Outlined illustration of an adorable fairy

Magical Menageries Colouring Book

Unicorn in an autumn forestI’m currently open to submissions of speculative stories about all things equine for Equus, the latest title in my Magical Menageries series. If you’re interested in submitting check out the call for submissions here, or find out what happens after you submit here.

But this is not about that 🙂

Not only is Equus the fifth title in my Magical Menageries series, it’s also meant to be the final book in that series. With the series coming to a close I wanted to come up with a way to mark and celebrate it because it is one hell of a collection.

So I’m going to produce a Magical Menageries colouring book!

The idea is that I will give it away as swag at conventions or sell it at the cost of shipping from my website for those who won’t be at the same conventions that I am. The only problem is I am *so* not an artist.

Which means I need to hire some.

I will be asking each participating artist to provide me with one colouring page to represent each book in the Magical Menageries collection, so five in all. Those books are:

  • Fae — fairies, forests, fairies, green men, fairies… you get the idea. Mostly fairies… but not so much of the Tinkerbell variety.
  • Corvidae — Magpies and ravens and jays, oh my!
  • Scarecrow — D’oh! I should have saved the Wizard of Oz reference for this description. Because yes. Scarecrows.
  • Sirens — Sirens from both the sea (mermaid type) and sky (winged type)
  • Equus — Horses, unicorns, Pegasus, centaurs…

If you’re not familiar with the books and find yourself stuck for subject matter I will be happy to provide a sample story to help inspire you.

I’m looking for colouring pages however you define that. It might be something as complex and detailed as this:

Detailed zentangle mermaid for coloring page

something simpler, like this:

Coloring page The magic bird

Or even this:

Outlined illustration of an adorable fairy

I want a mixture of styles and detail levels and will be asking for the nonexclusive use to the images (which means you’ll be free to sell or use them elsewhere too).

I will offer a token payment per image (starting around $5-10) plus contributor copies.

If you are interested in contributing to the colouring book please contact me at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com with a sample of your work or a link to your portfolio and a note about your expected rate of payment.

I’d like to have all the artists lined up by January so I’ll be open to receiving emails about this until December 15th, 2016.

Thank you!

SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Win a SIRENS ARC

SIRENS -- cover by Jonathan C. Parrish

Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.

Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Micheal Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.

Did you know that you can win a copy of Sirens? An advance copy, even. That’s right, you can be one of the first people to get to read this beauty 🙂 All you have to do is enter this draw from Goodreads and your name will be tossed into the hat for a chance at a free copy shipped right to your doorstep 🙂

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sirens by Rhonda Parrish

Sirens

by Rhonda Parrish

Giveaway ends May 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Unfortunately because of the prohibitive cost of shipping books internationally that giveaway has to be limited to people in the USA and Canada. However, one of the awesome things about electronic book files is that you don’t have to pay to ship them all over the world. I can’t offer you an electronic ARC of Sirens as a prize (because reasons) but I can offer you an awesome and related prize.

One lucky entrant will win a Magical Menageries collection which will include electronic copies (.ePub or .Mobi) of:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Short Fic Sale

Magical Menageries on Sale!

Short Fic Sale

World Weaver Press is celebrating short fiction by putting all their short fiction on sale. That means, for a limited time, you can pick up any of my Magical Menageries for 25% off the paperback price or $0.99 for the ebook. If you haven’t read all of these titles, now is the perfect time to change that. I mean seriously–less than a buck. That’s pretty tough to beat 🙂

World Weaver Press’ Short Fiction Sale

I nicked this from Kate Wolford at http://www.fairytalemagazine.com/

Menagerie-related News

I nicked this from Kate Wolford at http://www.fairytalemagazine.com/

It’s Friday, and around here that usually means it’s Fractured Friday but we’re going to skip that this week because I have several bits of interesting Magical Menagerie-related news to share.

We’re going to have a Facebook party on Tuesday to celebrate CORVIDAE and SCARECROW. You can join myself, my publisher and several of our contributors while we hang out, talk about the anthologies and also all things corvid and scarecrow. It will be super fun and casual… oh, and there will be giveaways as well 🙂 The party is scheduled for 5 – 8pm Mountain Time and Facebook will happily convert that to your own time zone. I hope to ‘see’ you there!

