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Handlist of Adult Changelings March 30, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Beach’s hell is about to begin as today is the day that Mrs B runs away to Athens leaving him alone with his younger daughter FOR 48 HOURS. Beachcombing’s relations with tiny little Miss B are mainly restricted to playing peekaboo and putting her to bed. The next TWO DAYS then will be terrifying for both parties. While Beach is enjoying his last half hour of freedom he thought he would put together the outlines of a fairy handlist. Over the years Beach has stumbled (constantly) on references to changelings: i.e. children changed by the fairies for a fairy. However, he has also sometimes come across references to adult fairies, namely fairies that were changed in childhood and then survived into adulthood when they were politely shunned by their neighbours. Just to set things off here are a few from his very short list: he would love any additions, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com For contributors rules are (i) the changeling should be real (no tenth-hand accounts about villages two hundred years ago) and (ii) the changeling has to be an adult: changeling children are everywhere and (iii) the change took place in childhood rather than in adulthood, no nursing mothers or Bridget Clearys.

This one is from a British newspaper in the 1880s: this describes an unusual variant on the changeling tradition.

I often called, on my way to school, at the house of a very little old woman (in fact I do not ever remember seeing a less woman) called Fanny Bradley, with the pretence of buying pens and pencils, but more from a desire to see this little woman; and I am sure that there are scores of the older part of the inhabitants of Rigton and Stainburn and the villages surrounding Almscliff Crag at the present day who can remember this little woman and her brother Tom, who was a very little man also. People said that when these two little folk were infants their mother took them with her to a field adjoining Almscliff Crag, where she had occasion to go to shear or reap some corn. At that day it was generally admitted by most people that a kind of little people of the fairy order, about 2ft. high and about the same proportion in body, and dressed in all kinds of flash and gaudy colours, and flying about with the quickness of lightning, inhabited the openings and crooks in the rocks. While this woman was busy at work these fairies came and stole her children. When she found that her children had gone she cried and was so much troubled that the fairies brought them back, and placed them where they found them. And they said that that was the reason Fanny and her brother were so little.

This is from Evans Wentz’s Fairy Faith and is rather upsetting. Sadly too the photo has not survived:

One of the most striking examples of a changeling exists at Plouharnel-Carnac, Brittany, where there is now living a dwarf Breton whom I have photographed and talked with, and who may possibly combine in himself both the abnormal psychical and the abnormal pathological conditions. He is no taller than a normal child ten years old, but being over thirty years old he is thick-set, though not deformed. All the peasants who know him call him ‘the Little Corrigan’, and his own mother declares that he is not the child she gave birth to. He once said to me with a kind of pathetic protest, ‘Did M. —- tell you that I am a demon?’

This is Evans Wentz again, also in Brittany:

M. Goulven Le Scour, at my request, wrote down in French the following account of actual changelings in Finistère:–’I remember very well that there was a woman of the village of Kergoff, in Plouneventer, who was called —-, the mother of a family. When she had her first child, a very strong and very pretty boy, she noticed one morning that he had been changed during the night; there was no longer the fine baby she had put to bed in the evening; there was, instead, an infant hideous to look at, greatly deformed, hunchbacked, and crooked, and of a black colour. The poor woman knew that a fée had entered the house during the night and had changed her child. This changed infant still lives, and to-day he is about seventy years old. He has all the possible vices; and he has tried many times to kill his mother. He is a veritable demon; he often predicts the future, and has a habit of running abroad during the night. They call him the ‘Little Corrigan’, and everybody flees from him. Being poor and infirm now, he has been obliged to beg, and people give him alms because they have great fear of him. His nick-name is Olier. ‘This woman had a second, then a third child, both of whom were seen by everybody to have been born with no infirmity; and, in turn, each of these two was stolen by a fée and replaced by a little hunchback. The second child was a most beautiful daughter. She was taken during the night and replaced by a little girl babe, so deformed that it resembled a ball. If her brother Olier was bad, she was even worse; she was the terror of the village, and they called her Anniac. The third child met the same luck, but was not so bad as the first and second. The poor mother, greatly worried at seeing what had happened, related her troubles to another woman. This woman said to her, ‘If you have another child, place with it in the cradle a little sprig of box-wood which has been blessed (by a priest), and the fée will no longer have the power of stealing your children.’ And when a fourth child was born to the unfortunate woman it was not stolen, for she placed in the cradle a sprig of box-wood which had been blessed on Palm Sunday (Dimanche des Rameaux). ‘The first three children I knew very well, and they were certainly hunchbacked: it is pretended in the country that the fées who come at night to make changelings always leave in exchange hunchbacked infants. It is equally pretended that a mother who has had her child so changed need do nothing more than leave the little hunchback out of doors crying during entire hours, and that the fée hearing it will come and put the true child in its place. Unfortunately, Yvonna —- did not know what she should have done in order to have her own children again.’

