The Stolen Child

The Stolen Child

by Keith Donohue


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“I am a changeling–a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own. . . .”The double story of Henry Day begins in 1949, when he is kidnapped at age seven by a band of wild childlike beings who live in an ancient, secret community in the forest. The changelings rename their captive Aniday and he becomes, like them, unaging and stuck in time. They leave one of their own to take his place, an imposter who must try–with varying success–to hide his true identity from the Day family. As the changeling Henry grows up, he is haunted by glimpses of his lost double and by vague memories of his own childhood a century earlier. Narrated in turns by Henry and Aniday, The Stolen Child follows them as their lives converge, driven by their obsessive search for who they were before they changed places in the world. Moving from a realistic setting in small-town America deep into the forest of humankind’s most basic desires and fears, this remarkable novel is a haunting fable about identity and the illusory innocence of childhood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400096534
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/08/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 519,502
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Keith Donohue is the Director of Communications for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the grant-making arm of the National Archives in Washington, DC. Until 1998 he worked at the National Endowment for the Arts and wrote hundreds of speeches for chairmen John Frohnmayer and Jane Alexander. He has written articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers. Donohue holds a Ph.D. in English from The Catholic University of America. His dissertation on Irish writer Flann O'Brien was published as The Irish Anatomist: A Study of Flann O'Brien (Maunsel Press, 2003).

Read an Excerpt


Don't call me a fairy. We don't like to be called fairies anymore. Once upon a time, fairy was a perfectly acceptable catchall for a variety of creatures, but now it has taken on too many associations. Etymologically speaking, a fairy is something quite particular, related in kind to the naiads, or water nymphs, and while of the genus, we are sui generis. The word fairy is drawn from fay (Old French fee), which itself comes from the Latin Fata, the goddess of fate. The fay lived in groups called the faerie, between the heavenly and earthly realms.

There exist in this world a range of sublunary spirits that carminibus coelo possunt deducere lunam, and they have been divided since ancient times into six kinds: fiery, aerial, terrestrial, watery, subterranean, and the whole class of fairies and nymphs. Of the sprites of fire, water, and air, I know next to nothing. But the terrestrial and underground devils I know all too well, and of these, there is infinite variety and attendant myth about their behavior, custom, and culture. Known around the world by many different names—Lares, genii, fauns, satyrs, foliots, Robin Goodfellows, pucks, leprechauns, pukas, sídhe, trolls—the few that remain live hidden in the woods and are rarely seen or encountered by human beings. If you must give me a name, call me hobgoblin.

Or better yet, I am a changeling—a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own. The hobgoblin becomes the child, and the child becomes a hobgoblin. Not any boy or girl will do, but only those rare souls baffled by their young lives or attuned to the weeping troubles of this world. The changelings select carefully, for such opportunities might come along only once a decade or so. A child who becomes part of our society might have to wait a century before his turn in the cycle arrives, when he can become a changeling and reenter the human world.

Preparation is tedious, involving close surveillance of the child, and of his friends and family. This must be done unobserved, of course, and it's best to select the child before he begins school, because it becomes more complicated by then, having to memorize and process a great deal of information beyond the intimate family, and being able to mimic his personality and history as clearly as mirroring his physique and features. Infants are the easiest, but caring for them is a problem for the changelings. Age six or seven is best. Anyone much older is bound to have a more highly developed sense of self. No matter how old or young, the object is to deceive the parents into thinking that this changeling is actually their child. More easily done than most people imagine.

No, the difficulty lies not in assuming a child's history but in the painful physical act of the change itself. First, start with the bones and skin, stretching until one shudders and nearly snaps into the right size and body shape. Then the others begin work on one's new head and face, which require the skills of a sculptor. There's considerable pushing and pulling at the cartilage, as if the skull were a soft wad of clay or taffy, and then the malicious business with the teeth, the removal of the hair, and the tedious -re—weaving. The entire process occurs without a gram of painkiller, although a few imbibe a noxious alcohol made from the fermented mash of acorns. A nasty undertaking, but well worth it, although I could do without the rather complicated rearrangement of the genitals. In the end, one is an exact copy of a child. Thirty years ago, in 1949, I was a changeling who became a human again.