Also, Kate Wolford from Enchanted Conversation is giving away three e-books. You may have heard of them, their titles are FAE, CORVIDAE and SCARECROW. It’s super easy to enter (you just have to guess a number) but entries close on September 26th so be sure and get yours in before it’s too late — Three E-Book Giveaway.

Oh, and the image at the top of this blog post? I nicked it from Kate, so thank you Kate!

Finally, Edmonton writer and blogger Hal J. Friesen is interviewing some of the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. He interviewed Laura VanArendonk Baugh at the beginning of the month about her stories and animal training and then just today he shared his interview with Kat Otis about her story (which re-imagines WWII with magical creatures like corvids, frost giants and sea serpents added into the mix) and also about flying.

Check out the interviews and the giveaway and I hope to see you at our Facebook party on Tuesday! 🙂

FAE sale

FAE is $0.99!

FAE sale

If you haven’t picked up a copy Fae there will never be a better time!

Fae is on sale.

Right now.

For less than a dollar.

What more can I say?

Meet Robin Goodfellow as you’ve never seen him before, watch damsels in distress rescue themselves, get swept away with the selkies and enjoy tales of hobs, green men, pixies and phookas. One thing is for certain, these are not your grandmother’s fairy tales.

Fairies have been both mischievous and malignant creatures throughout history. They’ve dwelt in forests, collected teeth or crafted shoes. Fae is full of stories that honor that rich history while exploring new and interesting takes on the fair folk from castles to computer technologies to modern midwifing, the Old World to Indianapolis.

Fae bridges traditional and modern styles, from the familiar feeling of a good old-fashioned fairy tale to urban fantasy and horror with a fae twist. This anthology covers a vast swath of the fairy story spectrum, making the old new and exploring lush settings with beautiful prose and complex characters.

Available directly from the publisher:

Paperback $11.95
Ebook $0.99

Or find it online:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Kobo
Books-a-Million

Mike Sale Quote

P.S. Fellow Canadians, you know how people say ‘Our book is on sale for $0.99!’ and then you go to the page and you find out it’s $0.99 US and actually because you live in Canada you have to pay $1.24? Well, not today. Fae is on sale for $0.99 CDN if you buy it from Amazon.ca or Kobo (Canada). Because.

Sale ends July 29th.

 

From me. Not an entry, just playing along :)

#ScarecrowSelfies

Scarecrow -- Dragon Age: Origins

My character & Alistair with a scarecrow in Dragon Age: Origins

I want to give you TEN (10) copies of Scarecrow.

Yep. You read that right.

I’m going to give one person ten copies of Scarecrow. That lucky winner can keep one and give the other nine away however they want to–to their book club, friends, relatives, libraries or random people on the internet–whatever they want. Why? Well, mostly because giving away books is fun and I want to spread the joy around 🙂

How do you enter?

Take photos of or with scarecrows and share them on social media (Twitter, Facebook) using the hashtag #ScarecrowSelfies (If you don’t do social media I will post and share on your behalf — email your pictures to me at fae [at] worldweaverpress.com)

I will compile and share/link to the photos on my blog, because c’mon, of course I will!

Every photo taken will count as an entry into the draw and you will get an extra entry if your photo contains a copy of either CORVIDAE or FAE

And as I said, the winner will receive a box of copies of SCARECROW to share however you want. Actually, I’ll give you a bonus entry if you post on social media using the #ScarecrowSelfies and tell us how you would give away the books if you won.

That’s three ways to enter the draw. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

I will hold the draw on the morning of August 13th so make sure your entries are in by the 12th.

 

Official-Type Stuff & FAQs

You cannot sell the nine extra copies, you must give them away for free.

The books are shipping from inside the US so if you live outside the US you are still welcome to enter but if you win you will be responsible for any customs, duty or other costs associated with importing the books.

Why not give eight people one copy of SCARECROW instead of giving one person eight copies?

Why not? I want to try something different and we’ll still be running a Goodreads giveaway for SCARECROW the same as we have for FAE and CORVIDAE so this isn’t the only chance people will have to win a copy but it is the only chance they’ll have to win nine of them 🙂

Does the picture have to be with a real scarecrow?

Nope. I’m open to all sorts of creative interpretations on this one. A picture of you with a picture of a scarecrow? Cool. A screenshot from a video game with a scarecrow? Okay. A friend dressed up as a scarecrow posing with you? Awesome. Please feel free to think outside the box on this one.

