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The Changeling by Selma Lagerlof

The Changeling

by Selma Lagerlof

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Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf, whose The Wonderful Adventures of Nils is considered an important contribution to Scandinavian children's literature, turns to the Swedish folk tradition of trolls and changelings, in this powerful picture-book. Following the story of a prosperous farming couple who lose their baby, after their horse bolts in the forest, and the child is left behind, and then picked up by a passing troll, who leaves behind her own baby in his place, The Changeling is a story about doing the right thing, even when it requires us to part ways with those we love, and involves us in terrible suffering.

The farm-wife, though grieving for her own lost child, and initially repulsed by the troll baby, is determined to care for it, and treat it kindly, and eventually becomes its protector, shielding it from her husband's efforts to beat it (beating the changeling was believed to bring the troll mother running, and thereby release the captive human child), and then to kill it. Ostracized and persecuted by her community as a result of her actions - the farm hands and maids start to treat her disrespectfully, and then begin to ignore her altogether - the farm-wife is eventually abandoned by her husband, who refuses to live with the troll. Has she lost everything, by trying to help a being she cannot understand, or love? Or will her righteousness be rewarded...?

A story that touches upon some very dark realities - I always wonder about changeling stories, and what anthropological truths they reveal, perhaps about difficult or sick children, in early cultures that didn't understand them, or their maladies? - The Changeling, despite its happy ending, teaches an important, but rather melancholy lesson: doing right in this world frequently involves great suffering, and may also require putting ethics before loved ones. I liked that Lagerlöf didn't sugar-coat this story - the husband, and the various farm-hands, really made me angry! - as it made the lesson all the more powerful. I'm not surprised, really, to see so few reviews for this one (a great big thank you, Miriam, for bringing it to my attention), because it doesn't sit easily, in the reader's consciousness. It is sharp, and painful, and rather disturbing. In short, it's brilliant! It also boasts, in this English translation, engrossing illustrations by Jeanette Winter.

Recommended to those interested in changeling stories, Swedish folklore, and tales that grapple with truly difficult moral choices. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 6, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Selma Lagerlofprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stevens, SusannahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winter, JeanetteIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679810358, Hardcover)

A farmer's wife becomes the foster mother of a troll's child and her humanistic treatment of the changeling eventually secures the return of her own son.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A farmer's wife becomes the foster mother of a troll's child and her humanistic treatment of the changeling eventually secures the return of her own son.

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