->For the film, see ''Film/{{Changeling}}''. Not to be confused with ''Film/TheChangeling''. For the tabletop games, see ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheLost'' and ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheDreaming''.

Before fairies went around [[{{Bowdlerisation}} granting wishes]] and bestowing {{Pimped Out Dress}}es to [[{{Disneyfication}} cinder maids]], they spent a lot of time doing some [[{{Grimmification}} serious mischief]].

One favorite game of TheFairFolk was to abduct human infants and leave behind a {{doppelganger}} or changeling. The human baby was taken back to the LandOfFaerie to be a soldier or slave. According to most European {{fairy tales}}, boy babies and children with golden hair were in particular danger of being stolen by [[OurElvesAreBetter elves]] and possibly replaced by an [[RedHeadedStepchild unwanted child]]. Alternatively, the mother might be abducted, seduced, and impregnated by the [[CelticMythology Tuatha de Danaan]] (or local equivalent), resulting in a ([[EnfantTerrible possibly malevolent]]) [[CreepyChild fairy child]]. We know for a fact that {{adultery}} [[SarcasmMode was ''of course'' not to blame in any of these incidents.]] Compare AlienAbduction.

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, scissors and steel files. (WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong) Early baptism was also encouraged, and it was often cited as the reason why mothers could not work for some weeks after childbirth: they had to watch over the baby to prevent this.

Simple abduction by fairytale beings also counts under this trope. Due to the inscrutable nature of the FairFolk Returns Policy, [=1:1=] replacement of your child is not guaranteed.

The earliest fairy tale versions are OlderThanPrint. Contrast MosesInTheBullrushes and FoundlingTale, where the parents do the switching. See also {{Foundling}}. Compare [[ClassicalMythology Persephone]], YearOutsideHourInside, and its inverse YearInsideHourOutside.

Subtrope of {{Doppelganger}}, TheFairFolk, LandOfFaerie, InvasionOfTheBabySnatchers, and very often SwitchedAtBirth. [[IThoughtItMeant Not to be confused]] with the LighterAndSofter ChangelingFantasy, which is a RagsToRiches[=/=]CinderellaSituation.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* In ''MAnga/{{Berserk}}'', a young girl named Rosine offers up her parents' lives to the Godhand to become a fairy (or rather, a demon that takes the form of a fairy). She then makes the same offer to other children, transforming them into insectile pseudodemons that can ''look'' like fairies (to the disgust of Puck, an actual elf). Her mistake is trying to make the offer to her former best friend, Jill, because said friend happens to have just met series protagonist Guts, a former mercenary on a RoaringRampageOfRevenge [[DemonSlaying against all demonkind]] following the horrors of the Eclipse.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comics ]]

* In the ''ComicBook/{{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.
* In ''Comicbook/SuburbanGlamour'' ([[{{Glamour}} pun intended]]) the teenage protagonist learns that she's a literal changeling, and is the daughter of Fae royalty. She's initially elated to have the chance to get out of her dull, miserable life in a small middle-of-nowhere English village, but soon comes to realize that her Fae family are controlling and distant, and that [[WhatTheHellHero they did abandon her for seventeen years without any explanation]] and as such have no right to barge into her life and start making demands of her. She decides to remain with her human parents, who at least love and respect her even if they don't always understand her.
* In ''ComicBook/CourtneyCrumrinAndTheNightThings'', Courtney encounters a genuine changeling, but decides the baby's parents deserve it and the kid is better off among the Night Things (a.k.a. fairies).
* Referenced in ''ComicBook/IronMan''. As Malekith the Accursed [[TheWildHunt hunts]] Tony Stark, he taunts him [[spoiler:with the knowledge that he was adopted and compares him to changelings, saying that Tony has been one of Malekith's subjects his entire life.]]

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[[folder: Fanfiction]]

* FanFic/IntoTheHedge starts off with one, with the Cutie Mark Crusaders being kidnapped, and then replaced by fetches.

