Malekin, a stolen child

Who was Malekin?

Somewhere around 1100 and recorded in a twelfth-century account by Ralph of Coggeshall, a strange occurrence was taking place at the Castle Dagworth in Suffolk. People had been experiencing inexplicable things. They would hear a voice, the same youthful voice of a child. Items would move on their own and harmless tricks were being played. Most were convinced the Castle was haunted and were initially very concerned by her presence. No one quite knew what to make of their new poltergeist. It seems her particular breed of haunting was so banal and even enjoyable, however, that it wasn’t long before fear turned to genuine affection. While invisible to the naked human eye, her playful, kind chatter and silly antics about the castle earned her a special place at Dagworth. The servants were happy to talk with her since she was intelligent and enjoyed joking about all manner of things. She even spoke in Latin and would have extensive conversations with the resident Chaplain about the scriptures. 

 While Malekin was indeed invisible and able to float things here and there, she was in point of fact, not a ghost. Rather, she turned out to be a young fairy child. More accurately even than that, she was a stolen human baby with fairy qualities and living in the fairy world. When just a babe, she was stolen from the cornfield while her mother was working. When she shared this bit of information with a maidservant whom Malekin had taken a special liking to, it had been seven years since the abduction and she expected it to be another seven before she could return to the human world. Malekin’s friend had taken it upon herself to provide Malekin with a bowl of food for her every night, much like you would give to a Brownie. Things like bread, porridge, cream and cakes, presumably. This kindness, perhaps, is what drew Malekin to her and prompted the courage to show herself to the young maidservant after many overtures. Once she’d promised no to touch Malekin or try to grab her or prevent her leaving in any way, the young fairy child consented to appear before her friend. The maidservant said she was a very tiny child dressed in a white linen tunic. No one else seems to have had the privilege to meet Malekin face to face. It must have been quite a risk for her to allow even such a friend to see her. 

We know Malekin was bright and well educated, able to converse with many different people on different topics. Knowing what we do about changelings, fairies in general, and more specifically fairy food, it seems quite possible Malekin had worked out a way to avoid eating fairy food and maintain her ability to return to the human world. It has been speculated (Briggs) that if a human were to eat fairy food, they would be unable to return to the human world and belong to the world of fairy until their death. Likely, when she was taken, a changeling was left behind in her place. It might have been an unwanted fairy baby, or perhaps an enchanted piece of wood made in her likeness. The idea here was to trick the human parents into believing their child had died or get rid of an unwanted fairy so the fair folk could keep the human baby unhindered. Nevertheless, Malekin had evidently decided she desired to return home someday and maintained her ability to reunite with the human world when the allotted time was up. No doubt the small meals left for her by her friend at Dagworth went a long way toward Malekin’s goal. She’s an incredibly rare example of a child taken by the fairies. Not only because stories of female babies are uncommon, but also due to the rarity of interaction with stolen human children. I believe her story came to light due to a spirit so sweet and bright that not even the fairy realm could contain it.