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Invasion of the Baby Snatchers

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Jennet Francis struggles with the fairies for her baby, T.H. Thomas (1880)

"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 who steal children for a living. Aliens, evil elves/fairies, goblins and other inhuman creatures are notorious for this. If a human does this (e.g., Human Traffickers), chances are they're a very special kind of evil character, because Children Are Innocent. Speaking of human perpetrators, this trope is unfortunately also associated with Roguish Romani.

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. Compare Baby as Payment, which is where human parents trade their children in exchange for something. Contrast Parents in Distress, which may involve parents getting kidnapped.

The name is a pun on Invasion of the Body Snatchers which is more of an Assimilation Plot than child kidnapping.


Examples:

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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 villains 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.
  • Milk Closet takes place in a multiverse where one individual starts snatching up children from Earth and other parallel planets in order to force them to learn how to jump from universe to universe. The individual, Liesl, needs children because they can help create an "ultimate" universe of sorts.
  • 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 a 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".
  • Frieza of Dragon Ball Z kidnapped Vegeta when he was only a boy to raise as a Child Soldier for his galactic army.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Batman: No Man's Land, the 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.
  • Free Country from the Vertigo Comics "The Children's Crusade" arc that ran through the annuals in 1993-94.
  • 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 considering that one Night Thing tricks a child into entering their oven, for the purpose of cooking him alive.
  • The appropriately named Kryb from Green Lantern.
  • Hound: Morrigan steals Setanta away as a baby, killing his mother in the process, to raise as an unstoppable killer who would give her back power outside the Otherworld.
  • In Iron Man, Malekith taunts Tony Stark with the knowledge that a regular Dark Elf pastime is kidnapping children from Midgard for sport. This backfires, however, as Tony has just learned that he was adopted, and he's so outraged that he designs an armor made to exploit Elves' weakness to Cold Iron and hunt his court down. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun when the arc ends with one of Malekith's minions delivering an Enfant Terrible who mysteriously went missing in an earlier arc to him.
  • In Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, fairies 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 encounters that same faerie in adulthood, saving another baby from such a fate.
  • Nanny and Orphan-Maker from X-Factor. Nanny steals mutant children from their parents to raise them herself.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Bones AU: Before the law of the Warrior Code protection kits was made, Clan cats would occasionally steal kits from kittypets and other Clans. This, with the requisite expectation that those kits would be considered fully part of their adopted Clan, is the reason why Clan cats in the rewrite are so accepting of adoption despite being obsessed with Clan blood and loyalty. Oakstar kept trying to do this even right after the law was made by trying to take Reedshine's kits. As in canon, Brokenstar is happy to continue this tradition by taking kits from other Clans.
    • Moth Flight's kits are stolen due to them having medical skills and a connection to StarClan, and each Clan wanting a cat with those abilities. She makes them promise to never take a mate and kits as part of an overall oath to be loyal to medicine over the Clans who stole them from their mother.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the non-serial Case Closed 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.

    Folklore 

    Literature 
Examples by author:
  • Laird Barron's recurring villains of his Cosmic Horror Stories, known primarily as the "Children of the Old Leech" or "Those Who Dwell in the Cracks", which are prominently featured in The Croning, The Broadsword, and The Men from Porlock, frequently indulge in this. Being intergalactic parasites and Emotion Eaters, they derive pleasure from subsiding on human anguish and fear, and they consider the uncomprehending fear a human infant or a child feels while being eaten to be one of the most delicious tastes they know of. While the Children mostly engage in the snatching itself by proxy, demanding a Baby as Payment whenever a human strikes a bargain with them (as they find the distress incurred in a human upon being asked this price to be pretty tasty too), they are not above personally stealing a child on occasion if it happens to strike their fancy.
Examples by title:
  • 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 giants from The BFG steal children and eat them.
  • Early on in The Chosen (1997), Rashel kills a vampire who has been specifically targeting young children. Because he's a vampire, no one will ever find out what really happened to the missing children — the only comfort is that other kids will be safe. Given her own childhood trauma involving vampires, Rashel is only too happy to take him out.
  • The Other Mother from Coraline.
  • The Hadals, a distinct human race living Beneath the Earth in 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 extremely long-lived, have a healing factor, and have a number of strange Hadal powers, so it's not that bad.
  • 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.)
  • In the Fern Hollow story "The Tortoise Fair", the titular tortoises are suspected of being this after they race out of town like a bat out of hell, and two kids are later reported missing. The actual facts are: The horse got spooked by a train whistle and the kids are stowaways; the parents and police catch up to the caravan just as its turning around to bring the kids back.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Two of the paintings described in "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.
  • Inverted in The Secret of Platform 13: 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 climax of the first Warrior Cats book involves ShadowClan stealing kits from ThunderClan.
  • In The Witches, the titular witches kidnap children and change them into animals or other things like a living painting, a stone statue, or a hotdog, their ultimate plan is to give all children in England enchanted chocolate that will turn them into mice and be killed by their parents and teachers.