I changed lives with Henry Day, a boy born on a farm outside of town. On a late summer's afternoon, when he was seven, Henry ran away from home and hid in a hollow chestnut tree. Our changeling spies followed him and raised the alarm, and I transformed myself into his perfect facsimile. We grabbed him, and I slipped into the hollowed space to switch my life for his. When the search party found me that night, they were happy, relieved, and proud-not angry, as I had expected. "Henry," a -red—haired man in a fireman's suit said to me as I pretended to sleep in the hiding place. I opened my eyes and gave him a bright smile. The man wrapped me in a thin blanket and carried me out of the woods to a paved road, where a fire truck stood waiting, its red light pulsing like a heartbeat. The firemen took me home to Henry's parents, to my new father and mother. As we drove along the road that night, I kept thinking that if that first test could be passed, the world would once again be mine.

It is a commonly held myth that, among the birds and the beasts, the mother recognizes her young as her own and will refuse a stranger thrust into the den or the nest. This is not so. In fact, the cuckoo commonly lays its eggs in other birds' nests, and despite its extraordinary size and voracious appetite, the cuckoo chick receives as much, indeed more, maternal care, often to the point of driving the other chicks from their lofty home. Sometimes the mother bird starves her own offspring because of the cuckoo's incessant demands. My first task was to create the fiction that I was the real Henry Day. Unfortunately, humans are more suspicious and less tolerant of intruders in the nest.

The rescuers knew only that they were looking for a young boy lost in the woods, and I could remain mute. After all, they had found someone and were therefore content. As the fire truck lurched up the driveway to the Days' home, I vomited against the bright red door, a vivid mess of acorn mash, watercress, and the exoskeletons of a number of small insects. The fireman patted me on the head and scooped me up, blanket and all, as if I were of no more consequence than a rescued kitten or an abandoned baby. Henry's father leapt from the porch to gather me in his arms, and with a strong embrace and warm kisses reeking of smoke and alcohol, he welcomed me home as his only son. The mother would be much harder to fool.

Her face betrayed her every emotion: blotchy skin, chapped with salty tears, her pale blue eyes rimmed in red, her hair matted and disheveled. She reached out for me with trembling hands and emitted a small sharp cry, the kind a rabbit makes when in the distress of the snare. She wiped her eyes on her shirtsleeve and wrapped me in the wracking shudder of a woman in love. Then she began laughing in that deep coloratura.

"Henry? Henry?" She pushed me away and held on to my shoulders at arm's length. "Let me look at you. Is it really you?"

"I'm sorry, Mom."

She brushed away the bangs hiding my eyes and then pulled me against her breast. Her heart beat against the side of my face, and I felt hot and uncomfortable.

"You needn't worry, my little treasure. You're home and safe and sound, and that's all that matters. You've come back to me."

Dad cupped the back of my head with his large hand, and I thought this homecoming tableau might go on forever. I squirmed free and dug out the handkerchief from Henry's pocket, crumbs spilling to the floor.

"I'm sorry I stole the biscuit, Mom."

She laughed, and a shadow passed behind her eyes. Maybe she had been wondering up to that point if I was indeed her flesh and blood, but mentioning the biscuit did the trick. Henry had stolen one from the table when he ran away from home, and while the others took him to the river, I stole and pocketed it. The crumbs proved that I was hers.

Well after midnight, they put me to bed, and such a comfort may be the greatest invention of mankind. In any case, it tops sleeping in a hole in the cold ground, a moldy rabbit skin for your pillow, and the grunts and sighs of a dozen changelings anxious in their dreams. I stretched out like a stick between the crisp sheets and pondered my good fortune. Many tales exist of failed changelings who are uncovered by their presumptive families. One child who showed up in a Nova Scotia fishing village so frightened his poor parents that they fled their own home in the middle of a snowstorm and were later found frozen and bobbing in the frigid harbor. A changeling girl, age six, so shocked her new parents when she opened her mouth to speak that, thus frightened, they poured hot wax into each other's ears and never heard another sound. Other parents, upon learning that their child had been replaced by changelings, had their hair turn white overnight, were stunned into catatonia, heart attacks, or sudden death. Worse yet, though rare, other families drive out the creature through exorcism, banishment, abandonment, murder. Seventy years ago, I lost a good friend after he forgot to make himself look older as he aged. Convinced he was a devil, his parents tied him up like an unwanted kitten in a gunnysack and threw him down a well. Most of the time, though, the parents are confounded by the sudden change of their son or daughter, or one spouse blames the other for their queer fortune. It is a risky endeavor and not for the fainthearted.

