|Image by J.L.Hopgood|
Noun & adjective. Mid-16th century.
[from CHANGE verb + -LING.]
A1 noun. A person given to change; a waverer, a turncoat. archaic. M16
A2 noun. A person or thing (surreptitiously) put in exchange for another;
specifically a child secretly substituted for another in infancy. M16
3 A halfwitted person. archaic. E17
B obsolete. adj. Changeable, variable, inconstant. M17-E18
A particularly disturbing myth from folklore is that of changelings - creatures that were substituted for human children during infancy, variously by fairies, trolls, the Devil, or some other malevolent force. Common to the folklore of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and Scandinavia, changelings would usually be deceptively human in appearance, but would subsequently manifest some inhuman behaviour as they grew, such as displaying great strength, abnormal features, or never developing the ability to walk or talk. The motives for changelings varied - some believed the abducted human children were raised as slaves to their new families, others that it was for some necessary mixing of human and non-human bloodlines; it was often said that only unbaptised babies were taken, or that their human blood was used in paying some kind of tithe to Hell. Unsurprisingly, various superstitions arose to ward off creatures that might substitute a changeling, such as the use of charms and amulets, or simply keeping a constant watch over a child lest it be taken away.
|Two trolls leading away their abducted human child|
John Bauer (1882-1918)
Are there tales of changelings where you're from?
Do please comment in the box below.