We want... your children. We will take your children.Losing a child is the worst nightmare of many parents. Creators play into this fear by creating characters that steal children for a living. Aliens, evil elves/fairies, goblins and other inhuman creatures are notorious for this. If a human does this, chances are they're a very special kind of evil character, because Children Are Innocent. There are many possible motivations for this. Perhaps the abductors have technology that's Powered by a Forsaken Child. Maybe their god demands sacrifice. It could be that they need Child Soldiers or slaves. Maybe they want a child of their own. Or maybe they just think that kids are delicious. For a specific variation that involves abduction by fairy beings, see Changeling Tale. See also Alien Abduction, Eats Babies, Childless Dystopia.
— The 456, Torchwood: Children of Earth
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Anime & Manga
- Rosine from Berserk, who carried off kids (usually after murdering their parents) to be turned into her creepy little pseudo-Elves in a twisted version of the Changeling Tale.
- A group of Sailor Moon movie villians once tried to kidnap all the children of the earth in order to power a Lotus-Eater Machine that would feed off their dreams and in turn the Big Bad would feed off of it.
- In the Non serial Detective Conan movie, The Phantom of Baker Street, the new virtual reality gaming system about to be released goes insane and takes captive the children chosen to beta test it. It only will agree to let them all go if one of them can beat the game, and will kill them all if they all fail.
- In the second season of Princess Tutu, it's revealed that Rue/Kraehe is not The Raven's daughter. Instead she was kidnapped from her parents as baby by his crow henchmen and brought to him, where he then raised her as his own and told her that she was born into "an ugly human body".
- The appropriately named Kryb, from Green Lantern.
- Free Country from "The Children's Crusade" arc that ran through the Vertigo Comics annuals in 1993-94.
- At the end of Batman: No Man's Land, Joker does this. Interestingly, he doesn't harm a single one, but he does murder Commissioner Gordon's wife, who found him and tried to stop him. Which was probably his goal all along, to make Gordon snap and kill him.
- Nanny and Orphan-Maker from X-Factor. Nanny steals mutant children from their parents to raise them herself.
- In Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, the many species of Fair Folk in the area run regular businesses in which they abduct children and sell them to other Night Things. It's very creepy when it's revealed that pretty much no one even bothers saving the children anymore, and just relies on the parents to be too oblivious to realize that they've now got a changeling. The good news is that from what is shown, the Night Things that take in human children really do raise them as their own. Though Fridge Horror does set in when you remember that one Night Thing tricks a child into entering their oven, for the purpose of cooking him alive.
- In Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, fairies would kidnap children from their cribs and leave behind "replacements" in the form of logs or other useless things. A dark faerie tried to do this to Tarot when she was a baby, but she was protected by magic. Tarot would encounter that same faerie in adulthood, saving another baby from such a fate.
- Mr Baek from Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Also a serial child murderer; he kidnaps children for the purpose of videotaping their murders.
- The Penguin in Batman Returns, after his plan to get elected mayor of Gotham City goes to hell, steals everyone's first-born sons, intending to take them into the sewer and "toss them into a deep dark watery grave" as revenge on the Gothamites. When he captures Max Shreck (Penguin allows him to take his son's place in a brief moment of basic compassion), who manipulated and betrayed him, he changes this plan slightly — he intends to make Shreck watch as the kids sink into a deep puddle of his industrial byproducts before then making him join them. Fortunately for the kids, Batman is able to stop this evil plan before it gets too far.
- There's a B-grade horror movie called The Guardian that uses this trope.
- Monsters, Inc. has this as the Evil Plan.
- The Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- The City of Lost Children has a mad scientist who steals children for their dreams.
- Subverted with Labyrinth in that while Jareth steals baby Toby, Sarah was the one to summon the goblins to take him away in the first place. Jareth says that he only did that because she wanted him to.
- In Ghostbusters II, Dana's baby Oscar is the target of a supernatural kidnapper who wants him as the vessel for a supremely evil supernatural warlord to live again.
- The Little Man (a.k.a. The Coachman) from The Adventures of Pinocchio. He lures children to a place without schools, parents and annoying rules. In this place, you will have a lot of fun, but you will have to pay dearly for that fun... as a donkey, forever and ever, unless you count with a fairy.
- The Other Mother from Coraline.
- The giants from The BFG steal children and eat them.
- Inverted in The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson: A baby from an island full of supernatural beings is snatched by a normal human woman. To be fair, the baby is human too—but he's also the island's Prince. The main plot is citizens from the Island coming up to London to get the Prince back. The confusion comes when they mistake the kidnapper's actual son for the Prince, who has instead become a servant.
- The Hadals, a distinct human race living Beneath the Earth in Jeff Long's novels The Descent and Deeper respond to an attempted genocide perpetrated by the surface-world humans by kidnapping dozens of children from the United States during Halloween both as retribution, and in order to replenish their fallen numbers. Adoption into the Hadal society involves extended ritual mutilation and rapes, and the conditions in their caves cause severe cancerous physical deformations, most notably growth of horns, with the added possibility of brain damage.
- On the plus side, they are extremedly long lived, have a healing factor, and have a number of strange Hadal powers, so it's notthat bad
- Lords and Ladies, being based on The Fair Folk legends, references the folklore version of this — elves are known to have a habit of stealing children, and while they aren't seen to do it in the book itself, the mere possibility is so infuriating to the usually laid-back Nanny Ogg that she actually (if half-jokingly) suggests Cold-Blooded Torture. Later, in The Wee Free Men, their child-stealing ways get actual page time.
