a fair enough trade
September 14, 2019 10:16 AM   Subscribe

here’s a story about changelings. Mary was a beautiful baby, sweet and affectionate, but by the time she’s three she’s turned difficult and strange, with fey moods and a stubborn mouth that screams and bites but never says mama. But her mother’s well-used to hard work with little thanks, and when the village gossips wag their tongues she just shrugs, and pulls her difficult child away from their precious, perfect blossoms, before the bites draw blood...
posted by sciatrix (11 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Having read the short stories they read as Abelist to me. Neuro diverse behaviours being attributed to the Fey/Faries is mythological/folklore whimsy at its worst
posted by Faintdreams at 10:53 AM on September 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Faintdreams, I read them as precisely the opposite. The parents saw the worth of their children, and their children found their place in a world that didn't feel quite right for them while growing up.

For me, mapping real world issues onto a fantastic premise is fantasy at it's most powerful.
posted by wires at 11:27 AM on September 14, 2019 [29 favorites]

Oh, see, I felt rather differently: one, because there's no indication in the stories themselves that the focal characters are actually fey; just that that's the way that their fellows interpret the protagonists' behaviors. And two, because the ableism I often see with respect to autism and neurodiversity focuses heavily on Othering and identifying autistic people as wildly different from other kinds of people, often unknowably so... and also describing autistic people as something new that is discrete from the rest of human history.

Just because the other people in the story attribute the protagonists' behavior to being fey doesn't mean that the author is doing so. Nor does it mean that the protagonists are being particularly Othered even within that categorization of changelings or fey--in fact, the story heavily implies that the characters are really just people, like the other people around them. The "magic" skills of the characters are clearly described as being really expertise as a function of interest and practice, just like in real life.

I read this story as being a story about the ways that allistic people perceive autistic people, and the ways in which those perceptions have carved a space for autistic people to just exist as they are in a category that makes cultural sense for the people around them. I don't think it's actually fantasy at all. I think it's historical fiction.
posted by sciatrix at 11:30 AM on September 14, 2019 [52 favorites]

Sciatrix said it well. I enjoyed the stories.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:58 AM on September 14, 2019

I think it's historical fiction.

I would go as far as to call it modern, even. Because it's not as if the horrific trauma that able-bodied people inflict on disabled people, to make them look acceptable, has changed much at all. Sure, they won't call them changelings and abandon them in the woods anymore. But they'll call them autistic and force them into ABA. Or they'll call them deaf and tie up their hands and make them speak.

I read these stories as tales that model respectful treatment and parenting: I wish my parents just let me grow as I needed to growing up. God knows it would have saved me a lot of hours of one-on-one intervention time with specialists, not to mention the electroshock therapy.
posted by Conspire at 12:06 PM on September 14, 2019 [16 favorites]

I read these stories as tales that model respectful treatment and parenting

This was my take as well. We need new fables and simple stories that show the best ways to treat people who aren't like the majority. We need more of this.
posted by seasparrow at 9:21 PM on September 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

sciatrix, I completely agree with your read on it, and it was extremely sweet as a person who works in community mental health with children and their parents to read these little tales of such kind and respectful treatment toward kiddos. I wish this kind of story were the most common and believe that it can be. thank you very much for posting this, it gave me some lovely feelings of hope.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:34 AM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I thought the point was that they were commenting on/reacting to the original (ablist) changeling stories- where the "strange" child is unmasked as a changeling and killed or sent back to the Fey- and saying, even if your child isn't exactly like you, they are your child and perfect as they are.
posted by Shark Hat at 2:59 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

These stories are well worth reading, thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks, I needed that. I've been feeling like I'm out of my niche for a while now, and this definitely helps with a sense of belonging.
posted by ambrosen at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yep, I totally identified with the protagonists in these stories, and the idea that they might be seen as a little bit magic, but still completely accepted by family and society, was delightful.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:08 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

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