Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Oberlin Community Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Ellen Wurtzel

Committee Member(s)

Emer O'Dwyer
Pablo Mitchell
Annemarie Sammartino


History, Folklore, Fairies, Changelings, Irish history, 19th century Ireland, Bridget Cleary, Legal history, Imperialism, British imperialism


This project examines the legal evolution of changeling murders in 19th century Ireland, murders committed under the suspicion that the victim was a fairy imposter, and their intersection with political and social history. In Irish folklore, changelings were fairies who would assume the place of an individual, usually a child. They were not, however, perfect substitutes, and would display behavioral or physical differences, revealing their true nature. The most effective way of banishing a changeling and returning the original person was though violence. Utilizing court records, newspapers, and archival materials I explore the ways in which folklore was utilized by both the Irish and the English as a means of both oppression and identity, and the way that folklore can be used to contextualize the transitions in Ireland’s legal and social systems.