The word Nuppeppō is
derived from nupperi or nopperi, meaning “flat-faced” and
referring to a flat, dazed expression. This yokai first appears in texts from
the Edo period, and resembles nothing more than a blob of flesh with arms and
legs. Its folds of skin and fat give it the appearance of a face on its body.
While repulsive, nuppeppōs are frequently comical and
Sekien’s rendition of the nuppeppō has a culinary theme, placing it under a bronze bell that calls monks to their meals. The nuppeppō itself may be edible; according to Maki Bokusen, a nuppeppō-like creature appeared in the gardens of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. This nikubito (“meat-man”) was taken away to the mountains away from the shogun’s sight. Alas, he discovered too late that it may have been the legendary Hō described in the book of the Hakutaku. One bite of the Hō’s flesh would reinvigorate a person’s constitution.
Shigeru Mizuki added further embellishments to the nuppeppō based on Sekien’s image. His “nuppefuhofu” is a “spirit of flesh” found in deserted temples. Monks that choose to sleep in those temple are unpleasantly awakened by the fleshy sound of its aimless staggering.
The Nopperabō is a later yokai probably derived from
It is human in appearance except for its face – completely featureless and
smooth as an egg. Unlike its older counterpart, the nopperabō is only ever a thing of terror.
Foster, M. D. (2015) The Book of Yokai. University of California Press,
Sekien, T.; Alt, M. and Yoda, H. eds. (2017) Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien. Dover Publications, New York.
boomer, is the source of mysterious booming sounds heard in the Canadian
mountains. His place of residence is unknown. Our knowledge of this creature
was related by the Iglulik Inuit mystic Anarqâq. Igtuk was not specified to be
one of Anarqâq’s helping spirits, and he is probably hostile to humans.
resembles no other living thing. His arms and legs are on the back of his body,
while his single large eye is level with his arms, and his ears are in line
with his eye. His nose is inside his cavernous mouth, and there is a tuft of
thick hair on his chin. The booming for which he is known is produced when
Igtuk moves his jaws.
Rasmussen, K. (1929) Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. Glydendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag, Copenhagen.
The Jarjacha is a nocturnal Peruvian beast, quadrupedal, with a long neck and glowing eyes. It lives on a diet of human flesh, but has very specific preferences: it feeds solely on incestuous men and women, or those who have committed carnal sins towards their spiritual compadres. It itself may be born from the soul of an incestuous person or taboo-breaker.
manifests primarily in its call, a loud rattling cry that echoes through the
hills. “Jar-jar-jar-jar-jar”… It
repeats, over and over. The villagers shiver, cross themselves, and lock their
the atmosphere is tense. Everyone knows there is a sinner among them, some
incestuous wretch who has brought judgment down on themselves. The parish
priest decries the existence of the son of Satan in their midst, one who will
be punished by divine retribution. Eventually the shamed culprit is brought to
light, and given an auto-da-fé in the
Jarjacha is the
worst insult that can be leveled at someone.
Bustamante, M. E. (1943)
Apuntes para el folklore Peruano. La
name is attributed to his call of “Roes, roes, roes!” Etymologically it may be
derived from the Scandinavian ruske,
“to rush at”; the Anglo-Saxon breosan,
“terrify”, or the Dutch roezen,
“making a din”. It may also simply be another variant of Osschaard, derived
from ors, “horse” or “mount”, and hard, “strong”. Sometimes the name is used
to simply mean the devil.
almanac of Blankenberge tells of the dreadful storm of 1791. It destroyed the hut
of a suspected witch on the beach, and the inhabitants were overjoyed, smashing
what little was left of the ruins. Then a spinechilling sound rang out over the
dunes – “Roes, roes, roes!” A huge black dog with bells around its neck came
running down the dunes, and the villagers scattered. That dog was Roeschaard.
puts his shapeshifting powers to use in performing cruel pranks. There is no
limit to the forms he can take. He turns into a fish and allows himself to be
caught before destroying the net. He gets into boats and tips them over. He
pounces on people’s backs and rides them to exhaustion. In the form of a baby, he
allows people to take him home before laughing wickedly and escaping, calling
out “Roes, roes, roes!” behind him.
of Blankenberge eventually found a way to escape Roeschaard’s attentions. By
giving themselves a second baptism and a new name, they would break
Roeschaard’s power over them. The ceremony undertaken by new sailors involved
being splashed with salt water while the following formula was intoned:
I baptize you,
and may Roeschaard, the thrice-ugly one, turn away. Turn, turn, turn, your name
is [here the requisite sea-name was given]
Roeschaard came to claim someone, they could simply tell him they were not the
person he was looking for. Since then Roeschaard’s power has been in decline.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
A. (2007) Flanders: a cultural history.
Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Found in maritime
Flanders, land of Waas, and especially Hamme, near Dendermonde, Osschaert is
one of several mischievous shapeshifters that plague Belgium. He was
particularly around the chapel of Twee Bruggen.
