The Changeling Folklore Explained: Why Did Emma Do It?

Apple TV+’s horror fantasy series The Changeling asks us to imagine the unimaginable.

Clark Backo in The Changeling
Photo: Apple

This article contains spoilers for The Changeling

In 1999, Irish director Neil Jordan released a movie called In Dreams. Having already found success with The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire, people were curious about this new Robert Downey Jr.-led psychological thriller based on the book Doll’s Eyes by Bari Wood (stay with me). The film, which tells the story of what happens after a little girl is suddenly murdered, ended up being critically panned and a massive flop at the box office. Later, Jordan would say that one of the main issues with his film was that audiences really struggle to get over the death of a young child in the first act.

Apple TV+‘s The Changeling is just the latest project to challenge audiences with a similar kind of horror, except it asks even more of viewers by spinning a folklore mystery around the reason for a child’s death, hoping that we are curious enough about the person who committed the act to follow the love of her life down a disturbing rabbit hole.

In the first three episodes of the streamer’s horror fantasy series, used book seller Apollo Kagwa and librarian Emma Valentine meet, flirt, and finally go on a date, only to have their romance put on hold when Emma travels to Brazil, where she meets a strange witch by a waterfall and makes three wishes. These wishes will come true, she is told, as long as she doesn’t cut a red string off her wrist and allows it to fall off naturally. Apollo, thinking this tale is ludicrous upon Emma’s return, cuts off the string himself, and the couple go on to get married and have a beautiful baby son called Brian.


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