Monday, March 24, 2008

C is for Changeling

Image taken from,_John_Bauer,_1913.jpg

The concept of the changeling is an interesting one for me, but I guess that goes without saying. Imagine tucking your sweet, lovely baby in for the night and going to sleep. Tomorrow morning, when you wake up, there is something else in its place. Something not so human. Any mother or father's nightmare.

This is where the changeling comes in. Faery babes can tend toward sickliness. Or perhaps the Fae finds a human babe to be pretty or wants a little toy to play with until they grow sick of it, or perhaps they just feel like playing a trick on humans. Well, that's no problem. Just take a human babe and swap it with a sickly Fae offspring. Or in some cases, an enchanted piece of wood, called a stock may be placed in the cradle. The Scottish folklore has a more sinister reason for changelings, the human babes as used as a tithe for Hell, as the Faefolk are forbidden from Heaven. In some folklore, an unbaptized child is more likely to be stolen by trolls.

Perhaps initially, the mother or father might not know the difference right away. Until the signs of a changeling manifest themselves. These signs include: voracious appetite, malicious temperament, troubled movement, or unusual wisdom. In Welsh folklore, initially the changeling very closely resembles the human child, but gradually becomes more ill-tempered, unattractive, and malformed, given to screaming and biting. Welsh wisdom offers the following method to tell if your child has been replaced by a changeling: cook a meal in an eggshell. The changeling will become so confounded, it will disappear, and the true human child will reappear in its place. In Irish folklore, left-handed people were thought be be Fae changeling. No wonder I never fit in!

There are more sinister ways to tell if one's child is a changeling, which sound uncomfortably close to child-abuse, and frankly bring to mind Munchausen by Proxy, so we won't go into those. A Scandinavian story cautions against mistreating the changeling. A woman and her husband realize their child has been replaced by a troll-child, but the wife refuses to mistreat the troll-child. Eventually the husband leaves her, and encounteres their true child, who had been freed by the trolls, because of the wife's care of their own offspring. He tells his father that it was good that they treated the troll-child well, because each mistreatment visited upon the troll child would have been visited on the true child.

Protecting one's child from being stolen involved various methods: laying a steel object such as scissors or a knife on the cradle of an unbaptized child, according to Scandavian folklore, and the Irish believed that staring at a baby with envy would leave it vulnerable to being stolen.

Changelings in literature and the media:

Changelings on TV:

  • Star Trek had an episode called "The Changeling" in which a earth probe which was damaged merged with an alien probe and wreaks havoc

  • So Weird also has an episode called "The Changeling" in which the tv show characters are forced to babysit a changeling

  • Supernatural's episode "The Kids are Alright" features a changeling, although their version featured a creature which assumed the form of a children and sucked energy from their parents

  • Doctor Who uses a variation of the changeling motif in "Attack of the Graske," in which the Graske attack humans and leave a changeling form of the humans, with eyes that glow

Changelings in Books:

  • William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called The Stolen Child about a boy replaced by a changeling
  • In H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model", the subterrean monsters replace human children with their young
  • Poul Anderson's story The Broken Sword
  • The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick
  • Tithe: An Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black
  • The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
  • Low Red Moon and Daughter of Hounds by Caitlin Kiernan
  • War of the Flowers by Tad Williams
  • Stones Unturned by Thomas Sniegoski and Christopher Golden
  • Faerie Baby by Lin Spicer
  • Poison by Chris Wooding
  • The play A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare has a plot the revolves around Faerie King and Queen Oberon and Titania's fight over a changeling boy

The changeling myth has been pervasive in most cultures, probably because it hits at the heart of a parent's fear that their child is somehow abnormal. The fears of a child that is not healthy. I don't have kids ,but I can imagine how that might feel. And back in ancient times, when the understanding of science and disease was limited, I imagine it must have eased a parent's feelings of guilt to think that the Good People had no small part in their child's ailment.


Changeling-Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia . Last modified 27 September 2008. Accessed 27 September 2008.

