Where legends come from

I’m currently reading a rambling non-fiction “thriller” by a (former?) FBI agent involved in profiling serial criminals. Mindhunter. He points out early on that this (serial offenses) is a relatively recent phenomena, with “Jack the Ripper” in the late 1800s generally acknowledged as the beginning. I had never thought of this before, about crime patterns changing in this way.

Then, almost in opposition to what he’s just said, John Douglas muses that perhaps these types of crimes aren’t as new as we’d like to think, and suggests this may be where the stories of “witches, vampires and werewolves,” come from. Human beings just can’t do these sorts of things to each other, right? And so the peoples of Europe and early America had to explain what could treat humans so viciously.

Interesting theory. It builds on two ideas I buy into: 1) “There is nothing new under the sun.” and 2) Legends usually have at least some basis in reality.

I may do a longer post about it later, but I read once the idea of “changelings” (or the title) was very likely attached to physically and/or mentally handicapped children. I shudder to think how the “cures” would have been applied to such helpless individuals.

[Added 7-11-06]

Here are three links related to the changeling issue (in lieu of my writing more myself):

An Essay by D.L. Ashlimin, who does the Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (1865) that has a different take entirely on changlings

An article that looks to be a defense of Martin Luther (shown negatively in the above documents). As of this writing I haven’t yet read it, but am linking it so I can find it to read when I have the time.

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