restricted access From Fairy Host to Mutant Community: The “Singular” Changeling in Folklore, Medical Discourse, and Theories of Evolutionary Change


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.