Beldams & changelings


Well-Known Member
These are two creatures I know little about. I would like to know more about each, and am hoping that someone could tell me a little about one or the other - or both.

What I do know about beldams is that they are a kind of witch, and that Neil Gaiman featured one in his children's novel Coraline. That's about it.

As for changelings, the only thing I know about them as that they are a creature which switches their newborn young with our newborn young, so as to be raised in a human family - meaning they look human, or can look human, and thrive on a human upbringing.

Again, any information on one or both would be greatly appreciated.


Active Member
Beldams are dangerous fairy creatures who lure men to their destruction in inhospitable environments. The poem by John Keats "La Belle Dame sans Merci" is about a beldam (belle-dame). The name beldam (meaning 'beautiful woman') is a placatory way of referring to them, in the hope that such fairy folk, if they overheard, would be complimented and act with benevolence (or at least ignore the speaker) - just as the Greeks called The Furies 'the kindly ones'.

Changelings are not the fairy creatures who swap babies, but are the swapped babies themselves. Communities with babies who had some deformity which only became apparent as they grew up, or showed mental slowness or disability, or who were sickly and pale, saw them as not the 'real' babies (who were expected and hoped to be fit, active and clever - ie contributing to society), but as 'false' babies - the sickly fairy children who the fairy parents swapped for human offspring (ie the babies had been exchanged, and a changeling left behind).

Just as fairies were blamed for soured milk and accidental breakages, so they were blamed for human frailties.