It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day - Time for an Irish story!
Brief History: Instead of focusing on a single story, I’ll just give a broad history of the Changeling legend. The general myth is that elves and fairies kidnap beautiful human babies and replace them with their own horrid children or with a piece of faeryland like a branch or log. Sometimes they also kidnapped grown women, creating beautiful mothers to care for the fae children. In order to bring back the kidnapped, you had to make the changeling laugh, treat it with love, or say the right prayer.
Analysis: The idea of having a child who did not seem “right” was a fear of all mothers in the time before psychological or scientific reasoning. The belief that such a child could be saved through simple magic must have been too great of a hope to let go of, which is probably why questioning the belief in changelings lasted until the 1800s in some countries and cultures.
Blame It on the Victorians: In 1895, Bridget Cleary was burned to death by her husband in front of a group of witnesses. Why did the townspeople of Ballyvadlea, Ireland stand by while this man allowed his sick wife to catch fire and burn? Well, because Bridget Cleary had been spirited away and this imposter had to die in order to bring her back? Due to this belief, Michael Cleary was only charged with manslaughter instead of homicide. In Ireland, this true event inspired more nursery rhymes and new fairy tales in which Bridget was a witch.
Last Thoughts: A good way to make a changeling baby laugh is to boil and cook within an eggshell. Yeah… not really sure how that works, but best to try that before setting someone on fire.