That I had come this far undetected caused me no small satisfaction, but I was not completely at ease. A half hour after I had gone to bed, the door to my room swung open slowly. Framed against the hallway light, Mr. and Mrs. Day stuck their heads through the opening. I shut my eyes to mere slits and pretended to be sleeping. Softly, but persistently, she was sobbing. None could cry with such dexterity as Ruth Day. "We have to mend our ways, Billy. You have to make sure this never happens again."

"I know, I promise," he whispered. "Look at him sleeping, though. 'The innocent sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care.'"

He pulled shut the door and left me in the darkness. My fellow changelings and I had been spying on the boy for months, so I knew the contours of my new home at the edge of the forest. Henry's view of their few acres and the world beyond was magical. Outside, the stars shone through the window above a jagged row of firs. Through the open windows, a breeze blew across the top of the sheets, and moths beat their wings in retreat from their perches on the window screen. The nearly full moon reflected enough light into the space to reveal the dim pattern on the wallpaper, the crucifix above my head, pages torn from magazines and newspapers tacked along the wall. A baseball mitt and ball rested on top of the bureau, and on the washstand a pitcher and bowl glowed as white as phosphorous. A short stack of books lay propped against the bowl, and I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of reading come morning.

The twins began bawling at the break of day. I padded down the hallway, past my new parents' room, following the sound. The babies hushed the moment they saw me, and I am sure that had they the gifts of reason and speech, Mary and Elizabeth would have said "You're not Henry" the moment I walked into the room. But they were mere tots, with more teeth than sentences, and could not articulate the mysteries of their young minds. With their clear wide eyes, they regarded my every move with quiet attentiveness. I tried smiling, but no smiles were returned. I tried making funny faces, tickling them under their fat chins, dancing like a puppet, and whistling like a mockingbird, but they simply watched, passive and inert as two dumb toads. Racking my brain to find a way to get through to them, I recalled other occasions when I had encountered something in the forest as helpless and dangerous as these two human children. Walking along in a lonesome glen, I had come across a bear cub separated from its mother. The frightened animal let out such a godforsaken scream that I half expected to be surrounded by every bear in the mountains. Despite my powers with animals, there was nothing to be done with a monster that could have ripped me open with a single swat. By crooning to the beast, I soothed it, and remembering this, I did so with my newfound sisters. They were enchanted by the sound of my voice and began at once to coo and clap their chubby hands while long strings of drool ran down their chins. "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "Bye, Baby Bunting" reassured or convinced them that I was close enough to be their brother, or preferable to their brother, but who knows for certain what thoughts flitted through their simple minds. They gurgled, and they gooed. In between songs, for counterpoint, I would talk to them in Henry's voice, and gradually they came to believe-or abandon their sense of disbelief.

Mrs. Day bustled into the babies' room, humming and tra—la—la—ing. Her general girth and amplitude amazed me; I had seen her many times before, but not quite at such close quarters. From the safety of the woods, she had seemed more or less the same as all adult humans, but in person, she assumed a singular tenderness, though she smelled faintly sour, a perfume of milk and yeast. She danced across the floor, throwing open curtains, dazzling the room with golden morning, and the girls, brightened by her presence, pulled themselves up by the slats of their cribs. I smiled at her, too. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into joyous laughter. She smiled back at me as if I were her only son.

"Help me with your sisters, would you, Henry?"

I picked up the nearest girl and announced very pointedly to my new mother, "I'll take Elizabeth." She was as heavy as a badger. It is a curious feeling to hold an infant one is not planning to steal; the very young convey a pleasant softness.

The girls' mother stopped and stared at me, and for a beat, she looked puzzled and uncertain. "How did you know that was Elizabeth? You've never been able to tell them apart."

"That's easy, Mom. Elizabeth has two dimples when she smiles and her name's longer, and Mary has just one."

"Aren't you the clever one?" She picked up Mary and headed off downstairs.

Reading Group Guide


“Utterly absorbing. . . . A luminous and thrilling novel about our humanity.”
The Washington Post

“I am a changeling—a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own” [p. 3].

The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Keith Donohue’s imaginative and unique tale, The Stolen Child.

1. Henry Day begins his narration with “Don’t call me a fairy” and then he takes the reader on a quasi-scientific account of the differences between fairies, hobgoblins, and other “sublunary spirits” [pp. 3–4]. Yet Aniday and the rest of the changelings refer to themselves as “faeries” throughout the book. Why does Henry insist on not being called a fairy? In what other ways does Henry attempt to distance himself from his prior existence?

