Thursday, February 20, 2014


As I was reading in the play "A Midsummer Night's Dream", I came across the word "Changeling".
In the play Puck... er Robin Goodfellow talks about Titana, the fairy queen, and her dealings in steeling a boy from an Indian King:

"...Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling; ..."

Just to clarify, the boy that Titana stole was an Indian prince from India, not a Native American. Granted that this play was written in 1600(over one hundred years after Columbus), the word "king" that follows shortly after would suggest otherwise. Had the boy been the son of an "Indian Chief", that would make sense, but the other royal title is more accurate. Hey, maybe the queen of the fairies stole The Slumdog Millionaire?

Now If the Indian King found out that his child was "Taken", I think this is what he would say:

"I know not who thou art. I know not what thou wanteth. If ye looketh for a ransom, I telleth thee; shillings I have none. But what I doth poses art very particular set of skills; skills for this long time hath I gained in my career. Skills that maketh me a nightmare to thee, Villain! If thou let my daughter go to, this will have an end. I will look for thee not, I will pursue thee not. But if thou doth not, I will look for thee, I will find thee, and I will kill thee!" 

Anyway, the first time I heard of the word "changeling" was in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and then the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling". In Star Wars a Changeling is an alien who shape-shifts into any given humanoid form. In the movie "Changeling" it is about a mother trying to find her son that has been replaced by another child. From those movie references, they weren't that far off from the origin of the word "changeling".

In European folklore, A "changeling" is an offspring of either a fairy, a troll or an elf that is replacing a human child. Aside from folklore, the term "changeling" can also mean that the child was taken and/or even replaced by another.
Knowing Shakespeare's background, he chooses his words carefully, especially for double meanings with phrases and puns. The word "changeling" is a clearly a double meaning in his plays.
Now my question is, why would Titana steel an Indian boy? In Norwegian tales, it is believed that fantasy creatures would swap human children with one of their own because  they wanted to "prevent inbreeding". Though the human parents would get trolls or fairies in place of their child, the new memeber to their family would poses special abilities that no human would ever have.

In some cases, Christians believed that if the child was not baptized, that meant that trolls would take the child as their own. The Christians also believed that trolls wanted their offspring to be raised by humans, because they thought it would be more "classy" than being raised in the fairy world.

One thing I found interesting regrading these "children swapping", is that when a fantasy creature grows up in a human household, they tend to go back to their original fairy roots. Whereas the human babies, who are raised by fairies, would most likely stay in the fantasy world FOREVER!

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