Have a question? Hit me up, I’m happy to answer 🙂

 

Some of the entries:

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coming-soon-from-wwp

Corvidae ARC Giveaway

coming-soon-from-wwpIt’s almost time for Corvidae to hit the shelves (July 7th!) and you know what that means, right? It means I get to giveaway an ARC to one lucky person. You could be one of the very first people to get your hot little hands on a copy!

Associated with life and death, disease and luck, corvids have long captured mankind’s attention, showing up in mythology as the companions or manifestations of deities, and starring in stories from Aesop to Poe and beyond.

In Corvidae birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war. These stories will take you to the Great War, research facilities, frozen mountaintops, steam-powered worlds, remote forest homes, and deep into fairy tales. One thing is for certain, after reading this anthology, you’ll never look the same way at the corvid outside your window.

Featuring works by Jane Yolen, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol.

It’s super easy to enter to win, too. The Rafflecopter widget below gives you lots of options (some of which you can do every day to maximize your chances to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But wait! There’s more!

As you may know, Corvidae is book #2 in the series we’re calling “Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries“. That series began with Fae and will continue with Corvidae’s companion anthology, Scarecrow (due out in August).

I’ll be straight with you, Fae could really use some more reviews on Amazon. It’s received great reviews, don’t get me wrong, but they mostly seem to be centered on Goodreads* and whether you love it or hate it, Amazon is the 500lb gorilla in this industry and reviews there have more, well, weight, than reviews on Goodreads.

So, if Fae reaches ten (10) reviews on Amazon** by the time this giveaway ends on June 2nd I will have the Rafflecopter choose a second winner and that winner will receive an ARC of Scarecrow.

If we surpass 10 reviews before June 2nd I will edit this blog post to add some ‘stretch goals’, each of which will look an awful lot like an ARC 😉

*I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the reviews on Goodreads, because I really, truly AM grateful for them. It’s just that now I need to focus on getting some on Amazon as well.
**I only want honest reviews, so if you haven’t read Fae yet, well, now is as good a time as any LOL Or you can just cross your fingers and hope the people who have read it will review it on Amazon 🙂

Helpful links:

Fae on Amazon
Fae on Goodreads
Corvidae on World Weaver Press
Scarecrow on World Weaver Press

If you have any questions just leave a comment or drop me a line at [rhonda] at [jofigure.com]

By Frank Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lady Wilde and the Fairy-Haunted Hills

Today for Fae-tastic Friday we’re going to wrap up our mini-series of guest blogs about changelings. This final posting is about Lady Wilde, who I’m a little chagrined to admit, was never on my radar before reading Shannon’s blog. Whether you’re in the same boat as me or you’ve read the Lady Wilde’s work before, I hope you will enjoy this last entry into our series on changelings 🙂

Lady Wilde and the Fairy-Haunted Hills

by Shannon Phillips

By Frank Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Frank Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of my favorite sources for fairy lore is the book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, & Superstitions of Ireland, with Sketches of the Irish Past by Jane Francesca Agnes, Lady Wilde—better known to history as Oscar’s mama. Although her own literary efforts were largely eclipsed by her son’s, Lady Wilde published poetry under the pen name “Speranza,” and was a fascinating woman in her own right: an early activist for women’s rights, a passionate supporter of Irish independence, and an enthusiastic recorder of countryside stories and beliefs.

Her book of Irish folklore, first published in 1887, gives us a snapshot of traditional Irish culture at a time when it was just beginning to yield to modernization. “In a few years such a collection would be impossible,” she writes in the preface, “for the old race is rapidly passing away to other lands, and in the vast working-world of America, with all the new influences of light and progress, the young generation, though still loving the land of their fathers, will scarcely find leisure to dream over the fairy-haunted hills and lakes and raths of ancient Ireland.”

Although in that, I think she was wrong—many of us are still dreaming of fairy-haunted hills! One of the reasons I think her book is so valuable, though, is that it reminds us that originally these stories weren’t just “stories”: fairies, spirits, and changelings were considered very real in Lady Wilde’s day. And these were matters of life and death.