2. Twins and other twosomes figure predominantly in the book: Henry and Aniday, Tess and Speck, Big Oscar and Little Oscar, Edward and Gustav, Mary and Elizabeth. Other characters form pairs: Luchóg and Smaolach, Kivi and Blomma, Onions and Béka, George Knoll and Jimmy Cummings. What is the significance of the doubles? In what ways can Henry and Aniday be read as two halves of one being? How does the author, beyond using two alternating narrators, play with the theme of doubles?

3. Rather than each chapter echoing its counterpart, the two stories run at different speeds until the end of the book. How does the author manage time in the novel? Where in the narrative does he relate the same incident from different perspectives and in different sequences?

4. When Henry and his friends attempt to synchronize their watches before looking for little Oscar Love, not one of them has the same time as the others. At other points in the story, Henry or Aniday forget the time of day or, in some cases, what year it is. What does that say about their place in time?

5. In chapter 35, Ruth Day says “I’ve known all along, Henry” [p. 301]. Similarly, Henry dreams of Tess changing her form and saying that she, too, knows the truth. What does Henry think they know about him?

6. A critical event in the novel is Bill Day’s suicide and Henry’s muted reaction. What did Bill come to understand about his son? Why do you think Henry’s mother, Ruth Day, didn’t react in a similar manner?

7. In the poem “The Stolen Child” by W. B. Yeats, the faeries attempt to entice the child away “for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” In what ways could the fairyland in Donohue’s novel be considered better than the real world? In what ways could it be considered worse?

8. The changeling legends were cautionary tales meant to illustrate the dangers of creatures that many people once believed in. As McInnes points out in the novel, they were also horrifying explanations for “failure to thrive,” physical deformities, or mental illness in children. Are Henry and Aniday’s stories cautionary tales? What do you make of the changeling who took the place of young Gustav Ungerland and never said another word?

9. What is the significance of music in Henry Day’s transformation? Does the final concert offer Henry a chance at redemption?

10. What role do books play in Aniday’s transformation? As Speck teaches Aniday to read and write, does his understanding of the world change? Is his memoir a chance at redemption?

11. Aniday’s predecessor is referred to as Chopin, but we never really know much about Gustav Ungerland as a changeling. Similarly, once Igel and the others depart the world, they are rarely discussed. Why do the faeries avoid mentioning those who have departed?

12. Why does Speck leave? What is the significance of her map on the ceiling? Do you think Aniday finds Speck?

13. The epigraph from “Nostos” by Louise Gluck states: “We look at the world once, in childhood. / The rest is memory.” Why do you think the author chose it? How does it relate to the novel?

