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Scary Kids

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When I saw the work of Caroline Fuchs, Appeltjes van Oranje, the mannequin children playing in outrageous bizarre clothes, I connected the piece to the changelings in the old folk tales of my country Iceland, called “þjóðsögur”, because I thought they looked so creepy! For a very long time these “þjóðsögur” only existed orally, they were passed down from generation to generation. In the stories about the changelings, elves would steal an infant and replace it usually with an old elf who would take on the image of the infant. This changeling would cry relentlessly, be greedy and behave mischievously. The parents did not know what hit them! In the tales when the mother realizes that she is actually taking care of a changeling she often tries to harm it, she beats and kicks it. Cue a strange old elf-lady to enter bearing the true child in her arms and she usually says something like: “I cherish and love your son but you abuse my husband!” Then she leaves the child with her mother and leads her husband away. The “þjóðsögur” are still told today and read and enjoyed. They are one of the most important parts of our cultural heritage. People also make references to them in everyday life, for example when a child is behaving badly people will call it a changeling.

2 Responses to “Scary Kids”

  1. Dawson Chiang Says:

    The story rings a bell for me! I think I’ve read the story before from a children’s picture book, which probably helps a lot in spreading the tale outside the Iceland. The funny thing is there are also some scary tales in my culture. There is one very famous tale called “???” which means “Tiger Nanny.”
    To make the long story short, there is this tiger which has lived so long it gains the ability of shape-shifting. One night the tiger eats a nanny and shape-shifts itself to the look of the nanny so the children would open the door for it. Eventually it fails and gets killed by the smart and alerted children.
    Instead of the changeling it is the mother-figure character in this story that is changed and becomes the core of the plot. This reminds me of this history lecture I once had from which I got the idea of how most of the tales told by parents to their children were meant to be terrifying in the first place so as to scare, warn and maybe prevent the children from doing things they shouldn’t do.
    In general I find orally-preserved stories not only interesting but also intriguing. The interesting part is that it varies a lot depending on the person who tells the story while the intriguing part is that although the stories live through different mouths and different times eventually all these different versions don’t really take a detour from the origin or the meaning.
    Dawson Chiang,

  2. admin Says:

    read it
    Caroline Fuchs: Appeltjes van Oranje

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