On the question of changelings, Lady Wilde writes:

“This superstition makes the peasant-women often very cruel towards weakly children; and the trial by fire is sometimes resorted to in order to test the nature of the child who is suspected of being a changeling. For this purpose a fairy woman is usually sent for, who makes a drink for the little patient of certain herbs of whose power she alone has the secret knowledge, and a childless woman is considered the best to make the potion. Should there be no improvement in the child after the treatment with herbs, then the witch-women sometimes resorts to terrible measures to test the fairy nature of the sufferer.

“A child who was suspected of being a change because he was wasted and thin and always restless and fretful was ordered by the witch-woman to be placed for three nights on a shovel outside the door from sunset to sunrise, during which he was given foxglove to chew, and cold water was flung over him to banish the fire-devil. The screams of the child at night was frightful, calling on his mother to come and take him in; but the fairy doctor told the mother not to fear; the fairies were certainly tormenting him, but by the third night their power would cease, and the child, would be quite restored. However, on the third night the poor little child lay dead.”

So there is a kind of terrible sadness behind the changeling legends. Not just Come away, O human child / To the woods and waters wild… but real lives, real children rejected by their families or even tortured to death in a doomed attempt to “cure” them. It’s easy to think of those in our own society who have suffered misguided interventions because their differences were stigmatized—so called “gender variant reparative therapy” springs to mind, or the autistic children who have suffered abuse in the name of treatment. Maybe we have our own changelings still.

But not all the stories Lady Wilde gives are so sad. In one of my favorite passages, she mentions that when a woman went into childbirth, it was common for the family to go through the house and unlock every chest and drawer. As soon as the baby was born, these boxes and drawers would be snapped shut and locked. The idea was that fairies might try to creep into the house and hide, in order to be ready to steal the baby at the first opportunity—and the family was hoping to trap them!

Other substances thought to have some power over changelings were salt; the branches of a mountain ash (for girls) or alder tree (for boys); the name of God and the sign of the cross; or a nail from a horseshoe. But above all these others: fire. Two unlit coals, one laid beneath the cradle and another beneath the churn, were thought to be sufficient to prevent fairy mischief. Or a lit coal might be drawn in a circle around the cradle, to create a barrier the fairies could not cross. Even the threat of burning was thought to be enough to force a changeling to reveal itself.

Changelings are usually marked by their weakly, wizened forms. But sometimes they are revealed by their preternatural knowledge or abilities. In one story Lady Wilde tells, the father realizes his child is a changeling when the baby picks up four straws to play with: “And when he got them, the child played and played such sweet music on them as if they were pipes, that all the chairs and tables began to dance; and when he grew tired, he fell back in the cradle and dropped asleep.”

And some of the stories contain a seed of hope for bereaved parents. For when a child is stolen by the fairies and cannot be rescued, there is at least the hope that they will have happy lives among the Fair Folk and grow up to be loved by a fairy bride or groom. And as Lady Wilde relates: ” The children of such unions grow up beautiful and clever, but are also wild, reckless and extravagant. They are known at once by the beauty of their eyes and hair, and they have a magic fascination that no one can resist, and also a fairy gift of music and song.”

I’ll give one more changeling story from Lady Wilde. It’s my very favorite, because in this case the issue is resolved when the fairy mother comes looking for her own stolen son. As she tells the parents: “My people, who live under the fort on the hill, thought your boy was a fine child, and so they changed the babies in the cradle; but, after all, I would rather have my own, ugly as he is, than any mortal child in the world.”

So the fairy mother takes her baby back, and gives the mortal parents advice on how to storm the fairy fort and rescue their own son. They follow her advice to the letter, and the outcome is a happy one: “By the spell of fire and of corn the child was saved from evil, and he grew and prospered. And the old fort stands to this day safe from harm, for the man would allow no hand to move a stone or harm a tree; and the fairies still dance there on the rath, when the moon is full, to the music of the fairy pipes, and no one hinders them.”

 

Shannon Phillips lives in Oakland, where she keeps chickens, a dog, three boys, and a husband. Her first novel, The Millennial Sword, tells the story of the modern-day Lady of the Lake.

 

Fae

Fae

Paperback $11.95
Ebook $6.99

 

Silver Pixie CA Ornament

Changelings and ASD

This is the third installment of my series of Changeling-themed guest blogs for Fae-tastic Friday. Today’s blog is brought to us courtesy of Kari Castor. Kari looks at the possibility of a connection between changeling stories and ASD.

