|Goya's "Here Comes|
Parents in almost every country in the world have used scary tales about entities or monsters to scare their children into behaving. These bogeymen go by many names, some countries use several names depending upon the region or culture.
These entities are most often male but some are female or androgynous. They are often said to hide in the dark--in a child’s closet or under their bed. Another common theme is they carry a sack on their back where they place the child after they have kidnapped them.
Parents tell these stories to their children to make them go to sleep, eat their food, avoid dangerous areas e.g. woods, water etc. Regardless, the universal goal is to make their children behave.
Some cultures no longer use these stories but others still use this scare tactic--I write about how La Llorona is still used today to frighten children here.
|One depiction of La Llorona|
As mentioned these stories are numerous so it would take an entire book to share them all. Instead, here are just a few.
The Fear Dubh or black man is a Scottish tale about a malevolent entity that haunts footpaths and forests at night. Stories about this entity were used to scare children to stay away from exploring the woods alone.
A story told in the Alpine region is about Krampus a demon-like creature that only appears in the month of December. Krampus is said to collect bad girls and boys
during the Christmas season. It is stated he hits bad
children with birch sticks.
The Krampus carries a sack where he places his victims. He is especially scary for he kills and then eats his victims.
In the Bahamas, the small man is an entity who rides on a cart that pulls itself. He picks up children that are outside after sundown. Any child taken by him is doomed to ride in this cart forever. Parents only have to say, “rolling cart” to scare their children into behaving.
Italians tell the tale of L’uomo Nero. He is a tall ghostly man that wears a black cloak and a black hood over his face. He has no legs. Parents knock under the dinner table pretending someone is at the door. They then say. “Here comes L’uomo Nero. He must know this is a child that doesn’t want to drink his soup!”
L’uomo Nero doesn’t harm children but it is stated he takes them to a “frightening place.” Parents sing a lullaby that states L’uomo Nero keeps children with him for a whole month.
The Tata Duende in Belize is a small wrinkled goblin that wears a wide brimmed hat. He has a beard, no thumbs and backward feet. Parents state he is the protector of the forests and animals. They warn their children if they play in the jungle at night--they will encounter the scary Tata Duende.
In Japan, The Namahage are demons that warn children not to be lazy or cry. During the Namahage Sedo Matsuri or “Demon Mask Festival” the villigers wear demon masks pretending to be these spirits.
|A Namaphage--a Japanese|
In the United States besides the classic bogeyman there are stories about Bloody Bones, originated in Britain, and Tommy Rawhead both told in the South. These two tales are used to warn children not to play outside after dark.
The bogeyman in Denmark is known as Bøhman or busseman. This man hides under a child’s bed and grabs children when they won’t sleep.
In Greece, parents tell a similar tale to the one in Denmark. The Baboulas is said to hide under children’s beds. Greek parents also tell other stories about this creature in order to make their children behave.
In Spain, El Coco, El Cuco, or El Bolo is a shapeless figure or a hairy monster that eats children who will not go to bed. Parents sing a nursery rhyme to their children that warns El Coco will eat them if they refuse to sleep.
Sleep child, sleep now. . .
Or else the Coco will come and eat you
The story of El Coco has also traveled to other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.
In the Congo, Dongola Miso or “Creature with Scary Eyes” is used to discourage children from staying up past their bedtimes as well. This creature is also used to warn them not to speak to or deal with strangers.
This all kind of takes the meaning out of “sweet dreams child…”
In Russia, children are warned that Babayka or Baba Yaga will come for them at night if they do not behave.
Here is a Russia lullaby that reflects this.