Created By: callsignecho on October 10, 2010 Last Edited By: Stratadrake on November 20, 2010
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Changeling Tale

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Before fairies went around granting wishes and bestowing Pimped Out Dresses to cinder maids, they spent a lot of time doing some serious mischief. One favorite game of The Fair Folk was to snatch children, and replace them with a doppelganger, or changeling. According to most European fairy tales, boy babies and children with Hair of Gold were in particular danger of being stolen.

To deter fey folk, infant boys were often dressed as girls, and cold iron would be hung over cribs and doorways. Common items included horseshoes, bells, nails, and steel files. Scissors hung over the crib(!) were particularly common.

Not to be confused with the much Lighter and Softer Changeling Fantasy.


Examples

  • Hamilton being a stickler for mythological accuracy, this is mentioned in passing in the Merry Gentry series, but is not practiced by any of the Fey living in the United States, since it might interfere with the driving plot.
  • The Replacement is the story of a stolen baby boy, told from the point of view of the Changeling.
  • In the Hellboy short story "The Corpse", Hellboy exposes a fairy changeling, then he has to perform a task for the fairies to get the original child back.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • October 11, 2010
    MetaFour
    In the Hellboy short story "The Corpse", Hellboy exposes a fairy changeling, then he has to perform a task for the fairies to get the original child back.
  • October 11, 2010
    RedWren
    Sorry. Another reason the fey in the Merry Gentry series might not kidnap people is because they don't want humans hating them. Their powers are failing. Or they were...
  • October 11, 2010
    AmazinglyEnough
    In Tad Williams' novel The War Of The Flowers, it is revealed that Theo is actually a changeling baby that the fairies replaced his parents' real son with, while the human child is taken to the fairy world and becomes an Enfant Terrible.
  • October 12, 2010
    Viddaric
    The entire plot of Tithe (novel) is based around the main character finding out she is a changeling.
  • October 12, 2010
    Arutema
  • October 12, 2010
    randomsurfer
    A Torchwood season 1 story involved a girl who was a changling (unbeknownst to her or her family), and the fairies came to get her back.
  • October 12, 2010
    berr
    We need this. How Did We Miss This One?

    I was going to do a ykttw for this trope, but I couldn't think of a good name that wasn't confused by the existence of Changeling Fantasy, a much broader and more modern trope that barely mentions this ancient story line.

    Changeling Tale is a good name.
  • October 12, 2010
    berr
    One of the Oldest Ones In The Book. Contrast Moses In The Bullrushes, where the roles are reversed.

    • Changeling (2008) is a modern version of the same ancient fear, with The Fair Folk replaced by society as the antagonist.

    • There is an actual medical phenomenon that fuels this, I forget the name (anyone?) known as the Capgras Delusion. Basically, a parent with a specific brain injury thinks that their child is not theirs, has been replaced by a doppelganger who looks alike, and cannot be convinced otherwise (in the age of mythology, elves would be a convenient explanation). I think it was referenced in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

    • An episode of Law And Order SVU did a piece on a woman with Capgras syndrome recently, which reminded me of this trope, and the fact that we don't have it. The suspect, a video game addict with a Bastard Boyfriend, kept her daughter under the stairwell and refused to believe she was real, but had been replaced with another -- unless she only heard her daughter's voice.
  • October 12, 2010
    BlackWolfe
    • In the SERRAted Edge 'verse, the fey specifically only do when the children have Abusive Parents. The reason given is that as nigh-immortals, Elves have a very low birth rate and thus value children very highly.
  • October 15, 2010
    berr
    bump
  • October 15, 2010
    Starry-Eyed
    • In Eloise McGraw 's The Moorchild, the titular heroine is actually the changeling. Later on, she restores her foster parents' daughter to them.
    • In the YA fantasy Poison, the heroine's baby sister is kidnapped and replaced by a changeling, kicking off her quest. It's actually all part of the Hierophant's Xanatos Gambit to recruit her as his heir, and her sister is actually returned as soon as she sets off--as the girl Poison passes on the boat
  • October 15, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    the Capgras Delusion [1]
  • October 16, 2010
    berr
    Ah, thanks!
  • October 17, 2010
    berr
    .
  • October 17, 2010
    DomaDoma
    Folk musician Alexander James Adams was once known as Heather Alexander. His stage reason for this is that Heather was the changeling left in his place, of late returned to Faerieland. This is pretty much in keeping with the themes of most of his songs.
  • October 18, 2010
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Ars Magica. Faeries do the standard "kidnap children and replace them with changelings" routine.
  • October 18, 2010
    LeeM
    A recent episode of The BBC's Merlin has a variation on this one, in which a princess is not replaced, but is possessed by a Sidhe in infancy, as part of a plot to put a Sidhe on the throne of Camelot. The princess doesn't know the Sidhe is inside her, although its presence makes her very clumsy and uncoordinated. The plot is that once she's married Prince Arthur the Sidhe will take her over completely.
  • October 18, 2010
    Lale
    This is a subtrope of Switched At Birth that we do need.

    • The Faerie Queene contains stories of humans (like the Red Cross Knight) who have grown up in Faerie Land because of this trope, aware of their race but not their true identity.
  • October 18, 2010
    TooBah
    Roger Zelazny's 1980 novel Changeling and its sequel, Madwand.
  • November 12, 2010
    berr
    bumping. Should we Just Launch It Already?
  • November 12, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    Eh, why not?
  • November 12, 2010
    berr
    Ok, before we add a launch notice, I have a question: Can we include Fair Folk abduction in this trope, or does there have to be a 1:1 replacement? I ask because our trope categorization for abduction by fairies is awfully imprecise, we don't seem to have an existing trope for it.
  • November 12, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    Well I'm Okay with it.
  • November 13, 2010
    berr
    I'm willing to do the launch, although I probably won't have time to Entry Pimp the works pages.

    Launch notice #1, additions and examples welcome prior to launch.
  • November 13, 2010
    berr
    I will add a sentence to the description on launch:

    Simple abduction by fairytale beings also counts under this trope. Due to the inscrutable nature of the Fair Folk returns policy, 1:1 replacement of your kids is not warranted.
  • November 13, 2010
    bluepenguin
    The protagonist of Holly Black's Tithe is a changeling.
  • November 18, 2010
    berr
    Notice #2 prior to launch. Any examples of simple abduction? See also Year Outside Hour Inside.
  • November 19, 2010
    berr
    Launching this weekend...
  • November 20, 2010
    berr
    Was hoping for more responses prior to launch, but oh well.
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