Cuckoo's song

loreI discovered the podcast "Lore" yesterday, and I'm already eleven episodes in. Created by supernatural thriller author Aaron Mahnke, "Lore" tells real-life stories behind or informed by scary folklore, urban legends, and other creepy tales. Thus far, it's covered the requisite vampires (this particular case taking place in colonial Massachusetts), werewolves (in medieval Germany), and ghosts (in Colorado's Stanley Hotel, inspiration for the Overlook in Stephen King's The Shining). Other episodes veer off the beaten paranormal path a bit, with less well-known stories about a tunnel said to be haunted by the nearly 200 workers who died during its ill-advised construction, for example, or a roadway project in Iceland halted to protect the Huldufolk. It's a great listen for the Halloween season.

Episode 11, "Black Stockings," is on folklore about changelings. According to the tales, fairies would spirit away a human child (or less frequently, an adult) and leave an identical, but malcious, changeling replacement. Changelings were blamed for troubles of all kinds throughout history and many regions of the world. What happened to accused "changelings" — typically people afflicted by sickness, mental illness, birth defects, even autism — is tragic and horrific. Those suspected of being changelings were often tortured or murdered, much like so-called "witches" were. Perhaps, Mahnke muses, those who harmed their loved ones out of fear and superstition were the ones who had really changed into something inhuman.

But regardless of this history, the idea of changelings retains a strong hold on our imagination. There are changelings in episodes of TV shows Supernaturalyikes! — and Torchwood, among others. Of course, there's Outside Over There. Several books starring actually magical changelings (spoiler alert!) have appeared in the pages of the Magazine in recent years:

yovanoff_replacement  bachmann_peculiar  harper_gaggle of goblins
There were three changeling books reviewed by the Mag this year alone:

hardinge_cuckoo song  trevayne_accidental afterlife of thomas marsden  valente_boy who lost fairyland
And some people even think this guy is a changeling.


What are your favorite stories about changelings? And why do you think we find these tales so compelling?

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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