According to van Hageland, his name may be a combination of ors, an archaic word denoting a horse or more generally a mount, or os, an ox, with hard, meaning “strong” or “valiant”. In this sense, Osschaard or Osschaert is a headstrong and dangerous steed.
As with others of his kind, Osschaert appears in countless forms, most notably a human-headed bull with heavy chains on its legs and feet. He has also appeared as a dog, a rabbit, a horse, a giant, a dwarf… At Knoche-sur-mer, where he serves as a bogey to frighten children, he is a ghost with a bull’s head. Commonly he drags a long length of chain behind him.
mischievous rather than actively evil. He delights in jumping on the backs of
people and forcing them to carry him until they collapse. He is just as likely
to jump off his mount’s shoulders to dive into a woman’s basket, causing her to
stagger under the sudden load. Osschaert particularly enjoys tormenting sinners
and wicked people, and will target them above all others.
over all the water in the area, so the first fish caught is returned as an
appeasing gift to Osschaert. Not that he’s guaranteed to ensure a good catch.
And beware of catching fish without thanking Osschaert! One fisherman dragged
his catch onto the beach only to find himself pinned down for an hour by Osschaert;
when he was finally released his catch had disappeared. Another fisherman
pulled an incredibly heavy net onto his boat, only to find it full of horse
church of Twee Bruggen, daring Osschaert out loud to scratch you will result in
a mauling. Specifically, one only has to utter the formula Grypke, Grypke grauw, wilt gy my grypen, grypt my nou (“Grypke,
Grypke grey, if you will gripe me, gripe me now”) and Osschaert will appear on
your back and ride you to the nearest crossroads or image of the Virgin Mary.
In fact, in areas where people dared Osschaert to appear resulted in the spirit
becoming more cruel and aggressive due to being repeatedly called upon.
A young man
of Doel, crossing a field by night, found himself face to face with an
enormous, monstrous horse. “This is Osschaert”, he thought to himself. “I must
get out of his way”. He decided to pass through the churchyard, but then met a
dog the size of a horse on the main road. He crossed himself and took another
path to the churchyard, but there was Osschaert in the form of a rabbit,
jumping back and forth towards him. He tried to turn around the churchyard,
only to find Osschaert waiting for him in the shape of a donkey with enormous
fiery eyes the size of plates! That was the point when the man gave up, jumped
the wall, and ran home in a cold sweat.
man, a fisherman of Kieldrecht named Blommaert, thought he could outsmart
Osschaert. He usually placed his catch of fish in a water-tub near the window.
One night he found that some fish were missing; not only that, but there were
ashes on the hearth, as though someone had broiled the fish on the embers.
Blommaert could find no signs of break-in, and concluded Osschaert was behind
this mischief. When the same thing happened a second time, he decided to cure
Osschaert of his thieving behavior. He covered the entire hearth with
horse-dung, and scattered some ashes over it to disguise it. Osschaert showed
up as usual, pronouncing “Blommeken, vischkens braeyen”, but when he tried to
cook the fish it ended up spoiled with the dung. He ran away screaming and
cursing in frustration. Blommaert celebrated his cunning revenge – but alas, it
does not pay to outwit Osschaert. The next day, when Blommaert drew in his net,
he found it extraordinarily heavy. After much effort, he hauled it on deck, and
found it to be full to cracking with horse-dung. Osschaert laughed loud and
long, and Blommaert returned home angry and defeated.
is retired, if not dead. A priest at Hamme was said to have banished Osschaert
to wander at the sea-shore for ninety-nine years. And at Spije, Malines, one
can see Osschaert’s coffin. It is a small coffin-shaped bridge over a stream.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
Harou, A. (1905) Mythologie et folk-lore de l’enfance. Revue des Traditions Populaires, v. XX, p. 96.
Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward Lumley, London.
