Traîcousse

Variations: Trécouche

Traicousse

The Traîcousse, also known as Trécouche (pronounced tré-coutche) is a vile creature that can be found lurking in the ponds and waterways of the Southwestern Ardennes and the Semois, especially Hautes-Rivières in France and Bohan in Belgium. As a water bogey, it is invoked to discourage children from entering rivers.

In appearance the traîcousse is most like a large crab, a meter in diameter, with a flattened, rounded body covered with palm-sized brownish scales. Its bloodshot eyes are the size of a human fist. Its mouth is huge and bristles with sharp shark-like teeth, while countless pincer-tipped legs allow it to move and grasp its prey. In some areas the traîcousse has become an ugly river witch.

The deepest part of the river, where the current is fastest, is where the traîcousse lives. It digs itself into small cavities and rocky ledges as it waits for prey to come near. Anything that approaches is seized and dragged under, never to be seen again. Missing livestock, fishermen, and children are its doing.

Every now and then the traîcousse will vomit up the skin and bones of its prey, which rise to the surface in a macabre mix of foam and blood.

References

Lambot, J. (1987) L’Ardenne. Pierre Mardaga, Brussels.

Tijskens, J. (1965) Les Noms du Croquemitaine en Wallonie. Enquêtes du Musée de la Vie Wallonne, nos. 117-120, tome X, pp. 257-391.

Isiququmadevu

Variations: Usiququmadevu (flattering); Isikqukqumadevu, Usikqukqumadevu; Unomabunge; O’gaul’-iminga; O-nsiba-zimakqembe

Isiququmadevu

When Untombinde, the king’s daughter, set out for the mythical Ilulange River, she took with her two hundred maidens to be her escorts. She was determined to bathe in one of its pools despite her parents’ warnings of dire consequences. Once there, she and her handmaidens undressed and played in the water, but when they came back out their clothes, their beautiful bracelets and jewels and finery were all gone. Isiququmadevu had taken them.

Isiququmadevu, “Smelly Whiskers”, is a mountainous “swallowing monster” from Bantu and Zulu folklore. She is bearded, bloated, hairless, and squatting, with an enormous mouth capable of engulfing entire villages. Other clues as to her appearance are given in her many epithets, which include Unomabunge (“Mother of Beetles”), O’gaul’-iminga (“Feller of Lofty Thorn-trees”), and O-nsiba-zimakqembe (“She Whose Feathers are Long and Broad”).

Naturally the royal cortège was mortified, and entreated the isiququmadevu to return their belongings. “Untombinde, the king’s daughter, brought us here, she is to blame”. One by one they recuperated their effects, until Untombinde was left. “Beseech Usiququmadevu”, they told her, using a more personal and flattering name for the monster. But Untombinde – perhaps miffed by her companions’ accusations – refused. “I am the king’s daughter”, she said haughtily, “and I will never entreat the isiququmadevu”. Whereupon the monster seized her and took her into the pool.

King Usikulumi despaired for his daughter, fearing she was lost forever, and ordered his troops to slay the isiququmadevu. But the monster hauled herself onto the bank, and swallowed the entire army in one gulp. She then followed their trail back to the village, and swallowed the men, the women, the children, the dogs, the cattle, every living thing she found there.

Among her victims were two adorable twin children whose father was the only villager who escaped the isiququmadevu’s attack. He resolved to kill the creature, arming himself with his assagai and following her back into the woods. First he met a herd of buffaloes. “Where has Usiququmadevu gone? She has taken my children”. Acknowledging his plight, the buffaloes told him he was on the right track with a “forward, forward!” Next he met some leopards and an elephant, who advised him to keep on going. Finally he found the isiququmadevu herself, replete and squatting. “I seek Usiququmadevu, who has taken my children!” he announced. “Forward, forward!” said the isiququmadevu, but the man was not as dimwitted as she had hoped, and he stabbed her with his spear until she died. Then all her victims climbed out, none the worse for wear, with Untombinde, defiant and proud, coming out last.

In another isiququmadevu story, it is Usitungusobenthle, a young woman who had been abducted by pigeons to be their queen, who brings about the creature’s demise. She returns to her village after escaping her captors only to find it empty, with the isiququmadevu sleeping nearby. She cut it open with a knife, and released all its victims.

