FAIRY CHANGELINGS

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

It was firmly believed, at one time, in Wales, that the Fairies exchanged their own weakly or deformed offspring for the strong children of mortals.  The child supposed to have been left by the Fairies in the cradle, or elsewhere, was commonly called a changeling.  This faith was not confined to Wales; it was as common in Ireland, Scotland, and England, as it was in Wales.  Thus, in Spenser’s “Faery Queen”, reference is made in the following words to this popular error:–

And her base Elfin brood there for thee left; such, men do changelings call, so chang’d by Faeries theft.

“Faery Queen”, Bk. I, c. 10.

The same superstition is thus alluded to by Shakespeare: A lovely boy, stol’n from an Indian king, She never had so sweet a changeling.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Act II., Sc. 1.

And again, in another of his plays, the Fairy practice of exchanging children is mentioned:       O, that it could be prov’d, That some night-tripping Fairy had exchanged In cradle-clothes our children, where they lay,  And call’d mine, Percy, his Plantagenet: Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.

“Henry IV”., Pt. 1., Act I, Sc. 1.

In Scotland and other countries the Fairies were credited with stealing unbaptized infants, and leaving in their stead poor, sickly, noisy, thin, babies.  But to return to Wales, a poet in “Y Brython”, vol. iii, p. 103, thus sings: Llawer plentyn teg aeth ganddynt, Pan y cym’rynt helynt hir; Oddi ar anwyl dda rieni, I drigfanau difri dir.

Many a lovely child they’ve taken, when long and bitter was the pain; from their parents, loving, dear, To the Fairies’ dread domain….Read More

 

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