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“Best learn to mind your tongue, or it will forever bring you trouble,” Granny Hedgepath. –Guest: A Changeling Tale
Guest: A Changeling Tale
by Mary Downing Hahn
Mollie knows that it’s dangerous to praise a baby. The Kinde Folke, who are anything but kind, may overhear and snatch the beautiful child away. Mollie loves her baby brother Thomas and somehow flattering words escape. She knows her baby brother could be snatched, but she isn’t expecting a hideous changeling to take his place. When her brother disappears, her father leaves town and her mother tries to keep the changeling alive. Mollie’s mother hopes that the Kinde Folke will take the changeling home and return Thomas.
Mollie watches the joy and strength leave her mother. In the hopes of saving her family, Mollie decides to sneak away and return Guest (the changeling) to the Kinde Folke. But the Kinde Folke do not want Guest back, and they will do everything in their power to keep Mollie from finding them. Determined, Mollie journeys over mountains and through forests filled with otherworldly foes. Can Mollie find the treacherous Kinde Folke and convince them to let go of her brother?
Mary Downing Hahn weaves a tale of frightening fairies who use trickery and violence to keep Mollie from finding her brother. Although the Irish folklore is interesting, none of the characters in the story are likable. Mollie is spoiled, mean, and says hateful words. The story hints that Guest’s father cares about him, but the man only steps in to help when Mollie and Guest are in danger. Even though Guest is described as a disgustingly ugly changeling, he grows as a person and realizes that his previous actions were wrong. Readers may be put off by the host of unlikeable characters.
As Mollie searches for her brother, she continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. If it wasn’t for the help of the traveler and sympathetic Kinde Folke, Mollie would have surely met her demise. In the end, Mollie is reunited with her brother; however, he is so mean and ill-tempered that the reader will wish that the fairy queen had sacrificed him as she had planned.
Mollie travels through the forest and has to overcome many difficulties. The changing relationship between Mollie and Guest will give readers hope. Throughout the story, several people ask Mollie, “Why must you speak your mind without giving a thought to what you say?” By reading Mollie’s story, readers will understand the need to think before they talk. Readers who are interested in folklore and the darker side of fairies will enjoy Guest: A Changeling Tale. Readers interested in folklore with mischievous and often dangerous characters should try better alternatives, such as 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison or The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
- Mollie finds out that Guest’s father is Madog. Guest’s half-brother says that Guest’s mother “should not have lain with Madog.”
- Mollie’s mother thinks about taking the changeling baby to the crossroads. “Those who’d killed themselves were buried in this place. Murderers, too, and thieves, all those who weren’t allowed to lie in the churchyard. Changelings and unwanted babies had both been left here to die.”
- A Stallion horse takes Mollie into the sky. When she asks to be returned, “I understood that the horse meant to dive into the lake and drown me. I lunged to one side, but the black threads of his mane wrapped themselves around me and held me fast. Into the water we plunged, going so deep, I thought I’d never see the sky again. . . I used all of my strength to push the silver heart against the horse’s neck. With a shudder, the stallion threw me from his back.” Mollie is able to swim to the surface, but the Stallion races after her. “And then, though I scarce believed what I saw, the horse changed to a man as beautiful and wild as the horse.” With the help of the traveler, Mollie is saved.
- Guest tells Mollie that his birth mother does “not like me. Scream, hit, hurt me.”
- Creatures “wearing tattered leaves and cobwebs” try to get Mollie to follow them. When she doesn’t, “they surrounded us, hundreds of them, no bigger than wasps. . . No longer pretending to be friendly, they pinched us, they bit. They pulled our hair as if they meant to yank it out. They tore our clothes as if they wished to strip us to our bare skin.” Mollie thrust the locket at the Tinies and “at its touch, the creatures shrieked in pain and spiraled upward.”