14. Is this book a fairy tale for adults? If so, what is the moral of the story? Who, in the end, is the stolen child?

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Stolen Child 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 120 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Mischievous hobgoblins (an oxymoron) abduct seven years old Henry Day and replace him with an identically looking doppelganger. Over time the human Henry adapts to living with the hobgoblins though he notices major differences between him and his ¿family¿ for instance unlike him, they never seem to get older or wiser. The replacement Hobgoblin Henry uses his skills of a copy cat to create a successful musical career stealing the sound from talented humans he too has adjusted to being a human life. --- Still over the years the two Henrys consistently feel out of place in their respective world, and that sense of not belonging grows even as they adjust to their environs. Neither can hold a relationship for even a small time period as their alienation widens. Soon each looks back to their early childhood to try to learn why they feel like such an outsider, but their memories are murky at best and seem impossible to have been real. Impossible that is until decades later when Henry meets Henry. --- Though a fantasy, THE STOLEN CHILD is more a deep character study that digs inside the souls (can a hobgoblin have a soul?) of two individuals who have always felt estranged and unhappy with their respective lives as neither believe they belong. The story line cleverly rotates between the Henrys over the years with each passing chapter in their lives just compounding the sentiment of alienation with those around them. Fans will appreciate this powerful yet low keyed (at least the paranormal elements) tale star strangers in a strange land though each has grown up as part of the landscape. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I finished this book several days ago and it still has a grip on me. The contrast of the two perspectives is what made this book work so well. Timelessness vs. time, Adult vs. child, Growing up vs. stunted 'emotional' growth, living vs. existing. There are unanswered questions in this book, and its not all spelled out for the reader. So, if you do not like to think and if you like the author to do all the work don't bother reading this. Also, this book is Character driven, not action driven. It is a search into the very fabric of who we are and who we are not. Be ready for those one-liners that make you stop reading and say 'wow...let me think about that a second' and be ready for the desire to jump into the story. There is one line in the story I think readers should keep in mind when they finish the book, 'Novelists construct elaborate lies to throw off readers from discovering the meaning behind the words and symbols, as if it could be known.' This is a great book. And I think I will always be haunted by it, it has changed me.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I apparently wasn't as taken in by this book as most other reviewers. I found it an "okay" read, but it never captured me the way I had expected, based on the opinions of others. It did move somewhat slowly, and I kept thinking that maybe something big was going to happen at the end to redeem it, but that never happened for me. So all in all, I was rather disappointed in this one.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had this book sitting on my shelf since it debuted and had been meaning to get to it. I'm glad I did as it was a great read. I won't give spoilers, but I feel this book would have hit 4 stars had it not seemed to almost change style during the last few chapters. If it had maintained as strongly from beginning to end, it would certainly have been a 4 star. Still, well worth the read and I hope to see more works from Keith Donohue.
alice443 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book somewhat difficult to read. It tells the story of two changlings, two who traded lives, from their points of view alternately. It is predominately sad and dark as neither feels safe or if he is where he belongs and both find that their memory is faulty. But it is an interesting take on the myth of changlings and it made me think a lot about the dangers children faced in the distant past when these myths were born.
she_climber on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this as part of my bookclub selection and I have to say I wasn't excited upon reading the back of the book which promised to "appeal to the fans of JRR Tolkien". I don't like fantasy it's just not my thing, but I have to say I throughly enjoyed this book and enjoyed the characters, plot and writing.
sruszala on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the bloggers at the "blogger-signings" we hosted at BookExpo America last year recommended this book to me. I wish I could remember who it was because what a great recommendation. The book is haunting, beautifully written, and enchanting--I love when you can feel the weight of the story's environment on you as you read, and this is certainly the case here--the darkness and life of the woods is clearly present as you read. I felt the same way about Snow Falling on Cedars. Besides the environment, the story itself is compelling--and sentimental too, as it harks back to a different era that can never be recaptured. All in all, not a book I would have picked up on my own but so glad someone else put it in my hands.
ThorneStaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Stolen Child both draws you in and repels you as you read the story of Henry Day and the hobgoblin who takes his place, also an unfortunate who had been stolen from his home a century before. The story is told in tandem, alternating chapters between the real Henry Day who, once stolen, becomes the changling Aniday and his archnemesis, the changling referred to as Chopin because of his talent for the piano, who takes Henry Day's place and lives out his life in the upper world. The changling children - who remain children forever until and unless they change places with another stolen child - live in the forest and are variously referred to as faeries and hobgoblins. An interesting story, but it will take hold of your dreams if you let it.