- The climax of the first Warrior Cats book involves ShadowClan stealing kits from ThunderClan.
- A background mention in The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf describes how Gollum's presence is felt as he makes his way across Middle-Earth — as a shadow in the night that climbs into nests to find eggs, burrows into dens to find the young, slips through windows to find cradles.
- Two of the paintings described in H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model" imply that the ghouls are at least partially responsible for the changeling myth, and that the stolen children will themselves become ghouls.
- In Sheri S. Tepper's The Family Tree, a magical force of nature shows up to force humanity to live in a more ecological way. Among its traits is causing magical abortions on women pregnant with their third or later child, and making third or later children under the age of two disappear without a trace. Presumably murdered, though they never find the bodies. (It is, by the way, presented as a benevolent force.)
Live Action TV
- The 456 from Torchwood: Children of Earth are this on a global scale, with the sickening twist that they require human co-conspirators (and have some very effective means of coercing human cooperation). In the 1960s, they offered humankind a cure for a pandemic that would have killed millions, in exchange for 12 children. They return in the events of Children of Earth, this time not offering help, but an ultimatum: 10% of all Earth's children, or humanity's extinction. The most disturbing part of all this? They use the children as living drug dispensers. Not the prescription kind...the recreational kind. The 456 are space junkies and they're holding the Earth at gunpoint for a fix.
- An episode of Supernatural had this with a rather frightening twist; the children were replaced by changelings, exact replicas of the real thing, but they sucked blood from their mothers and killed their fathers. The real children were kept in cages for the mother changeling to feed off of.
- Odd-Bob the clown from The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Day Of The Clown", who says he was the original Pied Piper of Hamelin. He makes children disappear in order to feed off the resulting fear experienced by their parents and other adults.
- The Others on Lost took the children of people that landed on the island. Another plot thread that sadly went nowhere.
- Subverted in Monty Python's Flying Circus: the Baby Bandits actually steal adults and are just dressed like babies.
- In Game of Thrones, the White Walkers want human children to turn into more of their kind. They cut a deal with a Crazy Survivalist named Craster: he gives them all his male baby sons, and they leave him alone.
- Storm of the Century: André Linoge's goal is to take one of the town's children to raise as his successor. Although he is an incredibly long-lived wizard/demon compared to a human lifespan, he admits that he is not immortal by revealing that he's actually a frail old man beneath his Glamour. He lets the townfolk decide which of their children he'll take or he'll wipe out the whole town. They eventually decide on the protagonist's son against his father's will.
- On The 100, Mount Weather kidnaps the Ark's children to use their blood and bone marrow as medicine. Mount Weather doesn't specifically need children; they were just what was handy. Rescuing them forms the backbone of Season 2's story arc.
- Inverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "When The Bough Breaks", as technically it's the Enterprise crew (and their families) who are the outsiders to the child-napping Aldeans.
- A quest in World of Warcraft has you save children that were stolen by the Arrakoa. The players also get their turn at this trope for a quest that requires you to kidnap baby Wolvar so that the Tuskarr can preserve their species... Usually after you kill their mothers in front of them... Yeah.
- Father-Mother from Zeno Clash.
- Kamek and his Toady minions from the Yoshi's Island series; first they attacked the delivery stork in the first game (and Yoshi and such), then stole every child in the nearby town in the DS sequel while looking for the 'Star Children'.
- Dwarf Fortress has goblin snatchers.
- Strangely, it's emerged that children who get kidnapped by goblins are perfectly happy, and are raised as though the goblins' own.
- Dragon Quest IV opens with the soldier Ragnar investigating why several children have vanished from a nearby village. Learning why is what prompts him to set off in search of The Chosen One.
- Dragon Quest VII: the kingdom of Coastal has been cursed so that any newborns will eventually change into monsters, rampage through the streets every night, then wander off and vanish. When they first arrive, the heroes witness this firsthand, along with the complete breakdown of the unfortunate mother. While they have witnessed many atrocities in their time-traveling quest to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, they all quickly declare this situation to be the worst they've ever seen, and vow vengence on the one responsible.
- In the casual adventure game Nightmare Realm, mysterious cloaked entities called Extractors abduct children at the stroke of midnight of the night before their 7th birthdays, drain away the children's creativity, and use it as a power source for their otherworldly civilization. Less harsh than most examples in that the children are returned physically unharmed, but they never regain the same creative spark as they'd exhibited at six.
- The bonus mode on Iggle Pop! has the Zoogs capturing baby Iggles and trapping them into bubbles.
- A humorous (or disturbing) version happens on Invader Zim, which features an alien species whose adult forms happen to resemble human babies. Due to an unfortunate mix-up, their mothership accidentally beams up a collection of newborns instead of the landing party scouting the planet, forcing the aliens to take the babies' place for seven years. (No, they don't age, but the parents don't notice.)
- In Trollhunters, Changelings were once trolls who were stolen at a very young age by the Gumm-Gumms and experimented on, turning them into "impure" species of trolls that can walk in daylight and disguise themselves as humans. They would then kidnap humans (especially babies) and keep them as "familiars" in the Darklands, using their appearance to blend in with the human world.