- The Kinde Folke tricked Mollie into believing a wolf was her brother Thomas. The wolf “struggled to escape, and when I tightened my hold on him, he snarled and sunk his teeth into my arm. Shocked, I let him go. His lips drew back and exposed long, sharp teeth. Fur covered his body. . . As he leaned over me, poised to attack, I pulled out the locket and pressed it as hard as I could against one of his eyes. With a savage howl, he leapt backwards, one eye gone, nothing left of it but a smoking hole and the stench of burned flesh.”
- One of the Kinde Folke appears to Mollie and her companions. When they go into a circle, “Green flames raced across the ground toward us. My skin tingled and my hair crackled. Guest and Aidan glowed as if they were burning from within. The flames vanished as quickly as they’d come, and a terrible silence fell.” When Aidan approached the woman, “the lady struck his face with her open hand. Aidan’s head snapped back and he raised an arm to protect himself from the second blow.” When the woman asks Mollie a question, Mollie stays quiet. “The air stirred before I felt the blow. Stumbling backwards, I almost knocked Guest down. He whimpered and held my skirt tightly.”
- When Madog tries to keep Mollie from following the Kinde Folke, she “yanked the locket from around my neck and thrust it into Madog’s face. With a cry of pain, he sprang back.” When the Kinde Folke try to convince Mollie to go with them, she lifted “the locket high, I thrust it against their shoulders, their faces, their arms, their hands. The dancers screamed in pain.” The Kinde Folke flee.
- The Kinde Folke plan on sacrificing Mollie’s brother. One of the Kinde Folke tells her, “Every seven years, we are sworn to give the Dark Lord of these lands a tithe. That’s the price we pay to roam the world as free as the wind.”
- When a girl spills wine, the Kinde Folke’s queen called her a “stupid, clumsy girl.” The queen then “slapped Aislinn’s face so hard, the girl nearly fell from her chair.”
- When Mollie steals her sleeping brother from the Kinde Folke, the Kinde Folke try to get him back. “The hounds were upon us, dark, long and lean, red-eyed and sharp-toothed, more like shadows than actual dogs. They ripped at the horses’ legs, leapt at their throats, and tried to pull us to the ground.” In order to escape, someone gives Mollie a pouch. Mollie “fumbled with the cord and then hurled the sack at the Kinde Folke. Its contents exploded in a flash of lighting. Small iron balls shot into the Kinde Folke crowded around us. They screamed in pain and tried to shield themselves.” Mollie and her companions are able to flee.
- While Mollie and her companions are fleeing, “a strange darkness fell upon us. . . Thunder crashed so loudly the earth seemed to shake. Lightning exploded across the sky with a force that split the clouds.” The Dark Lord speaks, then he “destroyed the Kinde Folke just as he said he would.”
- When Mollie brings her brother home, their father is afraid the Kinde Folke will seek vengeance. He says, “Remember what they did to the Millers’ barn and house—burned them both to the ground just because Mistress Miller refused to call them kind.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- A shapeshifter gives Mollie a “pretty little blue bottle.” The shapeshifter said the bottle contained “my elixir of health.” But Guest hit the bottle, which poured onto the ground. When a butterfly drank the elixir, “in a moment, it lay still and the ferns around it withered.”
- During a ceremony, the Kinde Folke drinks wine. When a girl drops a glass of wine, someone says, “Bring more wine. But give none to this one. She’s had more than enough already.”
- Mollie’s brother is given a potion that puts him to sleep.
- Mollie has an iron necklace that is covered in silver. When the necklace touches a Kinde Folke, the necklace hurts them.
- The story centers around the Kinde Folke, who have magical powers. “Worst of all, if the Kinde Folke learned of a beautiful baby boy’s birth, they’d steal him away and leave one of their own sickly creatures in his place.”
- Pookas, which are ghosts, “live in dark lakes and take lasses.” A Pooka turns into a stallion and tries to keep Mollie from entering the Kinde Folke’s Dark Lands.
- Tinies lead people into the swamp and drown them.
- The Kinde Folke try to trick Mollie. Two of them “glamorized to look like” her parents.
- Mollie is given a cloak that had invisibility woven into every thread.
- Some of the characters can shapeshift.