Variations: Bogie, Boogy, Bogy, Bogeyman, Bogyman, Nursery Bogie, and many more
In its broadest definition, a bogey, bogeyman, or nursery bogie is any monster whose purpose is to scare children into good behavior. In turn, bogeys can punish different kinds of behavior, or even attack without provocation; they can be the cause of unexplained events or be in league with parents; they can be linked to specific areas, or show up on feast days and holidays. Any creature can be a bogey, with the only restriction being their use as a warning (i.e. “don’t go outside at midday or snakes will bite you”). Bogeys are probably the most ancient and widespread of creatures, and will continue to thrive as long as creative parents and gullible children exist. The proliferation of characters such as Slenderman is further proof of these child-snatchers’ enduring appeal.
The Bag Man is the classical bogey. Variations on a man (or woman, or monster) carrying a sack or basket can be found wherever bogeys exist. They are large, hirsute, and fanged. Often they have horns and cloven hooves, the remnants of their origin as demons and devils. Sometimes they are described in ethnically-charged terms, and named after feared and otherized minorities. Bag Men seek out unruly children and stuff them into their bag, carrying them away for punishment – usually devouring them. The Bag Man is most commonly known as the Bogeyman in English-speaking areas. In France he is the Croquemitaine, but also Bras de Fer, Lustucru, Moine Bourru… The French Babou is no doubt one and the same as the Italian Babau. Spanish-speaking countries contend with El Coco, while Arabic-speakers fear Abou Kees (“Man with a Bag”, literally “Bag Father”). In southern Africa the basket bearer becomes the Isitwalangcengce, a hyena-like creature whose head is the basket in which children are carried off. The Southern Californian Haakapainiži is an enormous grasshopper with a basket on his back.
Christmas Bogeys are an offshoot of Bag Men, often sharing many characteristics with them but restricting themselves to Christmas festivities. The likes of Père Fouettard in France, Krampus in Germany, Zwarte Pieter in Holland, and many others besides intimidate children into good behavior. The other major archetype of festive bogey is the Witch, and she usually works alone. The Italian Befana rewards and punishes children accordingly at the festival of Epiphany. The hag Chauchevieille attacks the unfaithful who skip midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Frau Gaude drives a pack of hellhounds through town on Christmas Eve. The Guillaneu of the Vendée rides a headless and tailless horse on the New Year. Trotte-Vieille of the Haute-Saone impales naughty children on her long horns, but can be placated with a cauldron of hot broth on the doorstep. In Lucerne, Straeggel shaves the heads of girls who have not finished their tasks on the last Wednesday before Christmas. The legacy of Christmas bogeys lives on today throughout the Western world, as children are taught to believe in a hairy man dressed in red and carrying a large bag; this man enters houses unbidden and judges children on their behavior, and accepts small offerings of cookies.
Another class of bogeys can be described as “interdictory” or “guardian” bogeys, frequenting certain dangerous areas and dissuading children from going there. One of these is the Green-toothed Hag, found mostly in Britain. There is Grindylow in Yorkshire; Jenny Greenteeth in Lancashire; Nellie Longarms in Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Shropshire; Peg Powler between Yorkshire and Durham, but also other such characters as Marrabbecca, who lives in Sicilian wells. They have long arms, sharp green teeth, and straggly hair, and drag children into stagnant pools to be devoured. The Hook Man is another such archetype, including the sinister Jan Haak of Holland whose large hook pulls children underwater. Water-horses such as Mourioche in Brittany also do their job in keeping riverbanks and beaches deserted. In the Ardennes, the waterways are guarded by the crustacean Traîcousse and the bulky lizardlike Mahwot’; the Karnabo’s eerie whistling sounds from abandoned slate quarries. The Biloko of the Congo gruesomely devour anyone who ventures into the deep jungle; the Colombian Abúhuwa and West African Dodo fill a similar role.
Yet other bogeys are harder to categorize. The Bells of Wallonia, whose ringing causes children to freeze in the middle of whatever grimace they are making. The Camacrusa of Gascony is a disembodied leg that eats children. Scandinavian Church Grims haunt places of worship. The Wallonian Colôrobètch nips children and inflicts them with frostbite. In Russia, the Domovoi and his associates can be used by parents for more sinister purposes. Gatta Marella is a nightmarish alpine cat. Lamiae and Striges are nocturnal predators of children in Greece. Used floorboards (lattes usées) in Mons and Tournai, France, become Latusés, bogeys that keep children out of the attic. The reptilian Whowie and the froglike Yara-ma-yha-who are invoked in Australia.
All of which goes to prove that, when it comes to the art of frightening children, humanity has no equal.
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