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[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Film/{{Changeling}}'' (2008) is a modern version of the same ancient fear, with TheFairFolk replaced by [[SevenBasicConflicts society]] as the antagonist.
* ''Film/PansLabyrinth''. Although Ofelia rather loves her human mother, and seems to have loved her long-dead father, it's presented as an unambiguously better thing to live in the underworld full of magic. Mostly because dad is dead, mom is very weak-willed, and new stepdad is a zealous fascist. Unlike most examples, Guillermo del Toro actually takes into account [[HumansAreTheRealMonsters the implications of such a statement]].
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Coraline}}'' ([[Literature/{{Coraline}} book]] and [[TheFilmOfTheBook film]]). The Other Mother is, in fact [[spoiler:an evil faerie]] and the Other Father is [[spoiler:a servant of said faerie. And, of course the other world is [[CrapsaccharineWorld a horrible place to live]]]]. In the end Coraline is very happy to have her own parents back.
* ''Film/{{Labyrinth}}'': "I wish the Goblin King would come and take you away, right now." BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor, Sarah...

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''Literature/TheFaerieQueene'' 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.
* RogerZelazny's 1980 novel ''Changeling'' has its plot built on this trope, and its sequel, ''Madwand''. It's a subversion of the typical "ChangelingFantasy" because Pol (né Daniel) acknowledges that the family that raised him was nothing but supportive, and openly admits that his real father was a terrible man when he went off the deep end.
* This is the basis for ''Literature/TheMoorchild'' by Eloise [=McGraw=], who wrote it in response to the awful folktales about how to get rid of one. The half-[[TheFairFolk Folk]] changeling, Saaski, was transformed into a baby and swapped with a human child because her limitations were a nuisance to the Folk, and she's unhappier about it than everyone else. Later on, she restores her foster parents' daughter to them.
* In the ''[[Creator/MercedesLackey SERRAted Edge]]'' [[TheVerse 'verse]], the fey specifically only do this when the children have AbusiveParents. The reason given is that as nigh-immortals, Elves have a very low birth rate and thus value children very highly.
* Laurell K. Hamilton being a stickler for mythological accuracy, this is mentioned in passing in the ''Literature/MerryGentry'' series, but is not practiced by any of the Fey living in the United States, [[EverybodyHasLotsOfSex since it might interfere with the driving plot]].[[note]]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. [[spoiler:[[OhCrap Or they were...]]]][[/note]]
* Variants appear frequently in ''Literature/JonathanStrangeAndMrNorrell'' where fairies seem pretty fond of kidnaping in general, but usually don't bother with replacements or stick to children. It comes closest to being played straight with the Raven King who learns magic after being taken as a child, and [[spoiler: Mrs.Strange]] who gets an actual replacement.
* In the [[YoungAdultLiterature YA]] fantasy ''Poison'', the heroine's baby sister is kidnapped and replaced by a changeling, kicking off her quest. [[spoiler: It's actually all part of the Hierophant's {{plan}} 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.]]
* One in John Crowley's ''Little, Big''. After a while, it starts to disintegrate.
* [[spoiler:Kaye]] from Holly Black's ''{{Modern Tales of Faerie}}'' is a changeling, swapped as an infant for a human baby. She later meets the child she was switched with, who has aged only a few years in the Seelie Court.
* In TadWilliams' novel ''TheWarOfTheFlowers'', it is revealed that [[spoiler: 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 EnfantTerrible]].
* ''Discworld/LordsAndLadies'', being based on TheFairFolk legends, references this -- elves are known to have a [[InvasionOfTheBabySnatchers habit of stealing children]], and while they aren't seen to do it in the book itself, the mere possibility is [[BerserkButton so infuriating]] to the [[BewareTheNiceOnes usually laid-back]] [[MamaBear Nanny Ogg]] that she actually (if half-jokingly) suggests ColdBloodedTorture. Later, in ''Discworld/TheWeeFreeMen'', their child-stealing ways get actual page time.
* The title character of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's book ''The Changeling'' spends almost the entire book trying to convince herself and a friend that she is just that.
* Several of Caitlin R. Kiernan's novels feature "the Changelings": human children who have been abducted from their birth families and inducted into a cabal of subterranean monsters as servants and soldiers. A few of the so-called "Children of the Cuckoo" express longing for normal, human lives.
