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Fairy Changelings

When a mother finds a scrawny, ill-tempered, foul-mouthed yellow-faced little man in the cradle, she knows instantly that the fairies have traded her boy for this thing. The dwarfed form and irritable manner convince some that the creature is actually a child, but a smart mother knows that a fairy changeling has entered her home.

Each fairy changeling has a distinctive personality; but ugliness and an ill temper are generic traits. Fairies, in their immortal perfection, are repulsed by these creatures with their restless, coal-burnt eyes, puckered features and textured skin; that is why they eject them from their lands. The fairy changeling's whines, yowls, screeches and cries are so irritating to humans that we immediately want to remove them from ours!

Before they live a year in our world, they grow a full mouth of teeth; their hands are like claws, their legs no thicker than chicken bones. No matter how much food they devour, they still want more, yet remain runty as ever. After a farmer labors to feed the fairy changeling's appetite, little remains for the rest of the family.

A family whose son or daughter is abducted may receive as a substitute a sickly fairy child or a log of wood bewitched to look like their own, which soon appears to sicken and die. They bury and mourn it, never realizing that their own child plucks flowers in fairyland. Yet despite their grief and ignorance, they are more fortunate to suffer such a loss than to have a fairy changeling pounding their floors and raiding their cupboards.

Placing a set of bagpipes by the cradle is a sure test to discover whether the child is fairy. No changeling can resist them. Soon fairy music spills out of the house and into the village, paralyzing with joy all those who hear the sounds.

Boiling egg shells is another way of detecting. A mother boils egg shells in front of the suspected child. In an old man's voice, the changeling will cackle with laughter at the notion of making dinner from egg shells.

To dispose of changelings masking as mortals, there are two time-tested methods recommended: (1) heat a red-hot shovel, shovel the fairy up and cast him onto a dungheap or into a chimney fire and (2) force foxglove tea down his throat and wait until it burns out his intestines. Amazingly, no matter how brutal the punishment of the fairy the original child always returns unscathed.

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