Wechselbalg in German mythology. The elves or dwarfs sometimes purloin well-formed children from the cradle, and put their own ugly, deformed children, or even themselves, in their stead. These spurious beings are therefore called Wechselbailge. The object for changing seems to be a desire on the part of the elves to improve their race. A protection against such changing, in the popular estimation, is to place a key or a part of the father's clothing, or steel or sewing needles, in the cradle. An interesting piece of superstition is the manner of freeing one's self from such a Wechselbalg. It is necessary, first, by some strange and unusual act, to bring him to an acknowledgment of his own age, and then of the theft and change, upon which he immediately withdraws and the stolen child returns, as the elves want nothing gratis. For example, if the Wechselbalg should see water boiling in egg-shells over a fire, he calls out, "Now I am as old as Westerwald, and have never yet seen water boil in egg-shells."

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