Monday, January 31, 2011

A Changeling Baby

I've been busy moving studio, and also moving house, so I have neglected the blog a bit. Sorry.
Here is another original I found during the moving process.

This picture illustrates a changeling story that was to be included in that anthology of Irish Fairy Tales that I was planning a number of years ago.
I have always though this to be a most sinister Irish tradition, and I am convinced that over the centuries the notion of a fairy being substituted for a healthy child was used as an excuse to do away with many sickly or malformed babies.
I can recommend a fascinating book by Angela Bourke called The Burning of Bridget Cleary for anyone with an interest in the subject.


Anonymous said...

I always found the Bridget Cleary occurrence to be particularly scary.

There were other less harmful or fatal ways of dealing with changelings too. I think the changeling was usually expected to admit their fairy nature before any real harm was done.

Personally, I've always loved changelings as an illustration of the border between reality and fantasy and I think your image has perfectly captured the "sinister-ness" of the concept. Great work!

PJ Lynch said...

Thanks Aladine
The changeling does indeed usually screech that the game is up before hot iron is put upon them or before they are thrown in the fire. But what about the babies suspected of being changelings who had no fairy nature to admit to?
The older members of my family who lived in the country believed in the existence of banshees and pookas as devoutly as they believed in their Catholic faith, and I am convinced that many people from their background would have tried the really horrific solution they heard of in the fairy tales to deal with a suspected changeling.
Bridget Cleary was certainly not the only such case.
I'm delighted you like the picture

Anonymous said...

The practices were certainly scary there is no doubt of that.

But there were at least a few that never got to that level. One example was cooking in egg shells to get the baby to inquire about the goings on in the hearth and thereby betray its great age. In this instance no violence/threat occurs at all. Phew!!!!

I do love the picture. The folkloric essence of story telling pervades the image while the seriousness of the subject matter is never dimmed or lost.

PJ Lynch said...

Hi Aladine
I think I illustrated the egg shell distillery once. I will try to locate it.
Best wishes

JG O'Donoghue said...

always thought this story was a bit spooky, but you did a fine job with the illustration! Did you or are you going to do a anthology on irish illustrations?

Unknown said...

I will also be working this theme into my Nano novel.

I think you are totally right. People used the excuse of a changeling baby when the child had a disability or was malformed. Very sad.

Unknown said...


I stumbled across your blog while searching for Changeling images to inspire a blog post I'm currently writing, and I've spent a good while looking back through your archives at your gorgeous illustrations and paintings. They're beautiful!


Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Lynch,
This is Lalit Dalal, I work as a picture researcher for various publications.

One of my client named Stella W. is writing a book on Autism and would like to use one of your illustrations called "Changeling Baby" inside the book, she's self publishing this book, therefore has a very small budget and would like to ask you for your permission and high resolution file of this illustration for the book. Here's the link to that picture:

So, I would like to request you to kindly provide us costing and permission for the usage and a high resolution jpeg file of this illustration.

Thanks and best regards,
Lalit Dalal
M: +91-9810189755