ladycato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a peculiar tale told by two narrators - two boys, both stolen by changlings. One of them, after a hundred year wait, assumes the identity of Henry Day and goes on to lead a full human life; the real Henry Day is renamed Aniday and endures life with a dozen other wild children in the woods, each awaiting their own chance to become a true human again. If that is even possible.It took me about halfway into this book to become engrossed, and then I was in deep once the stories began to converge. It's a beautifully written story that is tragic on many levels. I was particularly moved by the plight of Henry's father and then the fake-Henry's quest to discover his true German family of a century before. But the ending? I like my endings a bit more tidy. There is some resolution but I would have liked more, especially for Aniday. It is a fairy tale for adults, both a work of modern fiction and fantasy, and at times very bleak. If you like fairy tales - the old Brothers Grimm, non-censored sort - then read this book.
berylweidenbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was enchanted with this story. It's hard to believe that this is the author's first book! To truly appreciate the beauty of this book, you must be willing to accept the idea of magic and unexplainable events. If you can do that, you will experience a story that is utterly unforgetable!! Seven year old Henry Day in a fit of temper runs to the woods and hides. While he is gone, he is exchanged by hobgoblins for another stolen child who has been waiting a century in the forest for his chance to grow up in the world. The changelings have been studying Henry for over a year to make sure his replacement can fool his new family. Now it will be Henry's turn to spend a century or so in the woods as a permanant 'child' with the other changlings, a dozen or so in all until it is his turn to replace a 'real' child and grow up. The story is told from the point of view of both 'Henry's' the origional and the new one. There are many, many layers to discover and embrace as their lives unfold in alternate chapters until the stories intersect. The enchantment of being forever a child versus the very real need to grow up, experiencing the belonging of family while being true to yourself, the unique gifts that make us who we are yet push us onward to discover who we can become are only a few of questions that are suggested by the authors wonderful prose and lyrical style. Certainly a book that will leave you thinking long after the last page. I did not want it to end, and strongly recommend it as one of the BEST BOOKS I have ever read!!!
reba345 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. It was hard to put it down, and i had to pass it off to someone else to read immediatly. Perfect mix of reality and fantasy and the way it goes back and forth between different perpectives is neat. As soon as I heard the author had put out another book I snatched it right up.
SilversReviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fairies, trees, switching places, family, trust, secrets, longing to return........Henry Day was tired of babysitting his sisters and ran into the woods after his mother insisted that he help more with them. The changelings took him that very afternoon. The changelings steal children after watching their daily routines for about a year to see if the child is the right one for the change and if it is the life the fairy would want to live. The "stolen" child who replaces the fairy has to adapt to new surroundings, learn new things, and become used to a new life without any familiar people or family. The fairy duplicate usually makes out better since he knew everything about the stolen child and his family thus making acclamation to the new life in the human world a lot easier.The changelings that lived in the forest were scavengers, thieves, and had mean dispositions....they ate bugs, berries, killed rabbits and squirrels, and stole things from the humans¿they went directly into homes and businesses. The descriptions of their antics, how they lived, and what they did ¿grabbed¿ you so much that it made you afraid to go into the back yard in case they were hiding there doing their nightly stealing of clothes off the line or food in the houses since they could slip through any cracks by making their bodies squeeze thin. :)The book goes back and forth describing the lives of the switched children...each telling his story...the one growing into adulthood and the other remaining a child.A childhood stolen is what I would call what happened...I felt bad for the AniDay (Henry Day), the child who was taken by the changelings and went into the fairy world...he seemed to have a difficult time with the change¿he wanted to go back, but couldn¿t¿he had to wait his turn. It would be difficult to forget everything from your past, but eventually they do.The book was interesting, definitely different, and also so mysterious that you couldn't stop reading, but you also kept looking over your shoulder....4/5.I enjoyed it as the pages continued to turn¿the ending was thoughtful and heartwarming.
snat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Feeling ignored and tired of his twin baby sisters getting all of the attention, young Henry Day decided to run away one day in the 1940's. Henry never returned home; in fact, he ceased to exist, but no one noticed. Why? Henry was abducted by the hobgoblins who lived in the nearby forest and a changeling was left in his place--a changeling who had been studying everything about Henry and knew how to mimic him so perfectly that no one could tell the difference. The novel follows the boy and the changeling for the next 30 to 40 years and tells their story in alternating first person narratives that, in the beginning, were a little confusing, but rightly so as both children are confused about their identities as they adapt to their new world. Their lives run parallel to one another and occasionally intersect to disastrous results. A friend of mine described this book as "melancholy," and I think that's the perfect adjective to sum up my feelings after reading this book. For one, the changelings are not villains. They are all children who had their lives stolen from them and are now biding their time until they can reclaim what was forcefully and brutally taken from them. As a result, I feel sorry for both Aniday (the name given to Henry after he becomes one of the changelings) and Gustav (the changeling who takes Henry's place). Often in a fantasy, you get the joy of hating the evil-doer or the monster lurking in the dark, but here the evil is something nebulous and never clearly defined. I think this is partially due to the allegorical nature of the plot. In a sense, life