Prinsessan och trollen
(En kväll vid midsommartid gingo de med
Bianca Maria djupt in i skogen)
John Bauer 1913 - Public Domain
Origin of the Concept
Medieval society needed to explain the unexplainable - infants afflicted with diseases, disorders, or developmental disabilities.
Supposed risk factors
Beauty in human children was said to attract the fairies. According to common Scottish myths, a child born with a caul across their face was already changeling, and of fey birth. Other folklore states that cross-breeding was a motive.
How did one identify a changeling?
A healthy baby may suddenly sicken and fail to thrive. The new replacement may be deformed, cry constantly, and generally misbehave. An older child may be aloof and unable to talk. Some changelings may make it to adulthood and forget they are fae and live a human life. Changelings who remember, may leave their human family without warning, and return to their fairy family.
How to avoid the swap
There are historical cases where parents killed a suspected changeling child. In 1884, Anne Roche drowned 3-year-old Michael Leahy because he couldn't stand or speak. The most famous example occurred in 1895 Ireland when 26-year-old Bridget Cleary was tortured and killed by her husband because she was suspected of being a changeling.