* In ''Literature/GoodOmens'', the infant Antichrist is swapped for a normal human baby this way, with demons instead of fairies. Thanks to the incompetence of an order of Satanic nuns, though, he winds up in the wrong normal human family.
* In Raymond E. Feist's ''Literature/FaerieTale'', the boy Patrick is taken away by "the shining man" and replaced by a changeling. The family takes the false child to the hospital, and there is a chilling description of the changeling's behavior, and how modern medicine attempts to explain it (that his brain was damaged by fever, that they don't understand how his brain could look like it does under an MRI)
* In Brenna Yovanoff's debut ''The Replacement'', the main character Mackie is a changeling (or a castoff, or a child left in someone else's bed...the Morrigan gives a lot of names). There is a rather sinister purpose to the child-switching here. The faeries (although they're never named as such) don't want a pet or anything nice like that. No, what they want is a child for the Lady to sacrifice. What's more, the fae kids who get switched into the human world usually don't survive, due to their weaksauce weaknesses of being allergic to iron and blood. Mackie only survived to high school because his older sister loved him so much. The kid who was switched with his girlfriend's little sister? Not so lucky. She does show up in the book, but [[spoiler: as a revenant to be re-switched for Natalie]]
* Creator/PoulAnderson's fantasy novel ''Literature/TheBrokenSword'' prominently features a changeling.
* In the ''Literature/{{Paranormalcy}}'' series, Evie and Jack are these. Jack was stolen by the faeries at a young age, and [[spoiler: Evie's mother is a human and her father is a faerie.]] Both of their stories bring some of the traditional mythos into it, with them both having blonde hair.
* In ''Literature/TheTwelfthEnchantment'' Lucy's niece is replaced by a strange demonic creature by one of the fairys of the book.
* In Creator/JackVance's ''Literature/{{Lyonesse}}'', Princess Madouc of Lyonesse is a changeling left by the [[TheFairFolk fairies]], although a relatively benign sort.
* In the ''Literature/TrylleTrilogy'', Wendy is a [[AllTrollsAreDifferent troll]] child that replaced the baby her mother actually had, a boy. Her mother somehow knows this and tries to kill her when she is 6. When she is in high school, a "tracker" named Finn finds her and brings her back to her mother, Queen Elora of the Trylle. She finds out that the Trylle (troll) society has done this for generations. They replace human babies from rich families with troll babies in order to acquire their trust funds. They then take the human babies, who are treated as second class citizens.
* In AndreNorton's ''Literature/DreadCompanion'', Bartare triumphantly recounts that although human lands have shaped her body, she is where she belongs when TheFairFolk take her.
* In Creator/RuthFrancesLong's ''Literature/TheTreacheryOfBeautifulThings'', the servants of the Fairy Queen were all taken. Jack explains that the queen could not keep fairies as perfectly entrapped in delusion.
* In Creator/IsaacAsimov's story "Kid Stuff", a member of the insectoid race which is the basis for the legends about fairies states that his people really like milk, and in the past, some have apparently used their mind control powers to get it fresh.
* A more mundane example in the web-novel ''Literature/{{Domina}}'': The fey (who are just crazy women who think they're Celtic fairies) kidnap people, and subject them to BioAugmentation so horrible it [[TraumaInducedAmnesia destroys their memories]]. Those few who escape are returned to as close to human normal as possible and become the changelings, a culture of hackers fighting the fey.
* While Faeries don't actually kidnap human children in the ''Literature/ArtemisFowl'' books, this trope is referenced in the painting ''The Faerie Thief'', which Artemis steals from a bank vault during ''The Opal Deception''. It depicts an elf trying to snatch a baby from its cradle.
* In Katherine Kerr's Deverry series, the Guardians (pretty much the Fair Folk, except there's already another species who are elves) are eventually reincarnated as human children. From the description of their behavior, this is an explanation for autism.
* The plot of Linda Haldeman's ''The Lastborn of Elvinwood'' largely revolves around the whys and hows of making such an exchange to save TheFairFolk from extinction.
* "The Changeling" by Swedish author Selma Lagerlof - in her version of the myth, a human mother saves her own child from being mistreated by the trolls because she cares so well for the troll-child they left her. Her son later returns.

