In Irish Fairy Folklore there are many stories of strange and nefarious acts of the Fae. Therefore, the humans that live in fairy infested areas are careful not to anger what they call The Good Folk. Fairies that have been angered and disrespected are known to retaliate. This can come in many ways such as crops withering, milk turning sour, unexplained illnesses and family curses. The most nefarious action of the Fae is the stealing of babies and children. The stealing of children is done for many reasons. Fairies are delicate creatures which makes pregnancy and childbearing extremely difficult. A human baby is more robust and healthier and has more of the ability to survive and to assimilate into one of the fairy clans. Sometimes, the fairies take or even offer a child that has been mistreated, the chance to go to Fairyland where they will be well cared for. Perhaps the parent has been disrespectful to the fairies as well and out of spite or malice the fairies retaliate. There is really no rhyme or reason as to what may anger a fairy. In place of the human baby, they leave one of their own sickly children or sometimes what is called a stock, which is a piece of wood. When they exchange one of their own with a human baby, the fairy baby is called a changeling. A changeling is ill tempered and looks old and wizened. A changeling grows and develops much faster than a human. Its eyes, like the black-eyed children, are dark and cunning. The family who has unknowingly taken in the fairy baby will often have bouts of bad luck which eventually can lead them to ruin. On rare occasions, a human will voluntarily go into the realm of fairy where they will live for a period before returning into the mortal world. The mortal world is referred to in Fairyland as the Green World. Time seems to run differently in both worlds so when the person returns much time may have passed. When they come back, however, they have changed. They will return with some magical power or perhaps an ability to heal. There are tales of handsome men being enticed by the fairies and then stolen away to be the lover of a fairy woman. Apparently, fairies see humans as a sturdier stock and want to pass those genetics to their children in order to pump up the bloodline. Changelings rarely get to go back into the fairy realm and the human children rarely return from the fairy realm, but both are changed from the experience. In my novel The Faery Water Chronicles a good deal of the story revolves around this idea of the changeling. However, I purposely refrained from looking up what I could expect from a changeling so that my imagination would be free from bias. When I finally did look up its description and meaning I was surprised to find many similarities. Here is an excerpt from my novel The Faery Water Chronicles.
“The covers were tangled over the baby’s head, so she deftly untangled them, cooing to her darling Jack that all would be made right. When she pulled the covers from his face and picked him up, she was confronted not with the face of her little angel, but the sour and demented face of some hideous creature. Its skin was rough and grayish green, almost scaly to the touch, and instead of the tiny turned up nose of her beautiful baby boy, it was hooked and, bulbous. Its pointed ears and yellow eyes looked more demon than human.” (The Faery Water Chronicles, chapter 1) As I contemplate the interaction of faery and human, it seems to me that the Fae have a habit of stealing. They do not seem to leave much in return except in the case of stealing a child, then they will leave one of their own. Why? Is it somehow like the Cow Bird in nature? The Cow Bird deposits one of its eggs into the nest of another bird with eggs while the mother bird is gone searching for food. When the mother bird returns, she does not notice the extra egg and so sits on it in order to hatch it just like her own eggs. When the baby bird is born it is larger than the other baby birds and its open beak gets most of the food. The other baby birds get weak, and the baby Cow Bird pushes them out of the nest, so it is the only one surviving. Perhaps the strategy of the Fae is the survival of their own offspring.