is the monster in that it's a force of nature that can't be stopped or reasoned with. For each of us, our childhood must eventually end and, as children, we often can't wait to grow up and find out who and what we'll be. To do so, we have to cut ourselves away from the child we were so that we can embrace the adult we'll become. We leave a "changeling"--a collection of memories and childish desires and emotions that revisit us throughout our lives, but the child version of ourselves is like a stranger we once knew. Also, as we get older, many of us look back on the innocence of childhood with a sense of nostalgia and think, if only upon occasion, "if only I could go back" or "wouldn't it be great to be a child forever?" The answer provided by Donohue is no; that the romantic view of childhood is just that--the tinge of rose-colored glasses. The changelings are not The Wild Boys; sure they are given to fun, frivolity, and mischief, but theirs is not a life to be envied. It is a constant struggle for survival against the harsh elements and the encroachment of man as civilization and suburbia threaten the wilderness where they were able to secret themselves away. They long to grow up and are trapped in tiny bodies while their emotional and mental maturity continues, unimpeded. They wait and they yearn and they think about all they will never have and all they will never be.In presenting the changeling myth for modern times, Donohue has given us a haunting and beautiful examination of childhood and the search for identity. And he has done so in humanity¿s most enduring medium: that of myth.
SandyLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story of hobgoblins and changelings is told by two Henry Days, one is a seven-year-old who ran away from home and the other by the replacement Henry Day. The real Henry was kidnapped by a clan of hobgoblins. The replacement made himself look like the real Henry and has now taken his place with Henry¿s family. The clan members had spent a year studying the real Henry, to learn his likes and dislikes, to find out about each of the family members so those closest to Henry wouldn¿t suspect he wasn¿t the real deal. The one thing about hobgoblins is that they never age. They also at some point in their life were also replaced. The replacement Henry used to be a concert pianist in his true life almost a century ago. This talent is the first clue the father has that something isn¿t quite right with Henry. His parents are thrilled that searchers had found Henry after he disappeared but the father¿s suspicions grow. By telling the story in each of the Henrys points of view the reader understands the struggle the real Henry has with accepting life among the hobgoblins while realizing every memory he had of his real life was fading. The replacement Henry struggles with making sure he isn¿t caught while realizing he too is having a hard time remembering his previous life. As the replacement Henry gets older, marries and has a child, he starts to fear for his own son¿s life, knowing the hobgoblins might target his son next. This was a spellbinding, mesmerizing read that does a great balancing act between fantasy and reality.
M00nlitDreams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this story revolving around the Changeling Myth. Awesome storytelling!
Stir on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating, fantasy tale that switches back and forth between two characters searching for their identity. Author did a great job of exploring their search without overdoing it. Like a true fairy tale the story is a little spooky. I loved the way the author included explanations on how/why folklore about faeries may have come into existence.
decidetoi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't read many fantasy books. Maybe that's why I quite liked the book. Unfortunately, the book is uneven, there are some a bit longish and boring parts. The most interesting for me is the beginning when you become familiar with the story and characters; and of course the ending - it is rather unpredictable (yet, not as exciting as you would expect). It is a kind of book that helps you forget the surrounding reality and you cannot wait till you resume reading to know what's next. However, it's not as gripping and luminous as is promised on the book cover. Three stars.
yourotherleft on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Or better yet, I am a changeling - a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own. The hobgoblin becomes the child, and the child becomes a hobgoblin... The changelings select carefully, for such opportunities come along only once a decade or so. A child who becomes part of our society might have to wait a century before his turn in the cycle arrives, when he can become a changeling and reenter the human world.The Stolen Child opens on the day that the changelings steal 7-year-old Henry Day. Frustrated with his mother and his twin little sisters, Henry runs away to the forest. Someone returns to fill Henry's place, but it is not Henry. Henry, meanwhile, is abducted by the rest of the changelings and made into one of them, condemned to endless childhood until the opportunity arises to steal the life of some other unfortunate child. The changelings christen him Aniday, and as he becomes a part of their tribe, his former life and even his name slip away from his memory. Meanwhile, the changeling who became Henry Day struggles at once to embrace his new identity and discover the truth of his first life while vehemently trying to forget his many decades as a changeling. Both Aniday and the new Henry Day make uneasy homes within their unexpected lives. Donohue reveals the lives of the twelve changelings who make their home in the forest growing, scavenging, and stealing enough provisions to get by and preparing for the time when the next in line will reenter the human world. In alternating chapters, Donohue follows the fake Henry Day as he executes a believable imitation of Henry at the same time as he rediscovers his great talent from his first life. Both strive against the forgetting to know again what their lives once were and these desperate strivings will inevitably cause their two paths to cross once more.The Stolen Child is a fascinating book. It's beautifully executed literary fantasy that grapples intriguingly with ideas of art, memory, and humanity while at the same time causing us to think, "What if?" Donohue works the angles of this story with ease never allowing us for a second to lose our sympathies for each