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* An episode of ''LawAndOrderSVU'' did a piece on a woman with Capgras syndrome (see below). The suspect, a video game addict with a BastardBoyfriend, kept her daughter [[Literature/HarryPotter under the stairwell]] and refused to believe she was real, but had been [[{{Doppelganger}} replaced with another]] -- unless she only heard her daughter's voice. But the minute she saw her daughter, the delusion would set in again.
* The ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'' episode "Small Worlds" involved a girl who was a changeling (unbeknownst to her or her family), and the fairies came to get her back.
* An episode of TheBBC's ''{{Series/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.
* ''{{Series/Highlander}}'' has Duncan being called a changeling by people in his clan, as he was found as a baby after his parents' true child died at birth. There's no proof immortals were really changelings.
* ''Series/TheHauntingHour'' episode "Intruders". Eve is contacted by a fairy named Lyria, who explains that Eve is really a fairy that had been taken in by a human couple.

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[[folder: Mythology and Folklore ]]

* Trolls in Scandinavia were also fond of switching their own children for human babies. The way to get rid of the changeling, however, was to treat it horribly and beat it frequently. The changeling's true mother would see the way its child was being treated and rush to undo the swap.
* In Iceland the Hidden People would steal infants and leave their elderly in stead of the child as a changeling. Much more sensible than leaving your own child, just get rid of senile old pops and get a pretty little young thing instead.
* In German fairy-tales there are generally two possiblities to get rid of them: 1) treat them horribly (as described above), or 2) doing something really stupid (e.g. cooking water in egg shells), the changeling then would laugh at you (sometimes even taunt you with a rhyme), which broke the spell and forced the fairy to take the changeling back and return the real child.
* In the fairy tale "Literature/ChildeRowland", Childe Rowland's sister Burd Ellen is kidnapped by elves when she inadvertently runs around a church "widdershins" (i.e., counterclockwise to the sun's path).
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[[folder: Music ]]

* 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 [[TheFairFolk Faerieland]]. This is pretty much in keeping with the themes of most of his songs.
* While it certainly seems to be metaphorical, "Changeling" by TheDoors drunkenly plays this trope out.
* Heather Alexander's ''Changeling Child'' is about this.
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[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheLost'' is all about this. Of course, the faeries in this case don't stop at kids, and the "changelings" of the title are actually the humans they've taken. The Gentry usually just leave something made of detritus and a fragment of their captive's soul in their place. Tragically, such "fetches" not only look human, but often think they're human and have no idea of the truth.
* ''ArsMagica''. Faeries do the standard "kidnap children and replace them with changelings" routine.
* Like many fairy tale tropes, this is referenced in the ''Lorwyn'' expansion for ''MagicTheGathering'', on the card [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=143380 Crib Swap]].
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'':
** The Wood Elves are not above this kind of thing, although they seldom leave anything behind as a replacement. They tend to steal away beautiful boys from the land of Bretonnia surrounding their forest home, who then become ageless servants at their feasts. It is possible that stolen girls are returned to Bretonnia as its damsel sorceresses.
** There is also a daemon called The Changeling, with the ability to impersonate others flawlessly. Though it tends to impersonate full-grown and important people to cause mischief, rather than replacing babies.

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[[folder: Video Games ]]

* The InteractiveFiction game ''TheWarblersNest'' is about a woman trying to figure out if her baby is a changeling or not. [[spoiler:There are two possible endings to the game, but both [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane leave it ambiguous]] as to whether the baby is truly a changeling or her mother is simply cracking under the stress of taking care of it.]]
* In ''TalesOfSymphonia'' [[spoiler:Kilia]] is this. [[spoiler:The party returns to Palmacosta only to discover that Governor-General Dorr has been working with the Desians in order to acquire a cure for his wife, who has been transformed into a monster]] prompting a ReasonYouSuckSpeech from Lloyd. [[spoiler:Dorr]] is then stabbed in the back by [[spoiler:Kilia, who reveals herself as a doppleganger.]] leading to his death after the ensuing boss fight. [[spoiler:It turns out the real Kilia died some time ago, and the fake one replaced her in order to keep an eye on Dorr, and monitor the experiments at the ranch from behind the scenes.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheSims3: Supernatural'', the backstories for some of the families in the new Moonlight Falls neighborhood are variations this. The fairy Flora Goodfellow switched Linda Rodgers' adoption to that of a fairy baby and took the human baby she was supposed to adopt. Flora Goodfellow also accidentally turned the Hoppcraft toddler into a fairy.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Comics ]]

