Swapping Babies: The Disturbing Faerie Changeling Phenomenon | Ancient Origins Members Site


Swapping Babies: The Disturbing Faerie Changeling Phenomenon

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Swapping Babies: The Disturbing Faerie Changeling Phenomenon

Swapping Babies: The Disturbing Faerie Changeling Phenomenon

The worldwide stories of faerie changelings come under a group of motifs recorded in the Aarne-Thompson folklore index as F321: ‘Faerie steals child from cradle and leaves faerie substitute.’ The basic premise of these motifs is that the faeries, through supernatural means, are capable of abducting babies from humans, whilst replacing them with one of their own, usually a wizened old faerie who would proceed to eat and drink voraciously, and maintain a surly silence. With external advice, the parents are usually advised of how to rid themselves of the changeling and restore their own baby from the faeries. The ruse is carried through and (usually) works.

19th-century image of a faerie changeling baby.

19th-century image of a faerie changeling baby. (Courtesy author)

There are many variations on the story, but the Brothers Grimm summed up in concise form the main components of a typical changeling story from mid-19th-century Germany:


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