Karla News

The Myth and Legends of Changelings in Fairy Tales and How it Chillingly Applied in Real Life

Mythological, Mythological Creatures, The Changeling

Those who know their fairy tale creatures will know what a changeling is and why Clint Eastwood named his upcoming Oscar-caliber movie (with Angelina Jolie) “The Changeling.” In a nutshell, a changeling was a troll or elf (or any kind of mythological creature) that would take the place of a human child in a covert swap so the troll community could have a human servant or be able to experience the loving and raising of a human child. The changeling would then resemble the human child taken, but ultimately have mystical powers that confounded the human world. Sometimes this involved superior intelligence, though usually just strange behavior. In other words, if you think teenagers already eat too much, are moody and sometimes exhibit general eccentric behavior, you wouldn’t want a changeling in your home.

As a relational plot device of “The Changeling” where Angelina Jolie’s son is replaced after a kidnapping and an LAPD cover-up, the legends of this tale in various countries have the families who acquire the changeling basically falling apart at the seams due to not only the child’s eccentric behavior, but also sometimes turning physically grotesque from having troll DNA. That meant the husband not being able to take the pressure of raising such a child and leaving his wife–hence forcing the mother to have to seek out the troll community where her changeling came from and give him or her back. What’s harrowing is in what some of the parents would do to their children once they found out they were changelings.

Some legends behind this creature in Western Europe had various methods of detection in determining if a family’s child was a changeling or not. Many of the above traits sometimes gave it away, though the parents would use the method of serving breakfast in an eggshell which would make the changeling babble on about never having seen such a thing before and then disappear and apparently re-appear back when it came from. Then the real child was supposed to re-appear back in the human world after this simple test, assuming you could find an egg big enough to serve breakfast in.

See also  The Ghosts of the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana

But it wasn’t just doing a ritualistic procedure to get rid of a changeling in some of those European legends. The harrowing part of it involved parents putting their child in an oven or just general personal torture in order to force the trolls to come back and take back their own offspring and return the human family’s real child. These legends most likely have their roots in Brothers Grimm tales that used a changeling plot once along with some dark plot points that get watered down today. The morose tales of abuse of children was certainly a Brothers Grimm constant in their books…right on down to that chilling oven and cannibalism in Hansel and Gretel.

The legend of the changeling, though, tries to place blame on the parents for becoming too complacent or fawning over their child when it’s first born. It was a warning for being too lost in one’s own bliss of having a beautiful child and making sure the child knew they were beautiful. Yes, the trolls were apparently listening to these people and taught them a lesson that those who worshipped physical beauty would pay for it.

These were all legends from places such as Scandinavia, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. You nonetheless wouldn’t believe how many people in early centuries and all over Europe truly believed in changelings. Various murder cases of children during the Victorian era were as the result of obviously myth-obsessed parents who thought their children were taken by mythological creatures and replaced with a changeling. And the most disturbing was child abuse due to a time when certain illnesses in children weren’t understood yet.

See also  A Scandal in Bohemia: The Shocking Debut of Manet's Luncheon on the Grass

Autism misunderstood as the mind of a changeling…

We obviously still don’t understand autism completely today, but during the Victorian era, most people didn’t even know what to call it let alone comprehend most other mental conditions. In certain cultures that insisted that changelings were real, it’s certainly possible that many families probably mistook autism for the behavior of a changeling. Even birth defects were considered to be a sign that their child had been replaced by trolls or fairies. And while girls were known for being a common victim of being replaced by a changeling, males were starting to become more prominently accused of being a changeling due to birth defects being more common in males.

Yes, this all seems hard to believe that people would consider these physical and mental illnesses in their children to be the result of a mythological legend. It was taken plenty seriously, though, right up into the early 20th century, just as much as the legend of leprechauns in Ireland and fairies in Britain that even persist now. What isn’t usually studied enough is the reality that a long era of child abuse may have taken place based merely on a myth. It was crying out for an analysis in a movie, and Clint Eastwood’s “The Changeling” may give us some metaphorical examinations of that through a real murder case that took place in Los Angeles, circa 1928.

The flip-side to the “The Changeling” is that it shows the mental abuse of women (in this case, a mother of the child replaced) during the 1920’s when males were the authority. As of this writing, it’s unknown whether the child also gets the focus and what he has to go through. Conversely, it’s also what the real son who was kidnapped and what happens to him that also needs exploring.

See also  Review: The Woman in Black (1989)

Within the mythical world of the trolls, the swapped human child was frequently better treated in that other world if sometimes forced to marry a troll that would provide its own set of complications. However, just about every legendary story of a changeling has an eventual trade to get each child back to where they belong.

While the focus will be on Angelina Jolie’s character (based on a real person) going through hell, we’ll hope that “The Changeling” reminds people that when a child isn’t wanted as the result of not being where he or she is supposed to be, it becomes just as much abuse (mentally) as the earlier cases of children with mental and physical handicaps being subjected to torture or murder as the result of the changeling myth.