* In ''Ręveillerie''/''Whither'', Emelind is a literal changeling, but she considers the universe where she was raised to be her true home.
* Several subverted changeling tales (the Erlkönig tried to steal Toby but the Jareth and Javert stopped him, Jareth ''babysat'' Lír but King Haggard sent the Red Bull after them etc.) appeared in ''{{Webcomic/Roommates}}'', but you know it must be common if the token [[TheFairFolk fair]] teammate (Jareth) refers to the practice as ''[[InsistentTerminology babysitting]]''. And he never [[GoneHorriblyWrong messed up so badly to kill anybody]], his father was ''not'' this lucky.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original ]]

* [[ChangelingFantasy Both tropes]] are explored and played tragically straight in the short story "Changelings and Fairfolk" on Strange Stories About Sad people. http://strangestoriesaboutsadpeople.blogspot.com/2009/10/changelings-and-fair-folk.html
* This trope is used interestingly in one of the illustrations of [[http://keithwormwood.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=24#/d87tkr The Warden]] by Website/{{DeviantART}}ist Keith Thompson, where the Fey Folk's custom of stealing away babies and replacing them with their own as a spiteful taunt to the oblivious parents [[HoistByTheirOwnPetard BITES THEM BACK IN THE ASS HARD]]. The Warden was one of the fairy dopplegangers who, as a result of the constant patience, love and compassion given by his elderly human parents, turned on his own kind in bitter grief after their deaths with the intent to dish out the same sorrow the Fey Folk doled out so generously. He now spends the rest of his days capturing Fey Folk and strapping them to his body, savoring their pleas as they waste away.

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[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* Happens to Bloom, the protagonist of ''WesternAnimation/WinxClub:'' First she learns that she's a fairy, and then is revealed that her parents aren't her real parents, and that she's a [[ChangelingFantasy princess of another world]].
* WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic uses the term "Changeling" to describe a race of shape-shifting [[BeePeople bug ponies]] [[ThePowerOfLove that feed off of love]]. While they don't go around kidnapping children and replacing them with their young [[EpilepticTrees (as far as we know)]], they did [[spoiler:kidnap Princess Cadence on her wedding day so they could replace her with a doppelganger]].

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[[folder: Real Life ]]

* Children with the hereditary genetic [[http://www.answers.com/topic/williams-syndrome Williams-Beuren syndrome]] are sometimes called "fairy children". They are often smaller than average and show typical facial features: upturned snub nose, full lips, wide mouth, small chin, large eyes set wide apart. Children with blue or green eyes may show a starburst pattern in their iris. They are often mentally retarded but empathic, commonly have strong social skills and great verbal and musical talent.
* There is another medical phenomenon that fuels this, known as [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capgras_delusion the Capgras Delusion]]. Basically, a person with a specific brain injury thinks that their child (or another relative) is not theirs, has been replaced by a {{doppelganger}} who [[TheOtherDarrin looks alike]], and cannot be convinced otherwise (in the age of mythology, [[HandWave elves]] would be a convenient explanation). It was referenced in ''The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat''.
* Common characteristics of autism include: Difficulty emphasizing with others (or realizing when they're harming or at least offending someone else), rigid adherence to a series of seemingly nonsensical rules, trouble telling lies, sensitivity to loud noises (i.e. church bells), slow to develop creativity, and the lack of facial expressions mean it takes longer to develop wrinkles giving the illusion of youth. Any of those traits sound [[Analysis/TheFairFolk familiar?]]
* The closest equivalent to real-world changelings is [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brood_parasite Brood Parasitism]], practised by half of the species of cuckoos. They replace another species of bird's egg with their own, tricking the parents that the impostor is their own child. This relieves the cuckoo from the investment of rearing young or building nests, enabling them to spend more time foraging, producing offspring, etc. Despite the cuckoo chick not resembling the "parents" at all (and are sometimes even ''bigger'' than the "parents"), the strategy works fairly often since most birds are just that stupid. If the host birds do get a clue and remove the cuckoo egg, the adult cuckoos (who occasionally check up on their eggs) will attack them and destroy their nests. Cuckoos basically run an egg protection racket as a "cuckoo mafia".
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