The first notable record of Kludde’s appearance was penned in 1840 in Ternat, by the Baron of Saint-Genois. This back-riding shapeshifter appears in Brabant and Flanders, notably in Merchtem and in Dendermonde, where he lives in the Dendre. In Ostend he is considered a necker or nix, and the flat country knows him as a werewolf. He causes fear and confusion and drinks green pond-water, but avoids crosses and consecrated areas.
comes out at night in the Flemish mists. He has earned his name from the call
he cries while fleeing – “Kludde, Kludde”! As a shapeshifter, he has no fixed
appearance, and Kludde has been encountered in the forms of a great black dog
with a rattling chain around its neck, a half-starved horse, a sheep, a cat, a bat,
a frog, or even a tree. The only constant in Kludde’s transformations is the
presence of two dancing blue flames that flit ahead of him. These are Kludde’s
Kludde plays are mischievous but not deadly. In the guise of a black dog or werewolf
he will jump onto a person’s neck, and vanish after wrestling his victim to the
ground. As a horse, he tricks people into riding him, only to gallop full-tilt
and fling his rider into a body of water. As his erstwhile jockey flounders in
the water, Kludde lies on his belly and laughs loud and long, vanishing only
when the victim emerges from the water. As a tree, Kludde appears as a small
and delicate sapling, before growing to such a height that his branches are
lost in the clouds. This unexpected event shocks and unnerves all who see it,
and amuses Kludde.
foolish to evade Kludde, as he can wind like a snake in any direction, foiling
attempts to outmaneuver him. Trying to seize him is like grabbing air, and it
leaves burns behind. He can also make himself invisible to some people and not
to others, driving travelers out of their minds as they try to describe the
protean creature tailing them – yet when their companions look behind, they see
nothing but an empty road.
de Blécourt, W. (2007) “I
Would Have Eaten You Too”: Werewolf
Legends in the Flemish, Dutch, and German Area. Folklore 118, pp. 23-43.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
J. C. (1863) Dictionnaire Infernal.
Henri Plon, Paris.
Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward
Variations: Boyg, Bøjgen, Bojgen, Bøygen, Boygen, The Great Bøjg of Etnedal
The Great Bøjg of Etnedal is a troll encountered by Peer Gynt in his Gutsbrandal adventures. It was memorable enough that Ibsen included it in his version of Peer Gynt, making it an even more otherworldly creature.
The Bøjg is vast, slimy, slippery, persistent, and shapeless. In the original fairytale, it has a head, which lessens its shapelessness somewhat. Ibsen describes it as a misty, slimy being, neither dead nor alive. Running into it is like running into a nest of sleepy growling bears. Its name comes from bøje, to bend, implying something twisting but also something that forces you to turn elsewhere, conquering without attacking. It coils around houses in the dark, or encircles its victims and bewilders them. Attacking the Bøjg directly is futile.
Wherever Gynt turns, he finds himself running into the clammy unpleasant mass. The Bøjg blocks his path to a mountain hut and nothing Gynt does can defeat it. In the fairytale Gynt fires three shots into the Bøjg’s head but to no avail; he eventually defeats the Bøjg through trickery. In Ibsen’s play the Bøjg is overcome by women, psalms, and church bells.
Within Ibsen’s symbolism it is seen as an insurmountable obstacle, a being of compromise and lethargy.
The Nadubi is one of a variety of evil nocturnal spirits that haunt Australia. Nadubi may be found on the rocky plateau of Arnhem Land. They serve as a warning against traveling alone in the bush during the chilly hours of night.
Nadubi are a spirit people similar to humans in appearance but with barbed spines sprouting from their elbows and knees. Cave paintings at Oenpelli show a nadubi woman with spines on several areas of her body, including her elbows and vulva. Another cave painting at Sleisbeck shows a kangaroo-like creature with a spiny tail and spiny projections on its mouth and rear; this may also be a depiction of a nadubi.
A nadubi will creep up on a lone traveler and project a spine into his or her body. The victim can only be saved by the timely removal of the spine by a medicine man; usually this aid is administered too late, and the unfortunate sufferer sickens and dies. As only medicine men can see nadubi, it falls onto them to drive those malignant spirits away from encampments.
Despite their best efforts, every now and then the vigilance of the medicine men slips, and a scream in the night testifies to the fate of another solitary wanderer.
