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Titania and Bottom, c. 1790, Henry Fuseli (1741 - 1825). © Tate, London 2016
Titania and Bottom, c. 1790, Henry Fuseli (1741 - 1825). © Tate, London 2016

In European Folklore, Changelings are offsprings of fairies or elves who are disabled,  unintelligent,or have unexplained diseases, disorders,& have developmental disabilities, whom are substituted human infants.

Changelings can appear human, but their true nature is revealed in reflection. They feed on humans, specifically on synovial fluid.

According to legend changelings won't grow in size of a human child. Legend also says that the human children were given to devil.

Unlike Al Karisi who attacks to new mummies, Changelings steals the boys, and some families didn't cut their sons hair and let them wear a dress like a little girl up to a certain age.

Another folklore says human milk is necessary for the faeries and elves for them to survive, or they kidnap the human mother and took her to fairyland. In some cases faeries or elves switch their kid with the human child,

When changelings stole human baby, they leave their own baby to the cradle, and legend says changelings have enormous appetite

Changelligns obviously looks and behaves different than the human babies, cry constantly, and generally misbehave. They may be unable to talk.

Folklore says the parents were advised how to get rid of the changeling and bring back their own offspring from the faeries or elves

Another folklore says sometimes changelings brings back the human baby and gets back their own baby.

Another legend says that the fairies sometimes do not leave a replacement / subsidiary child at all. Instead, with using spells they make wood or a lump of wax to look like the missing child. And when the the spell wears of the child dies (the replacement wax, wood ) and it reveals its real appearance. At those times they thought throwing the log on the fire would restore the child.

A short tale from Grimm Brothers

A mother had her child taken from the cradle by elves. In its place they laid a changeling with a thick head and staring eyes who would do nothing but eat and drink. In distress she went to a neighbour and asked for advice. The neighbour told her to carry the changeling into the kitchen, set it on the hearth, make a fire, and boil water in two eggshells. That should make the changeling laugh, and if he laughs it will be all over with him. The woman did everything just as her neighbor said. When she placed the eggshells filled with water over the fire, the blockhead said: Nun bin ich so alt Wie der Westerwald, Und hab nicht gesehen, Daß jemand in Schalen kocht. Now I am as old As the Wester Wood, But have never seen anyone Cooking in shells.
In 1895 a woman was burned in her own fireplace, her husband claimed he was trying to get rid of the changeling, so his wife could be return back to him 

The changeling was threatened with a roasting over the fire, which was usually enough for him to reveal himself and thereby break the spell, or they are offered something to break the spell or to show themselves

A metal (iron) object (tongs. scissors, knife) left near the crib to prevent the child to be stolen or swapped with a changeling. All the folklores about changelings agrees on baptising babies as soon as possible after the birth

Sometimes even if you do everything right, you might still be unlucky, they might still steal & swap your child

Even if you get your child back the child might be changed, and the child might have miss the fairyland. The Japanese believed the child must be returned before they ate fairy food, or else everything will be irreversible.

Some legends say some unusual tasks should be performed, brewing beer in an eggshell, cooking a fully feathered chicken, they believed that by doing this rituals, they might get their own offspring and get rid of the changeling, there were stories parents killing changeling in order to get their offspring back

Sources :

*Titania and Bottom 

*Grimm Tales

Titania & Bottom This oil painting by Henry Fuseli depicts a moment in Act 4, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania, drugged with a love potion, has fallen in love with the Athenian worker Bottom, who has been magically transformed by Puck into a man with an ass’s head.

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