Changelings and ASD

by Kari Castor

If you’re familiar with fairy folklore at all, you likely know that fairies have a penchant for abducting humans and carrying them away to Fairyland.  Sometimes a fairy, or some simulacrum (often made of wood), is left in place of the abducted human.  These strange creatures, which take the appearance and place of the abductee, are known as changelings.  Changelings are characterized by a variety of different traits – they may have physical deformities, or wither away of illness, or they may be distant and unresponsive, or agitated and difficult to calm.

I’ve always been particularly interested in the ways folklore and mythology arises from real people trying to make sense of real events or situations, and tales of changelings seem to offer many clues about the truths behind the legends.

Story after story about changelings features children who never stop crying.  The original, healthy child is replaced with a clamorous, sickly creature who often doesn’t speak and will not grow (or, if it does grow, remains as helpless as an infant).  It’s not hard to see why modern researchers have suggested that tales of this sort may provide us with evidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Children with ASD often seem to be developing normally, and then unexpectedly withdraw from social interactions as the disorder manifests.  They may not respond to their own names, have difficulties interpreting social cues, and lack empathy.  They sometimes have repetitive movement patterns (rocking back and forth, for example) or harm themselves (through actions such as head-banging).  Hundreds of years ago, a mother faced with a child who has suddenly begun exhibiting such upsetting behaviors might well have believed her own child had been replaced by a strange, fay creature.

Consider, too, that ASD may appear alongside a wide range of co-occurring conditions, such as epilepsy, that would certainly have affected a child’s ability to grow and thrive without proper care and treatment.  ASD and co-occuring conditions seem likely suspects to account for the truth behind many changeling stories.

Of course, history (even folk history) is never that simple.  Autism spectrum disorder may indeed be part of the genesis for changelings, but it’s clear that it isn’t the whole story.  Rather, the changeling seems to have arisen as a sort of catch-all explanation for a variety of illnesses, both physical and mental.  It was most commonly applied to children, especially infants, but young women also seem to have been vulnerable to becoming changelings.

Martin Luther (you might remember him as the guy who nailed the The Ninety-Five Theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg, thus starting the Reformation), appears to have believed in the existence of changelings.  His writings show a complicated understanding of deformed and disabled children, but he references them as the product of the devil, not of fairies.  In one oft-referenced (though admittedly somewhat unverifiable – John Aurifaber, one of the first collectors of Luther’s words, is known to have made embellishments) incident in 1540, he is said to have recommended that a 12-year-old boy, who was described as being incapable of anything but basic life-sustaining functions, be suffocated, explaining his reasoning in this way: “Because I think he’s simply a mass of flesh without a soul. Couldn’t the devil have done this, inasmuch as he gives such shape to the body and mind even of those who have reason that in their obsession they hear, see, and feel nothing? The devil is himself their soul.”

“Jamie Freel and the Young Lady” was written in the late 19th century (though it certainly has its roots in earlier lore) by a young Irish woman named Letitia Maclintock, and was included by William Butler Yeats in his volumes Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasants and Irish Fairy Tales.  In it, the hero Jamie Freel is witness to a fairy abduction: “He saw the young lady lifted and carried away, while the stick which was dropped in her place on the bed took her exact form.”  When the young woman is finally returned to her home (thanks to the efforts of Jamie, of course), her parents are at first angry and disbelieving — they’d buried the wooden effigy and mourned their daughter’s death a year prior.

In 1895 (just 4 years after Maclintock’s death at the age of 24) a 26-year-old Irish woman named Bridget Cleary went missing.  Her body was discovered after a weeklong search, buried in a shallow grave.  Her husband and nine other people, Bridget’s family members and neighbors, were tried for her murder. Their defense?  They believed she was a changeling, and were trying to get the real Bridget back from the fairies.  Bridget had fallen ill after a trip to deliver eggs to a family member, and as her condition continued to worsen, her husband became suspicious.  The herbal remedies he began with didn’t have the desired effect, and as more people became involved in the situation, the attempted solutions became more and more extreme.  I won’t reproduce the grim details here, but suffice it to say that Bridget was tortured and eventually burned.  Her husband was certain, after killing the “imposter,” that his real wife would return to him.

