Changeling legends were popular in Europe, especially during medieval times. Fairies, trolls or other strange creatures would steal the offspring of humans and exchange them for their own children or an object enchanted to look like a human child. The new child, or changeling, would then be cared for by the unsuspecting parents. The creatures could then take the human baby back to their world where they could raise it as their own child, exploit it, or feed on it. Male children tended to be taken more frequently than female ones, and babies with blond hair and blue eyes were thought to be the most desirable to the fairy world.
Some people believe that the changeling legend was actually started during invasions when people would steal healthy children in exchange for sick ones. People strongly believed in the concept of changelings and often children with birth defects, high levels of intelligence, or strange habits were thought to be changelings.
Some children suspected to be changelings were abused, killed, or left to die by their parents. Many cultures had rituals that were intended to expose a changeling, such as boiling beer in an egg shell or suspending the child over fire. This was thought to cause the changeling to expose itself or run back to its own world. The changeling legend, like so many others, was a way for people to explain something they couldn’t understand.
Have you ever heard any stories about changelings?