Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Sleep, you black-eyed pig,
Fall into a pit full of ghosts.

– from Iceland, early 19th century


JustPeachy said...

The current theory at our house is that quite a lot of lullabies were composed by desperately sleep-deprived parents of colicky infants. Probably at about that point where the baby has been crying for an hour, and Mama is hallucinating with exhaustion.

John said...


G. Verloren said...


While that's a darkly amusing angle to take, there's also a pretty long and widespread historical association of babies and young children with the dead or the spirit world, presumably due to historically high infant and child mortality rates.

Many cultures prior to modern medicine seemed to have various ways of emotionally distancing themselves from young children who might never make it to childhood. When you're constantly living with the fear that your child might go cold in the night and die without you ever understanding why, you need coping mechanisms to stay sane, and one of the most obvious conclusions to draw is that young children simply aren't fully alive yet - they straddle the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead. If you go into parenthood with the expectation that your child will always already be one foot in the grave until they reach a certain age, it's easier to move on with life if and when you do lose them.

Often it ties somewhat into a notion of lingeringly otherworldliness - that children are innocent and pure because they're partly divine or celestial beings, and that in some sense they don't actually belong in the impure physical world, and may be called back to where they truly belong, to be spared the trials and tribulations of mortality. This also connects to widespread notions of children (and often animals) being more sensitive to the supernatual - able to see ghosts or spirits which others more firmly rooted in the physical world cannot. Compare also to stories of fey and spirits being drawn to children, as well as concepts such as changelings.