Another princess, Uluthlazase, actually stood up to an isiququmadevu and tried to wrest her clothes from the monster. She held on so firmly that the isiququmadevu could not remove her, and the two fought each other to a stalemate. When it left to get assistance from other isiququmadevu, Uluthlazase collected her effects and wisely escaped.

References

Callaway, C. (1868) Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the Zulus. Trübner and Co., London.

Koopman, A. (2002) Zulu Names. University of Natal.

Werner, A. (1968) Myths and legends of the Bantu. Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., London.

Abúhukü

Variations: Abúhuwa (pl.)

Abuhuwa

The victims of the Abúhuwa, the rainforest demons of the Cubeo people of the Colombian Amazon, are easily recognized. An abúhukü will cut a hole in the skull before sucking out the contents of the body. Sometimes prey is rolled in palm leaves and tenderized. Either way, they leave an empty skin hanging from a branch.

Abúhuwa are nocturnal creatures who embody disease, death, and all that is evil. They associate with the spirits of dead poisoners, murderers, and male adulterers, and are described as misty creatures from the realm of darkness. Their name is derived from “whiteness”, or the foaming of rapids. Like almost all other Amazonian ogres, the abúhuwa are hairy and foul-smelling, associating them with bestial sexuality and death respectively. In addition to that, they have an extra face in the back of their head, and sticky bodies that make escape from their embrace impossible. The females have long pendulous breasts and prefer to kill men, while the males attack women, often killing mothers and abducting their children to raise as their own. Such abúhuwa changelings become cannibals themselves.

The abúhuwa were once far more common, and were allied with a race of evil jaguars that worked with them to decimate human populations. Humanity got a respite after a series of floods and fires that reduced the numbers of both predators.

Abúhuwa are fortunately quite stupid, and can easily be outwitted by children. They are relegated to the status of nursery bogies, reflected in a sort of tag game where one child plays the part of the abúhukü. The grotesqueness of the abúhuwa makes them easier to confront and mock.

Armpit hair from an abúhukü makes a potent ingredient in poisons. To obtain it, an abúhukü must be caught during a lunar eclipse, and the hair from its left armpit must be cut with a corn husk, reduced to ash, mixed with water and turned into paste, and left to dry. It keeps well in a gourd sealed with beeswax.

Capsicum smoke is toxic to abúhuwa, and they can be easily driven away by burning peppers. When killed, they turn into sloths.

References

Goldman, I. (1979) The Cubeo Indians of the Northwest Amazon. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.

Goldman, I. (2004) Cubeo Hehénewa Religious Thought. Columbia University Press, New York.

Smith, N. J. H. (1996) The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Whowie

Variations: Whowhie

Whowie

The Whowie was the terror of the Murray River in the Riverina district of Australia. He was like an enormous goanna, about twenty feet long, with six goanna legs and a huge frog-like head; he was perhaps somewhat like the huge monitor lizards that once roamed southern Australia. While very slow in his movement, he had no reason to be fast, as everyone fleed in terror from him. At night, the whowie would crawl into grounds where people were sleeping, and proceed to devour anyone who couldn’t get away. Thirty to sixty people could disappear down his cavernous mouth during one of those raids. During the day he would sleep in his cave on the Murray River, or bask along the riverbank; his movements created the sandhills of Riverina.

With the passage of time, the depredations of the whowie were starting to take their toll on the inhabitants. The water-rat tribe was first to convene, as they had suffered most from the whowie’s attention. The chief solemnly announced that they had no choice but to flee to a safer land or face certain annihilation. “I shall let you decide what we shall do”, he told his people. It was an elder who stood up and implored his people to stay. “We have lived here all our lives; we have always had plenty to eat, and much to do along the river. Now we dare not go there because of the whowie. Let us think of some other way by which we may be rid of this menace”.

A strict night guard was instated, and the aid of several other tribes was called for. The water-rats searched for the whowie, and found footprints leading into the cave’s one opening. As the whowie’s cave was many miles long, they knew it would take a week for him to return to the outside, and so they had all the time they needed.

Soon help had arrived from all over, from the kangaroo, platypus, eagle, magpie, cockatoo, lizard, snake, opossum and crow tribes, and many more besides. After holding a corroboree and spending a night in celebration, dancing, and storytelling, all of them busied themselves gathering sticks. The sticks were gathered into bundles and piled up halfway in the cave and at the entrance. Then, when they believed the whowie was soon to appear, they set the wood on fire.