Sadly, Bridget Cleary’s case has a fairly typical ending.  Those who were suspected of being changelings were subjected to a variety of “treatments” intended to reveal the changeling’s true nature and facilitate the return of the “missing” individual.  Edwin Sidney Hartland, in his 1981 volume The Science of Fairy Tales: An Inquiry into Fairy Mythology, recounts a number of stories involving the abuse and killing of suspected changelings.  They are burned, or flung into rivers, or abandoned to the elements.  One method even involves setting the changeling child on the floor and having every occupant of the house throw a piece of iron at it.  It’s dark stuff.

The theory behind these methods appears to be the idea that killing (or threatening to kill) the changeling would compel the fairies to return their captive.  And, in the fairy tales and folklore passed down to us, it often works.  The changeling is either killed or returned to its own kind, and the family is reunited with their whole and hale missing loved one.  Unfortunately, the truths upon which these stories are based often had much less happy endings.  Tales of changelings may have given some comfort to parents whose children died of mysterious ailments at a time when child mortality was high.  They likely also provided a convenient excuse for the sacrifice of a physically or mentally disabled child, whose existence must have placed a difficult burden on a family without the knowledge or resources to properly care for such a child.  In a time when children were expected to be productive members of the household from an early age, parents of children who would consume time and resources without being able to contribute were faced with a terrible dilemma.  It is little wonder that these parents would have seized on the “changeling” explanation as a way to make an impossible choice a little less impossible.

 

Kari Castor is a writer and educator. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including most recently In Gilded Frame, Spark: A Creative Anthology Vol. 3, and Serial Killers Tres Tria. She is co-writer of the monthly comic series Shahrazad and, in addition, serves as line editor for Big Dog Ink comics. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, two dogs, and a cat named after a space princess. Find her online at www.karicastor.com.

 

Fae

Fae

Paperback $11.95
Ebook $6.99

 

Fae

Changelings in World Mythology

I’m wrapping up Fae-tastic Fridays on my blog. Though I may occasionally share something more Fae-related here it won’t be on a regular basis… after one last series of awesome blog posts, that is. Some of the contributors to Fae have come together and written an awesome series of blog posts about changelings. Even better, they’ve given me permission to share them here, on my blog.

The first such post is this one, Changelings in World Mythology by Kristina Wojtaszek. As the title suggests, Kristina seeks to educate us about the various ways changelings have been represented around the world. Enjoy!

Changelings in World Mythology

by Kristina Wojtaszek

Europe is well known as the hub of fairy mythology, and the changeling myth is one popular native. But just as various animal species can adapt similar forms, myth often undergoes its own convergent evolution across cultures. It makes one wonder whether the changeling myth might have sprung up elsewhere. After all, fairies share many malicious kin around the globe. There are the Islamic djinn, the aziza of Africa, the mogwai of China and Native American jogah to name just a few. But while many types of specters are well versed in deceiving mortals, not all of them have specialized in the cruel art of kidnapping. And kidnapping is the very soul of the changeling myth, though it isn’t the only defining factor.

The shape-shifting kitsune from Japan, for example, may trick, possess, drown, interbreed with, and even kidnap humans. Similarly, Brazillian encantados may shift from the shape of a river dolphin to human form (often with a hat to cover their blowhole and/or bulbous forehead) to seduce and potentially kidnap men, women or children. Stories about them are vaguely reminiscent of selkies. However, while a selkie or kitsume may kidnap their human-born children and return with them to homes in another realm, and while an encantado may drag an unsuspecting victim into the depths of its inhuman, underwater world, they aren’t well known for sacrificing one of their own to take the place of the kidnapee. Even rarer is the example of these spirits leaving an object behind as a human replacement. This, it seems, is an important factor in the changeling myth; the changing of places and/or the presence of a “stock.”

A stock, or fetch, is an enchanted object (often little more than a piece of wood) left in place of the person kidnapped. As with all fairy enchantments, the glamour only lasts so long, and the supposed living person will soon reveal itself to be little more than a mundane object, or will grow ill and die (because it was never really alive). In the case of changing places, the replacement left is a living fairy. An old or sick fairy may be left, accounting for the sudden aging and illness of the changeling, or a perfectly healthy citizen of fairydom may be sacrificed, as we sometimes see with fairy infants taking the place of human babes. Regardless, after someone is taken, it always follows that someone or something is left. This is a theme that fits in well with the kind of fairy justice found in European folklore; there are rules for everything, but that doesn’t mean those rules are entirely fair, especially in regards to humans.