and every one of the characters despite the fact that their mere existence and their potential to steal away children is the stuff of parents' worst nightmares. Donohue makes it easy to comprehend the desperation to regain a human life that drives the changelings to steal a child after decades of ageless boredom in the forest, but then he doesn't let us forget the real Henry Day, unwittingly robbed of his life, either. I was totally caught up in Donohue's tale. Each and every character is totally fleshed out and so engrossing that readers will desperately want to know them even more. Donohue's prose is stunning, bringing to surreal life the ultimately ordinary forest dwelling of the changelings in all seasons and bringing to the surface the clouded memories of the changelings. Despite their less than human existence, this story about faeries is ultimately about being human. It's about how music and the written word and the act of creation in itself are what preserve and renew our lives in our memory. It's about the wonders of an endless childhood but also about the need to grow old. It's a story with so many characters and layers that I can't hope to enumerate them all here. It's book that will intrigue you and leave you thinking about it long after you've turned the last page.Memory, which so confounds our waking life with anticipation and regret, may well be our one earthly consolation when time slips out of joint.
Laurenbdavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book, well written and well thought out. Inspired by Yeats's poem of the same name. Sad, mysterious and utterly engaging, the book is not only a great story, but a meditation on loneliness, longing and belonging. Recommended.
mandolin82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantasy, nicely written. However it was moving too slowly for me and I didn't finish it.
tamora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This fantasy about a changling explores the question of what makes someone a human being. It's a very special book.
ShellyS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book started a bit slow for me, with what is basically an infodump, but it didn't take long for the narrative to snare me in its web. There are two, alternating povs, a hobgoblin who has become a changeling by taking the life of a child stolen away, and the child, Henry Day, now named Aniday, who has been turned into a never-aging hobgoblin living in hiding in the forest. The book moves from 1949 through the '70s, following the life of the new Henry who struggles with emerging memories of his own human life a century ago while trying to maintain his new identity, shifting his body as Henry would naturally age, wondering if the hobgoblins will come to snatch him back as he rediscovers the humanity that once had been his. Meanwhile, Aniday must adjust to his new life, maturing mentally while stuck in a misshapen, unaging body while his memories of his past life slowly fade.Over the years, "Henry" and Aniday form relationships in their new lives. Henry falls in love. Aniday grows fond of spec, a female hobgoblin. But lurking in the background is the feeling that something is wrong, and they aren't truly comfortable with what they are. Aniday longs to return to his old life even as he forgets it. Henry seeks his humanity in music, a talent he had in his old, first human life. A chance encounter sets the two of them on a collision path.I won't say more about the story. I wouldn't want to take the wonder away. This is a truly magical book, filled with all manner of emotion from joy to despair, exploring what it means to be human along with the goals we set for ourselves, our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our loved ones. This simple, beautifully told story and its vivid characters will stay with me a long time.
marguerlucy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very interesting take on changelings - told from the points of view of both the changeling and the boy whose life he stole.
JulieQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining story of Henry Day and the changeling with who he involuntarily switched places. The two characters have to come to grips with their new lives and the journey they have to take to achieve peace.I really enjoyed this book even though it was slow moving. And like the previous poster commented I also kept waiting for something big to happen, and when it didn't I figured well that's the way life sometimes goes. I also thought while reading that there was more about Tess than the author let on. The two main themes in the book that I think of are the end of innocence (even though changelings are more mischievous by nature) and the devastation that development brings. I don't know.......I just know that this is now one of my favorites.
tangential1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story has real characters in it. Real characters that are developed over time that grow and have internal conflict and realistic interactions with other characters...this is not a characteristic of fantasy. There was also very little actual action. The plot is moved more by time moving on and those events and elements of life that change with time. Slowly, the theme of the book became clear: this is a novel of self realization, of growing up. It really sucks you in because you want to know what happens to the two characters that the author is exploring. The two Henry Days. Both learn that your identity has nothing to do with the name you use. Your family is not necessarily the blood relatives you have, but rather those people that love and care for you. I really liked the underlying message of faith as well, not necessarily faith in a religious sense, but faith that things will work out and that things happen for a reason...that we learn things from all experiences even if they seem bad at the time. That our experiences are what make us who we are and thus we must acknowledge them, even if they are painful, in order to be happy in the future.I was distinctly reminded of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger while reading this book. I'm not sure what about it exactly. They have a similar underlying theme, I suppose. And the writing style is fairly similar in that it explores two personalities in the first person to tell a more complete story and reinforce the themes. I suppose they kind of just have the same outlook on life, which shines through their writing. I'd be interested in finding out what others think about this comparison of authors.