- From Fairy Host to Mutant Community: The “Singular” Changeling in Folklore, Medical Discourse, and Theories of Evolutionary Change
- Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 7, Number 1, 2018
- pp. 88-118
- View Citation
- Additional Information
The socially and biologically diverse “Fairyland” we find in legends represented to those who believed in supernatural agency both an alternative model for social relations and a metaphor for the unpredictable nature of life, including sudden physical transformation. The changeling legend—in which a healthy human is exchanged for a malformed fairy—played a significant role not only in traditional “diagnoses” for congenital malformation but also in contemplating evolutionary change. Science-fiction authors like Theodore Sturgeon, Poul Anderson, Paul McAuley, and Harlan Ellison appear to have adapted the legend to reimagine the versatile folkloric changeling as a potential model in a technologically advanced environment, where sympathy and hospitality are often pushed to the wayside. In highlighting humanity’s changeling status, these authors encourage us to reverence those earth-dwelling denizens that possibly gave us our ethos in the first place.