Johnson, D. (2014) Night Skies of Aboriginal Australia. Sydney University Press, Sydney.
Mountford, C. P. (1957) Aboriginal Bark Paintings from Field Island, Northern Territory. Records of the South Australian Museum, v. XIII, no. 1, pp. 87-89.
Mountford, C. P. (1958) Aboriginal Cave Paintings at Sleisbeck, Northern Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum, v. XIII, no. 2, pp. 147-155.
Roberts, A. R. and Mountford, C. P. (1975) The Dawn of Time. Rigby Limited, Adelaide.
The name Skeljaskrímsli, “shell monster”, refers to a number of Icelandic shore animals known by a variety of names. Consistent among the accounts are the association with the beach, a hump on the back, and a coat of shells that rattle as the creature walks. Shell monsters have been sighted on the coasts of all the main regions of Iceland, and at least one report (the Glúmsstaðir farm’s in Fljótavík, Hornstrandir) describes a freshwater specimen.
As specified by Hlidberg and Aegisson, the skeljaskrímsli proper is a quadrupedal marine creature, bulky and powerfully built. It is the size of a winter’s old bull calf or a huge horse. The neck is broad, the jaws and teeth impressive, and the eyes reddish. There may be a phosphorescent glow coming from the mouth. The skeljaskrímsli’s tail is long and armed with a lump at the end. The short, strong legs end in circular feet armed with large claws.
The skeljaskrímsli earns its name from the thick reflective coat of shells (or flaky scales) that covers its body. These rattle and scrape against each other as the creature moves, giving warning of its arrival. As the shell monster approaches, its powerful stench also becomes apparent. There is little good to say about the shell monster – even its blood is toxic.
Skeljaskrímslis live in the sea and haul themselves onto shore in the dark moonless nights of the northern winter. Often they can be seen before or after spells of bad weather and storms. They are attracted to light and will leave deep gouges in farmhouse doors. Suffice to say that anyone who encounters one of these surly brutes will be in for a bad time.
Most weapons are useless against a skeljaskrímsli’s formidable defenses. One farmer who battled a skeljaskrímsli managed to keep it at bay until the monster tired and returned to the sea; the farmer was stricken with leprosy for his trouble. Another farmer managed to wound a skeljaskrímsli, but some of its poisonous blood spattered onto him, and he died in agony soon after.
To harm a skeljaskrímsli one must resort to alternative ammunition. Shooting silver buttons, grey willow catkins, or lamb droppings from a gun are the only ways to injure and kill this beast.
The Fjörulalli is the best-known variant of the skeljaskrímsli. It is also the size of a winter’s old bull calf, and has been reported as being smaller, about as big as a dog. A tail may or may not be present, and the head is a small, rounded outgrowth. It is covered with shells or lava fragments that scrape together as it moves. Unlike the larger shell-monsters, these smaller ones are usually harmless. They will, however, tear the udders off sheep, and pregnant women should avoid them lest they negatively affect their unborn babies.
Hlidberg, J. B. and Aegisson, S.; McQueen, F. J. M. and Kjartansson, R., trans. (2011) Meeting with Monsters. JPV utgafa, Reykjavik.
The Old Town of Edinburgh is honeycombed with cellars, passages, and tunnels. These subterranean labyrinths are home to ancient horrors long forgotten by the residents. Great-hand is one of these.
Great-hand lives in the tunnel beneath the Royal Mile, stretching from the Castle to the Palace of Holyrood. Once used by soldiers for surprise attacks, it eventually fell into disuse. Then Great-hand moved in and the passage was abandoned completely. Nobody ever left the tunnel alive.
The only thing that has ever been seen of Great-hand is a hand – an enormous grisly hand, with fingernails like the claws of an eagle. If that hand is attached to a body, none have seen it.
After a while of avoiding the tunnel, a piper declared he would cross the tunnel, playing his pipes the whole way to verify his progress. Taking his dog along with him, he entered through the cave near the Castle, and the sound of his pipes could be heard traveling underground as he went down the hill. Then, at the Heart of Midlothian, the music stopped. The attending crowd went back to the entrance of the cave to see the dog running out in abject terror, completely hairless. The passage was blocked up from both ends.
Similar stories are told across Scotland involving haunted caves, foolhardy pipers, and dogs shedding their hair with fright. They are cautionary tales warning of the perils of the underground.
Fleming, M. (2002) Not of this World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland. Mercat Press, Edinburgh.