Hannibal Free Public Library

The Stolen Child

Keith Donohue

September 24, 2012

Stolen from his family by changelings, Henry Day is given the name "Aniday" by the ageless and magical beings, who replace him with another child who takes his place with his parents, a young boy who possesses an extraordinary gift of music.

Discussion Questions

  1. The very first words out of Henry Day's mouth are "Don't call me a fairy," and then he takes the reader on a quasi-scientific account of the differences between fairies, hobgoblins, and other "sublunary spirits." Yet Aniday and the rest of the changelings refer to themselves as faeries throughout the book. Why does Henry insist on not being called a fairy? In what other ways does Henry attempt to distance himself from his prior life?
  2. Twins and other twosomes figure predominantly in the book: Henry and Aniday, Tess and Speck, Big Oscar and Little Oscar, Edward and Gustav, Mary and Elizabeth . Other characters form pairs: Luchog and Smaolach, Kivi and Blomma, Onions and Beka, George Knoll and Jimmy Cummings. What is the significance of the doubles? In what ways can Henry and Aniday be read as two halves of one being? How does the author, beyond using two alternating narrators, play with the theme of doubles?
  3. Rather than each chapter echoing its counterpart, the two stories run at different speeds until the end of the book. How does the author manage time in the novel? Where in the narrative does he relate the same incident from different perspectives and in different sequences?
  4. When Henry and his friends attempt to synchronize their watches before looking for little Oscar Love, not one of them has the same time as the others. At other points in the story, Henry or Aniday forget the time of day or, in some cases, what year it is. What does that say about their place in time?
  5. In chapter 35, Ruth Day says "I knew all along, Henry." Similarly, Henry dreams of Tess changing her form and saying that she, too, knows the truth. What does Henry think they know about him?
  6. A critical event in the novel is Bill Day's suicide and Henry's muted reaction. What did Bill come to understand about his son? Why do you think Henry's mother, Ruth Day, didn't react in a similar manner?
  7. In the poem "The Stolen Child" by W.B. Yeats, the faeries attempt to entice the child away "for the world's more full of weeping than you can understand." In what ways could the fairyland in Donohue's novel be considered better than the real world? In what ways could it be considered worse?
  8. The changeling legends, however, were cautionary tales meant to illustrate the dangers of creatures that many people once believed in. And the changeling legend, as McInnes points out in the novel, were also horrifying explanations for "failure to thrive," physical deformities, or mental illness in children. Are Henry's and Aniday's stories cautionary tales? What do you make of the changeling who took the place of young Gustav Ungerland and never said another word?
  9. What is the significance of music in Henry Day's transformation? Does the final concert offer Henry a chance at redemption?
  10. What is the significance of books in Aniday's transformation? As Speck teaches Aniday to read and write, does his understanding of the world change? Is his memoir a chance at redemption?

Adapted from http://www.bookbrowse.com/reading_guides/detail/index.cfm/book_number/1801/the-stolen-child