Now that we’ve narrowed the definition, we suddenly find that the cross cultural relations of changelings have drastically dwindled. Still, there are a few out there, and they are striking in resemblance to their European cousins. The aswangs are one such species. In Filipino folklore the aswangs are shape shifters that can take the form of an animal by night, but by day live as everyday villagers. While in animal form, they travel to other villages where they hunt fetuses, babies and small children, as well as corpses to eat. They can become thin enough to hide behind a single stalk of bamboo, and some say they have an insect-like proboscis for reaching children from a distance, or stripping the unborn from a mother’s womb. When they are finished with this gruesome task, they often leave behind plant matter or a tree trunk as a duplicate of the victim (or victim’s body in the case of cadavers). According to belief, if your neighbor is quite shy and reserved and often has blood shot eyes from being up all night, he or she could well be a blood thirsty aswang. Occasionally these suspected killers are even hunted down and put to death. While European fairy thieves don’t usually spend their lives in human form and are less likely to have the same nasty appetites, the similarity between plant matter or tree trunks and stocks of wood are too obvious to deny.

Another species held responsible for the death of young infants and the unborn haunts the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria. The ogbanje, or sometimes called abiku, are actually the spirits of children that have died (the term abiku can also refer to the spirit that caused the child’s death). Comparatively, it is not unusual in European fairy lore for fairies to be no more than ghosts, and some are even recognized as friends or relatives by humans who have been taken to (or have stumbled upon) the fairy realm. The African ogbanje are blamed for multiple stillbirths and a high rate of infant loss for a mother because they are believed to reincarnate themselves again and again. The only way to be released from the spirit’s hold is to destroy an object thought to tie it to the mortal world. This object, called an iyi-uwa, might be a rock or doll the child played with, a tooth or lock of hair, or even a scrap of the deceased child’s clothing. In some cases, a family offering serves for an iyi-uwa, which is given to the shaman responsible for releasing the spirit. While these spirits don’t leave a replacement for the life taken, the bodies of lost and stillborn infants can be viewed as stocks in that they are predestined to die, just as most of the sickly changelings of European myth are meant only to last a little while.

Another ghostly example of a changeling relative is the Chinese shui gui, which translates to “water ghost.” As the unhappy spirit of a person who drowned, these ghosts linger around waterways waiting for their next victim. But unlike kelpies and their kin, the shui gui doesn’t stop at murder, but goes on to possess their victim’s body. This, of course, creates a changeling; a human who looks the same as ever, but whose soul has been replaced by another’s. Meanwhile, the victim’s soul is now a shui gui trapped in the same watery location, ready to begin the cycle again. The idea of possession and “drifting souls” is quite common in Asian folklore, and occasionally bears striking similarities to European changelings.

In India we have an interesting example of human abduction in the form of nagas.   Believed to be more advanced than humans, nagas seemed to see us as less intelligent animals which they often stole away into their underground cities either for eating, torturing, or sometimes, interbreeding with. There were other such races of highly intelligent humanoids living below ground in both Indian and Chinese legend, and they are highly comparable with the ancient Egyptian gala. Gala were servants of Osiris, god of the underworld, sent forth to do his bidding. Part of this bidding was to abduct humans and bring them down into the land of the dead. Again we see a parallel between these and the European fairies who inhabit underground mounds and share many other traits with the dead. What is most interesting about the gala is that small depictions of these mythical creatures have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs with inscriptions on them instructing them to serve the person much as a slave would. It seems that in this case, humans turned the tables on the changeling myth, capturing beings from another realm to serve our own needs in the human afterlife.

Whether we define changelings by their deeds, their motives, or the counterparts they’ve left behind, it is clear that changelings have inhabited a much broader range than Europe alone. As is the motive behind much of mythology, it seems that our very human fears (namely of kidnapping, illness, altered personalities and death) have laid the groundwork for changeling mythology across the globe.

 

Kristina Wojtaszek grew up as a woodland sprite and mermaid, playing around the shores of Lake Michigan. At any given time she could be found with live snakes tangled in her hair and worn out shoes filled with sand. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management as an excuse to spend her days lost in the woods with a book in hand. She currently resides in the high desert country of Wyoming with her husband and two small children. She is fascinated by fairy tales and fantasy and her favorite haunts are libraries and cemeteries.

Fae

Fae

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