Smoke and flames filled the cave, and the whowie roared and coughed angrily – but what good were his teeth and claws against smoke and fire? He struggled upwards through the cave for six days and appeared on the seventh burned, blinded, and gasping for breath. That was when the tribes descended upon him with spears, axes, and nulla-nullas, inflicting mortal wounds on their enemy. The giant lizard could only drag himself back into his cave, and was never seen again.

Now the whowie can still be heard sighing from deep inside the cave on the Murray River. He is dying, or perhaps his spirit has survived underground in some form. But either way he is harmless, and has become nothing more than a bogey with whom parents can threaten their children into good behavior.

References

Molnar, R. E. (2004) Dragons in the Dust. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Reed, A. W. (1965) Myths and Legends of Australia. A. H. and A. W. Reed, Sydney.

Smith, W. R. (2003) Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines. Dover Publications, Mineola.

Mourioche

Variations: Guenne; Fausserole (possibly)

Mourioche

Nobody knows for sure where Mourioche came from. Some say that he (for lack of a better pronoun) was once a Breton man or a woman, versed in the dark arts, who sold their soul for a magical ointment. Other accounts make him a simple werewolf without control of his actions. Dubois whimsically claims he was once the court jester of an undersea kingdom, and was banished for bad behavior. There are even claims that he is the Devil himself.

It is more likely that Mourioche has always haunted Brittany, spreading his brand of cruel humor along the coastlines of Côtes-d’Armor and around Jugon-les-Lacs. He is a water-horse, and a shapeshifter; there is no end to the forms he has assumed, and he loves using his powers in creative ways. Mourioche is usually seen in the form of a yearling colt, pig, cow, or sheep, often with a pair of muscular arms.

Mourioche comes out at night, and preys on nocturnal travelers. Sometimes he is a horse standing by the side of the road, waiting for riders. His spine stretches as more and more people get on, then he gallops right into the lake, his laugh echoing in the darkness. At other times he wrestles passers-by, grappling with his brawny arms and throwing his victims into muddy ditches. He will jump onto men’s back and force them to carry him until they drop of exhaustion. He will follow people along the road, changing shape every time they turn to look at him, and making a sound like tearing canvas.

Drawn-out sadistic pranks are Mourioche’s favorite form of entertainment. A farmer of Saint-Cast once found Mourioche in the form of an abandoned ewe, and took him home to his barn. The next day, when he went to check on his new sheep, he found a cow; the day after, it had become a horse. On the fourth night, it was a sheep again, who laughed and said “Why do you check on me every morning? You’re weird!” It was then that the farmer saw that all his animals had been slaughtered. He reached for his shotgun, but Mourioche took off, destroying half the barn and abducting the farmer’s three children (who were never seen again). Mourioche is not without mercy, though, and he left behind a golden necklace.

Mourioche is not without his faults, however, and is baffled by anyone who doesn’t fear him. One man nonchalantly carried Mourioche all the way back home, and the shapeshifter fled when he called his wife. Another time Mourioche took a tailor on his back, who threatened to cut his ears off with his scissors. The tailor was returned to dry land very quickly.

In Matignon, parents would get their children to bed with a “hattaï, mon p’tit gars; Mourioche te prenrait!” (“hurry, my l’il lad, Mourioche will take you!). It is also said that of a frightened person that “il a eu peur comme s’il avait vu Mourioche” (“he’s scared as though he saw Mourioche”). To ward off Mourioche, one must curse him with “Mourioche, le diable t’écorche” (“Mourioche, the Devil flay you”).

The Fausserole of Saint-Cast is very similar, and may be another form of Mourioche. She likes to appear as a white beast, a dog or a calf, and has no qualms about tossing clergy around, as the rector of Saint-Cast found out.

References

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Morvan, F. (1998) Vie et mœurs des lutins bretons. Actes Sud.

Sébillot, P. (1882) Traditions et superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne. Maisonneuve et Cie, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1905) Le Folk-Lore de France, Tome Deuxième: La Mer et les Eaux Douces. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1968) Le folklore de la Bretagne. Éditions G. P. Maisonneuve et Larose, Paris.

Dodo

Variations: Kadindi, Kaddodi, Kadda, Swallower-of-Men

Dodo

The Dodo is a monstrous humanoid creature from the folklore of the Hausa people. He can be found lurking in the deep forests and swamps of sub-Saharan West Africa, with a range including Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Côte d’Ivoire. The dodo has nothing in common with the extinct flightless bird of the same name, and probably was derived from tales of giant snakes.