Friday, March 14, 2008

T is For Tulpa

Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green features a tulpa, who takes the shape of Rossignol, the young woman that John Taylor is trying to help, and causes much chaos and destruction as it is sent to kill John Taylor.
According to Wikipedia. org, a tulpa is based on the Tibetan occult mysticism concept of an object or being created through sheer willpower. Called a thoughtform, it is a thought brought to life.
Wikipedia quotes Mysteries of the Unexplained, stating that a tulpa can be an apparition that is a perceptible double of a person who is in a trance state, or a ghost that is called up by a magician or yogi of skill. It can also manifest due to the collective superstitious beliefs of a (group) village of people. Evans-Wentz is further quoted to say, that the mind can create any object that it desires. Personally, I find that to be a very scary thought. I don't want to have some of my black imaginations come to life! Evans-Wentz goes onto to say that a skilled magician can dissolve the thoughtform, effectively killing it, as easily as it is created.
Alexandra David-Neel helped to introduce this concept to the Western world in Magic and Mystery in Tibet, published in 1965. It can be explored on a more philosophical level, as one delves into the Tibetan religious beliefs, but that would be far out of the scope of this entry. The tulpa is quite a popular concept, and has continually been used
in fiction of various types. Here are some works that feature tulpas of various forms:
  • Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison (used by the main character to hold in her power during her spells)
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (diety-like being are created through cultural belief)
  • It by Stephen King (the titular character is brought to life in various manifestations through the belief of the townspeople)
  • Outcast by Lynne Ewing (features a tulpa created by the main character, appearing in the form of his lost twin brother)
  • The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  • Batman has a story arc called "Tulpa," written by Alan Grant that features a Tibetan man who creates entities to steal for him
  • Clive Barker's Candy Man character was created to be a tulpa manifested from a myth


  • X-Files episode Arcadia features a tulpa made from garbage that enforces the rules of the very exclusive community of the same name
  • Supernatural episode Hell House is about a tulpa manifested by thousands of website viewers in a supposedly haunted house
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends features living thoughtforms brought to life by the imagination of children

As you can probably surmise, the tulpa is a very complicated, but interesting piece of the folklorific, or religious pantheon. It frankly goes over my head, but I still found it worthwhile to write of in this blog. My thanks to Simon R. Green for invoking my curiosity, and thanks to Wikipedia, my major source of information about tulpas.


Tulpa- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 3 March 2008. Accessed 14 March 2008.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

V is for Valkyrie

This image is The Valkyrie's Vigil by Edward Robert Hughes. Taken from, Valkryie:

I became enchanted with valkyries when I read A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole. I had a vague of flying, robust women in armor, brandishing swords, and wearing horned helmets. I definitely got this mental image from Richard Wagner's opera, The Ride of the Valkyries. In the Kresley Cole Immortals After Dark series, valkyries are known to eat lighting, and to cause it when they become enraged. They are depicted as beautiful, passionate, and very dangerous as enemies. They definitely intrigued my interest. But let's talk a little about the origin of the valkryie in folklore.

According to, Valkyries hail from Norse mythology. The etymology is val (slain) and kyrja (choose), literally translating as "choosers of the slain." They are also called shield maidens or disir. Their purpose was to select the most noble of warriors who had died in battle on Odin's behalf. They would carry them off to Valhalla so they could fight at Odin's side in Ragnarok, the battle at the end of the world. They would scour the field of the death to reap the best warriors to take back to Valhalla.

We tend to think of Valkyries as beautiful women, but originally they were quite gruesome and war-like in appearance. Instead of riding winged horse, they rode kennings, or wolves. The valkyries are often represented as carrion-eating ravens, according to the website: The Original Valkyries: A History of the Norse Goddesses.

Valkyries are considered to the be demi-goddesses of death in Norse mythology. In the Prose Edda, the valkyries are said to play a role in human conflict, determining who lives and who dies.

The chief valkyrie is sometimes said to be Freja, the Norse goddess of fertility, love, and beauty, but also battle and death. She has the first choice of the dead warriors to claim as her own.

In Valhalla, the valkyries serve the warriors mead, exchanging their armor for pure white robes. They are also Odin's messengers, known to cause the flickering light phenomena called the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights.) Thomas Bulfinch notes that the valkyrie's armor causes the flickering light phenomena.

The valkyrie legend is also tied into the legend of swan maidens, who could be captured and held to obtain wishes. As such, valkyries are often called swan maidens or wish maidens.

It is said that any maiden who dies and becomes a valkyrie, will remain immortal as long as she obeys the gods and remains a virgin. In number, they vary from three to sixteen. Some of the names of the Valkryies mentioned in Prose Edda and sagas (minus punctuation) are:

  • Brynhildr
  • Kara
  • Mist
  • Sigrune (Victory rune)
  • Gunnr
  • Hrist
  • Svava
  • Rota
  • Skuld
  • Friagabi

It is said that if you see a valkyrie in battle, you will die in that same battle. And valkyries often ride in troops of nine.

If you have an interest in learning more of the valkyries, read the Prose Eddas and Norse mythology, and for a great series based on the valkyries, check out the Immortals After Dark series.


Valkyrie; Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 4 March 2008. Website accessed 4 March 2008.

The Original Valkyries: A History of the Norse Goddesses. Accessed 4 March 2008.