    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 "The 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 who lives just north of the Wall named Craster: he gives them all his baby sons (he keeps the daughters and marries them), 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 townsfolk 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.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (2022) includes a sequence of Morpheus joining his sister, Death as she goes through her rounds of harvesting souls. This includes a baby who experiences sudden infant death. Although Death apparently has no agency in the matter and had no malicious intent, the scene depicts her picking up the child (or rather soul thereof) and leaving the house with him while the doting mother is briefly out of the room.
  • 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.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger:
    • In Season 2's "Stolen Lullaby", the baby of a teen mother (played by Danica McKellar) is abducted by a black market baby ring and illegally adopted by a mayoral candidate and Walker has to find the people responsible and reunite the infant with its mother.
    • The subplot of Season 9's "Home of the Brave" had Gage and Sydney going undercover as a prospective couple looking to adopt infants abducted from hospitals to take down a black market baby ring.

    Radio 
  • In Season 2 of Earthsearch the evil Angel computers who control Challenger send an android to kidnap the children of the protagonists, who have settled down on the planet Paradise. The attempt only causes the accidental drowning of Astra's son when the android puts his oxygen mask on incorrectly. Then when they're forced to take refuge on Challenger, the Angels use Knockout Gas on everyone and put the adults in suspended animation for sixteen years while allowing their children to age normally. By the time they are revived, their children are adults who have been raised to have unquestioning faith in the Angels.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Dusty Raging Fist: The story is kicked off by a series of mass kidnappings, where a mysterious entity simply called the Ancient Darkness stole every child in Double Bill Town, except for a boy named Elijah who begs the heroes for help. Except it turns out Elijah is none other than the Ancient Darkness himself, in disguise and using the heroes to get rid of obstacles.
  • 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 vengeance on the one responsible.
  • Dwarf Fortress has goblin snatchers, who kidnap children from other races. Strangely, it's emerged that children who get kidnapped by goblins are perfectly happy, and are raised as though they were the goblins' own. Goblin settlements tend to be very racially diverse as a result, and they have a reputation for Equal-Opportunity Evil.
  • Gundhara have you uncovering a sinister plot from a dictator to abduct children en masse to be forcefully integrated into his private army, and you're required to save them.
  • Iggle Pop!: The bonus mode has the Zoogs capturing baby Iggles and trapping them into bubbles.
  • 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.
  • Pok√©mon: The balloon-like Drifloon apparently tries to kidnap children and take them to the land of the dead, but it's too light to actually carry them and usually ends up pulled around by its would-be victims like an actual balloon. Its evolution Drifblim is more capable of lifting a child.
  • SimAnt: You can steal larvae from the other colony and carry them back to yours, where they'll hatch into your ants. This isn't efficient, but it is fun.
  • In The Sims, this can happen thanks to some Early-Installment Weirdness. Babies are tied to the bassinet which is considered an object by the game's code. Burglars are programmed to steal objects. You can see where this is going... Thankfully they usually won't do this since the player will probably have more expensive item(s) to steal, but if a player is doing a poverty or rags-to-riches challenge and has a baby, a burglar might in fact steal the baby.
  • World of Warcraft: A quest 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.
  • Yoshi's Island: Kamek and his Toady minions; 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'.
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link: A Geru — a type of Lizard Folk enemy — kidnaps a child from Darunia Town, requiring Link to track it down and rescue the kid.

    Web Animation 
  • The Strong Bad Email Myths & Legends reveals that the Bear Holding A Shark is implied to steal babies.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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. Mercifully, the familiars must be properly cared for for the changelings' forms to hold, so they are in no physical danger while captive.

 
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G.E.S.M.

With this song being an allegory to the Book of Revelations, the first thing to go wrong before everything starts to go to hell (literally), a man ironically wearing a crown of thorns, implied to be the Antichrist (as evidenced by the shadow he casts against the symbol he uses appearing to give him devil horns) and calling himself the "Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man", captivates a crowd with an apparent control over fire. But while the people see hope in him, he only wants them for his own ends, finishing the movement by leading the children into following him like the Pied Piper.

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