Not much is known about a dodo’s appearance. He – for the dodo is always male – is the King of Beasts, and can just as easily be the lion, the python, the elephant, or the rhinoceros. A dodo is humanoid in appearance and large in size, as he has to stoop to get through doors. He has long, shaggy black hair. He has a keen sense of smell, and can detect meat from far away. He has some degree of magic powers, but cannot cross running water (paradoxically, dodos also live in ponds and streams). Most importantly, the dodo has a vast mouth glowing red from the inside, a seemingly infinite stomach capacity, and a taste for human flesh. As one of the African “swallowing monsters”, a dodo can easily engulf an entire village.

A dodo is often a self-invited guest, eating more and more until there is nothing left. This is not always a bad thing. Once a miser and his son were preparing to butcher a freshly-slaughtered ox in the forest, far from prying eyes. They decided to cook it in a nearby fire – a fire which turned out to be a dodo’s glowing, cavernous mouth.

“Well well”, said the dodo. “Who has invited me?” The miser, hoping to placate him, said “I did!” and gave him a leg of beef, which the dodo put away in his bag. “Does a man invite a friend to a feast for such a small morsel?” said the dodo. In response, the miser gave him another leg. “Does a man invite a friend to a feast for such a small morsel?” The next two legs followed, then half the bull, then the remainder of the bull. “Does a man invite a friend to a feast for such a small morsel?” “But there is nothing left!” protested the man. “You are also meat”, came the response. Terrified, the miser shoved his son forward, and the dodo tossed him into his bag. Finally, he grabbed the miser himself. “What about you?” he said, throwing him into his bag as well. The dodo went to collect firewood, but in the meantime the father and son managed to cut their way out of the bag and made their escape. The dodo returned, shrugged, and got a meal of roast beef. The miser vowed he would never be greedy again, and devoted the rest of his life to sharing his food and wealth with others.

While dodos readily eat meat, they are also fond of taking human women as their wives, sometimes fathering repulsive half-dodo children with them. Dodos like to strike bargains with prospective spouses, promising to help them for the price of marriage; sometimes those “bargains” are more straightforward, consisting of “Would you like me to eat you or marry you?” Such unions are never happy, and the wife will always try to escape her captor.

One dodo story tells of a young woman, pregnant with her first child, drawing water from a stream. Another woman, jealous of her companion and looking to get her scolded, threw dirt in her pot before leaving. But as the pregnant woman tried to carry her water pot, a dodo came out of the water and helped her with her load. Before she could protest, he stated “If you give birth to a boy, he will be my friend. If your child is a girl, she will be my wife”. And with that, he disappeared back into the water.

The mother soon gave birth, and her jealous rival was prompt to report the news to the dodo. “She gave birth to a girl”, she announced, and the dodo was immensely pleased. He was content to wait over the years, until the girl had become a woman as beautiful as her mother. On the day of the girl’s wedding, the jealous woman once more reported the news to the dodo, and he decided to show up uninvited.

“Kadindi has arrived”, he boomed, as everyone stared at him. “I have come to collect the payment I am due”. The daughter was obviously unhappy about marrying the monster, so instead her father gave the dodo a horse, part of the bride’s dowry. “Here is the payment for your debt”, he said, and the dodo swallowed the horse. But that was not enough. Next he ate all of the cattle, all of the wedding feast, all of the guests, and finally the father and mother. There was only the daughter left, and in desperation she prayed to the heavens. “Dodo has come to demand payment”, she implored. In response to her prayer, a knife fell out of the sky, and it was promptly swallowed as well – killing the dodo, cutting open his belly, and causing all the livestock, food, guests, and parents to come out unharmed. The wedding went on as planned.

References

Tremearne, A. J. N. (1913) Hausa Superstitions and Customs. J. Bale and Sons and Danielsson, Ltd., London.

Yara-ma-yha-who

Yara ma ya who

The Yara-ma-yha-who of Australia are restricted to the forests of the Pacific coast, and their absence elsewhere should be considered a blessing. They are primarily nursery bogies, dissuading children from frequenting dangerous areas.

