“A changeling is the offspring of a fairy, troll, or elf that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to the child who was taken. The apparent changeling could also be a stock or fetch, an enchanted piece of wood that would soon appear to grow sick and die.
A human child might be taken due to many factors: to act as a servant, the love of a human child, or malice. In some rare cases, the very elderly of the Fairy people are exchanged in the place of a human baby, and then the old fairy can live in comfort, being coddled by its human parents. Simple charms, such as an inverted coat or open iron scissors left where the child sleeps, were thought to ward them off; other measures included a constant watch over the child.”
So your newborn human baby has been stolen and exchanged for a changeling child! Congratulations, and also my deepest sympathies. You have a difficult road ahead of you, full of challenges but also rewards. I won’t pretend that parenting a changeling is easy — it isn’t — but it can be incredibly meaningful to look into a pair of unearthly blue, too-large eyes and know that the Unseelie Court has chosen you to care for a creature older than time itself. Here are some tips on handling your new elfin-charge without angering its invisible parents.
Handling a Newborn Changeling
If you haven’t spent a lot of time around newborn changeling, their surprising strength may be intimidating. Here are a few basics to remember:
- Wash your hands before handling your changeling. Changelings don’t have a strong immune system yet, so they are susceptible to infection. Make sure that everyone who handles your changeling has clean hands.
- Do not attempt to baptize your changeling. This seems like it would be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many first-time changeling parents have gone on autopilot and dipped their charge in holy water, only to find themselves clinging to a shrieking, burning brand and surrounded by the swirling, unholy armies of the Stone Hills.
- Be careful to support your changeling’s head and neck. Cradle the head when carrying your changeling and support the head when carrying it upright or when you lay your changeling down. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PICK UP YOUR CHANGELING BETWEEN SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
- Be careful not to allow any iron to touch your changeling. The touch of iron can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. Then you will have lost not only your human child, but your replacement witch-baby as well.
- Do not attempt to breastfeed your changeling. Elf wet-nurses have bosoms of beech and yew, and are used to rough treatment. Human breasts will be ripped to shreds within minutes in a changeling’s mouth.
- Swaddling your changeling may result in the changeling exclaiming, “I have seen the acorn before the oak, but I never saw the likes of this,” and vanishing, only to be replaced by the original human child.
- Try to bond with your changeling as quickly as possible. While this may feel difficult at first, due to the changeling’s wizened face and cunning, vicious behavior, remember that the Korrigan can sense falsehoods.
- Remember that your newborn is not ready for rough play, such as healing the sick or magically causing the house to clean itself while you are at Mass.
While it’s true that placing a changeling in the fire will cause it to jump up the chimney and return your human child to you, you also run the risk of angering the residents of Darkalfheim by rejecting their gift. If one of the Elfans of Fairy-Hill have taken a fancy to your child and become betrothed to him or her in the interim, the only way to recover your changeling is to brew a pot of eggshells. Following these steps will ensure that you and your changeling have a happy, productive relationship for as many centuries as it lives and scrabbles within the walls of your home.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.