Lore About Changelings

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níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair

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  • Teideal (Title): Lore About Changelings.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853906.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 16/10/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A married woman was washing clothes by the lake when she saw a huge frog sitting next to her. She spoke to the frog, saying “I hope you never lose that belly1, until I [unintelligible] in front of you”. The frog vanished.

Five nights later, early in the morning, a man on horseback came to the woman’s house, and asked the man to let his wife come with him to be present at his own wife’s childbirth, saying that he’d have her at home before morning. After some hesitation, the husband agreed, and the woman set off with the stranger.

Eventually they reached a place called Aill na Guil, an enormous rock that was creepy to the extent that when someone passed it, the hair would stand up on your head and you would be rooted to the spot for about ten minutes. The rock was full of the quare fellows — fairies. The rock opened up and the two people walked into a room where the woman in labour lay. The instant the woman in labour saw the mortal woman, she gave birth to her child, which was immediately taken up by the other women around her and thrust into the fire. At the same moment, another woman appeared with a young child in her arms — the child of a mortal person whom they had stolen, and whom they intended to raise up as their own.

The man on horseback had warned the woman that the fairies would offer he food, but that she must refuse the first offer, or she would never be able to escape from the fairy rath. But she did accept the second offer of food. Before she left for home, the woman who had given birth called he over and gave her a bag which she told her contained gold, as well as a cloak which she told her to wear going home. As she turned to accompany the man on horseback, she saw him dip his fingers into a small trough, and rub some liquid over his eye before he left the rath. She did the same.

On the way home, the man asked her if she had received any gifts from the woman who had given birth. When she told him about the cloak, he told her to drape it round a nearby tree — whereupon the tree split into four pieces. Similarly, he warned her not to keep the gold, but to sell it when she got home to people she didn’t like. This she did; and shortly afterwards the houses of all those people went up in flames.

Some time after this adventure, the woman was at a fair, and was surprised to see some of the people she recognized from inside the fairy rath. Spotting the man who had taken her there, she went up to him and greeted him. He asked how she had spotted him, and she confessed to having seen him wipe his eye with the liquid from the small trough, and that she had done the same. He then blinded her in the affected eye so that she’d never be able to see him or the other fairies again.

She went home and lived happily with her husband, despite being blinded in one eye.


1. This mysterious remark is clarified in a version of this story which was recorded in Irish from Maidhcil Veail Mheaite Ó Coirbín (1892–1967), of Dú-Dhithir, and printed in Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 2265–85. In this version, it’s a man who encounters the frog, who is pregnant. He says to the frog, “A muise, nar bheire tú an bolg sin go mbeidh mise in do láthair” [May you not give birth until I am in your presence]. Ensuing events make it clear that it was his saying this that caused the fairy woman to have trouble giving birth, and except for the intervention of the woman herself, the fairies would have killed him. As it was, the gift they gave him as he left — the cloak which could have set his house on fire — was their way of indicating their displeasure at his interfering remark.

A number of Joe’s songs and stories relate to the belief in people being stolen by fairies.

D. L. Ashliman assigns this tale to type AT 476* in the Aarne-Thompson index; see A Guide to Folktales in the English Language, Greenwood Press (New York, 1987), p. 100.