A yara-ma-yha-who is a grotesque sight, and would be amusing were it not for its ghastly habits. Not more than four feet tall, red, and covered with fur, a yara-ma-yha-who has a disproportionately large head. It can open its toothless mouth like a snake, and its throat and belly are similarly distensible. An adult man can be easily swallowed by a yara-ma-yha-who without discomfort. Its fingers and toes are equipped with suction cups. Yara-ma-yha-who are good climbers, but can only waddle like cockatoos on land.

Thick-leaved fig trees are the yara-ma-yha-who’s favorite haunt. They can wait for days in the branches until some hapless traveler, perhaps seeking shelter from sun or rain, lies under the tree. Lone children are their favorite prey.

When a yara-ma-yha-who attacks, it attaches its hands and feet on its victim’s body, using the suction cups to drain the blood out of them. It does not empty them entirely, but only enough to make them faint. It then leaves its victim for a while, eventually returning to swallow them whole, head first. A little dance lets the food slide down, the meal is washed down with water, and the yara-ma-yha-who takes a nap.

After waking up, the yara-ma-yha-who vomits its prey out. The human is almost always alive and playing dead; there is no reason to fight back as the creature can overpower the strongest man. The yara-ma-yha-who takes five paces, then returns and pokes his victim’s sides with a stick. Then it walks away ten paces before returning to tickle the human under the arm or neck. A fifty-yard stroll is followed up by more tickling, then the yara-ma-yha-who goes behind a bush and sleeps.

This ritual is always repeated. The yara-ma-yha-who know that if they fail to carry out these actions, the spirit of the fig tree will mumble in their ears, causing them to transform into glowing tree mushrooms.

For this reason it is safest to play dead until this point, when you get to your feet and run. “Where have you gone, my victim?” calls the yara-ma-yha-who if it hears you escaping, but its awkward gait makes it easy to outrun. After failing to recapture prey, a spiteful yara-ma-yha-who will drink up all the water in nearby wells and water-holes, leading people to seek liquid from tree sap – and thus end up exposed to yara-ma-yha-who attack.

It is important not to let a yara-ma-yha-who swallow you multiple times. The second time you are swallowed and regurgitated, you become shorter and completely hairless. By the third time you are shorter still, and thick hair grows over your body. Eventully, after enough cycles of swallowing and vomiting, you become a yara-ma-yha-who yourself.

Heuvelmans believed the yara-ma-yha-who was inspired by tarsiers. Furry, big-eyed, and with suction-cup fingers, it is more a mammalian frog than anything else.

References

Heuvelmans, B. (1958) On the Track of Unknown Animals. Rupert Hart-Davis, London.

Smith, W. R. (2003) Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines. Dover Publications, Mineola.

Isitwalangcengce

Isitwalangcengce

The Isitwalangcengce, or “Basket-bearer”, is hardly seen these days. Which is all the better, as this monster known to the Zulu people is a dedicated man-eater. Somewhat like a hyena in appearance, an Isitwalangcengce’s most notable feature is its basket-shaped head, complete with an opening in the top for carrying its prey.

Isitwalangcengces are powerful, and can easily overcome the bravest of men. They wait around villages during feast days, when children carrying freshly butchered meat go from house to house. They hide beside the doorway, and quickly stuff their victims into their head, carrying them off to eat. Isitwalangcengces do not actually eat all of their prey, but eat only the brain. An Isitwalangcengce will have a favorite rock to smash human heads on and lap up the contents.

If the Isitwalangcengce is strong, it is also dimwitted. This fact was exploited by one Zulu man who was being carried off in the basket. When the Isitwalangcengce passed through bushy terrain, the man reached out of the basket and pulled branches off, stuffing them into the cavity with him. Once he had filled the Isitwalangcengce’s head with sufficient branches, he grabbed onto a tree and hauled himself out. The Isitwalangcengce, meanwhile, noticed no difference in weight. By the time it reached the rocks and poured out a clump of branches and twigs, the man was long gone.

When the man returned to his village, he made sure to narrate his escapade in detail. News of that spread. Soon everyone knew to fill an Isitwalangcengce’s head with branches, and predation dropped drastically.

Now the Isitwalangcengce are mere nursery bogeys, good only for intimidating children. “If you aren’t good, the Isitwalangcengce will carry you off!” And the children smile to themselves, knowing that there’s always an easy way out.

References

Callaway, C. (1868) Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the Zulus. Trübner and Co., London.