, she found her house as she had left it and was relieved. However, as the weeks rolled by, she noticed her twins' growth seems stunted. Her husband accused them of not being his, and it caused a huge rift between them. A local wise man gave this advice.
He told her that when she was preparing dinner for the harvesters, in sight of the twins she was to empty the shell of an egg and fill it with pottage. Then carry it out to the workers as if meant to feed them all. But he told her to listen to what the twins say to each other about this strange behavior. If they discuss it in ways that children should not understand, then she should take them both to the river Llyn Ebyr and throw them both in. She did as she was told and heard the twins say; ACORNS BEFORE OAK I KNEW; AN EGG BEFORE A HEN; NEVER ONE HEN’S EGG-SHELL STEW ENOUGH FOR HARVESTMEN! On hearing this, the mother took the two children and threw them into the Llyn, and sure enough, saw goblins in their blue trousers come to save their dwarfs. The mother had her own children back again, and all was well once more.
In Wirt Sykes book British Goblins, Welsh Folklore, he writes that a Dazzy Walter, the wife of Abel Walter, of Ebwy Fawr, one night in her husband’s absence awoke in her bed and found her baby had gone. Terrified, she searched around her bed for it and grabbed it with her hand above the bed, which was as far as the fairies had managed to carry it. And a woman called Jennet Francis, of that same valley of Ebwy Fawr, said that one night in bed she felt her infant son being taken from her arms; after that, she screamed and hung on, and, as she phrased it, ‘God and me were too hard for them.’ This son later grew up and became a famous preacher of the gospel.
The Llanover estate when run by Lady Llanover in the 19th century was rife with rumours of the fairies amongst the gardeners who worked there. Several accounts were recorded, and it was said that Twlyth Teg would change children in the area. One family who would regularly leave out offerings of bread and milk for the Fae had a son who decided it was funny to replace the bowl of milk with urine. On finding it, the angry fairies threw the contents around the room and placed a curse as punishment that there would always be a fool – an idiot who would never prosper in his family. Sure enough one of his own children in later years turned out to be one and this continued in every generation since.
A woman by the name of Nani Fach was also said to be the offspring of the fairies as she was presumably “different.” House staff of Lady Llanover would throw crumbs of bread on the floor before going to bed at night as offerings to the fairies such was their fear of them.
Well… Wales seems to have a bit of a changeling problem...and a lot of funny names of places.
So those are some of the myths of changelings from various cultures. While there are some differences most seem to have the same basic principles. You see many of the same stories repeated through the various myths. They may have different wording or phrasing due to the region or culture but they are the same. There were a couple recorded stories of deaths due to people thinking that someone was a changeling. We discussed the story of Bridget Cleary earlier but there was another tragic incident that involved a child. Michael Laehy was only four when he died.
Anne Roche, an old woman of very advanced age, was indicted for the murder of Michael Leahy, a young child, by drowning him in the Flesk. This case, which at first assumed a very serious aspect, from the meaning imputed to the words spoken by the prisoner, that the sin of the child’s death was on the grand-mother, and not on the prisoner, turned out to be a homicide, committed under the delusion of the grossest superstition. The child, though four years old, could neither stand, walk, or speak – it was thought to be fairy struck – and the grandmother ordered the prisoner and one of the witnesses, Mary Clifford, to bathe the child every morning in the pool of the river Flesk, where the boundaries of three farms meet; they had so bathed it for three mornings running, and on the last morning the prisoner kept the child longer under the water than usual, when her companion (the witness, Mary Clifford) said to the prisoner, ‘how can you hope ever to see God after this?’ to which the prisoner replied, that ‘the sin was on the grand-mother, and not on her.’ Upon cross-examination, the witness said it was not done with intent to kill the child, but to cure it – to put the Fairy out of it. On her being charged by the policeman who apprehended here with drowning the child, she said it did not matter if it had died four years ago. Baron Pennefather said, thought it was a case of suspicion, and required to be thoroughly examined into, yet the jury would not be safe in convicting the prisoner of murder, however strong their suspicions might be. Verdict: not guilty. Author Robert Curran says that the verdict is suggestive of the depth of belief in changelings in the community. There were several similar cases in rural Ireland in the 19th century.
The reality behind many changeling legends was often the birth of deformed or developmentally disabled children. Among the diseases or disabilities with symptoms that match the description of changelings in various legends are spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, PKU, progeria, Down syndrome, homocystinuria, Williams syndrome, Hurler syndrome, Hunter syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and cerebral palsy. The greater incidence of birth defects in boys correlates to the belief that male infants were more likely to be taken. Psychologist