Here is a passage in Hartland’s Science of Fairy Tales describing a passage in Rhys (sorry we don’t have time to hunt down the original!).

Professor Rhys’ description of a reputed changeling, one Ellis Bach, of Nant Gwrtheyrn, in Carnarvonshire, is instructive as showing the kind of being accredited among the Welsh with fairy nature. The professor is repeating the account given to him of this poor creature, who died nearly half a century ago. He tells us: ‘His father was a farmer, whose children, both boys and girls, were like ordinary folks, excepting Ellis, who was deformed, his legs being so short that his body seemed only a few inches from the ground when he walked. His voice was also small and squeaky. However, he was very sharp, and could find his way among the rocks pretty well when he went in quest of his father’s sheep and goats, of which there used to be plenty there formerly. Everybody believed Ellis to have been a changeling, and one saying of his is well known in that part of the country. When strangers visited Nant Gwrtheyrn, a thing which did not frequently happen, and when his parents asked them to their table, and pressed them to eat, he would squeak out drily: ‘B’yta ‘nynna b’yta’r cwbwl’ that is to say’ Eating that means eating all.’ A changeling in Monmouthshire, described by an eye-witness at the beginning of the present century, was simply an idiot of a forbidding aspect, a dark, tawny complexion, and much addicted to screaming. [is this latter a child?]‘


30/04/2012: Count Otto writes in.Concerning adult changelings – what exactly do you mean by this? Does the adult in question have to be actually done away with, or at least permanently removed, and replaced by a totally different person who may or may not look the same? If so, examples are probably very rare indeed. However, if the physical body remains the same, but the person inside is generally reckoned to be somebody else, does that count? And if so, does the transformation have to be absolute, or are there degrees of separation? Consider one of my favourite unashamed fraudsters of all time, Tuesday Lobsang Rampa. When it transpired that his physical body was in no way Tibetan, either genetically or in the sense of ever having been there, a convenient explanation was forthcoming whereby his soul was indeed that of a Tibetan lama, but his body was in every legally provable sense that of an Englishman who, thanks to a bizarre bird-watching accident, was now somebody else. Now, you may not believe that. Not many people do. Though you have to admire a man who with a perfectly straight face published the telepathically-dictated autobiography of his cat.However, a huge proportion of all the people who ever allegedly went to Fairyland were literally “not quite the same person” when they came back. And sometimes they didn’t come back for years. There is a very good case for suggesting that every fairy abductee was replaced by an actual fairy, and since fairies are generally reckoned to be highly intelligent, most of them more or less pulled it off, but they’re not perfect, so a few of them didn’t.Which ties in extraordinarily well with the modern alien abduction phenomenon. You’ve got your bog-standard abductees. Then you’ve got your star-children, who are in every biological sense human until the aliens whisk them away, and after that they suddenly announce that they aren’t human and somehow never were, and start displaying a combination of hitherto unadmitted artistic ability and rather vague psychic powers that would have come as no surprise at all to anyone who knew Thomas the Rhymer.And then you’ve got your “walk-ins” – biological humans who are suddenly somebody else because they have a totally alien consciousness. Effectively, 100% different people who happen to be identical in every way that you can actually prove. When you compare that with the medieval notions of possession and obsession (in its original sense of being demonically compelled to do things for no halfway logical reason), I think you’ll find that a very tangled can of worms has been opened.’ Thanks Count!!