USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Creature’
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Taily Poo

Context:

The informant – BL – is a 20-year-old white male, born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountain ranges near Seattle, and, therefore, had a few campfire stories to share. He shared this story with me in a fairly typical storytelling context – outside, alone at night, after I had asked him if he knew any scary stories.

Piece:

BL: This is the story of the Taily Poo. Once, there was a hunter who lived in the forest with his three dogs. Every other day, he would go out to hunt small game. Just rabbits and squirrels… the occasional deer if he stumbled upon it. And one week, he went out and didn’t get anything. And went out the next day, hoping he would get something, but still…nothing. He didn’t see a single lick of an animal. Um.

The following day, he went out, and he brought all three of his dogs, and he saw a squirrel hiding up in a tree. So he shot it down, blew its head right off. The dogs went and picked it up, but something else caught his eye… to his right. A large shape in a tree that he thought might be a panther… but… it couldn’t be a panther? Right? Panthers don’t exist in… Northern America. Um. He thought maybe a cougar. Either way, he was hungry, and he needed some big meat… (long pause, and some snickering).

So he pointed his gun at the animal… and shot it. And he heard a bloodcurdling yowl, and saw something fall off the tree, and the animal jumped into the night. He went to go look what fell out… off… and it was a tail. A long black tail with coarse hair, but still a fair amount of meat on it. So he decided to take it home and cook it up, – maybe put it in a stew.

So he goes home with his dogs, cooks it up. He and the three dogs eat their meal and then go to bed. Um. He wakes up in the middle of the night to some scratching sound. Um. And it’s pitch black, but he looks at the foot of his bed and sees two bright yellow eyes.

(In a harsh whispering voice) “Give it back… Give me back my taily poo.”

The man is petrified. “I’m sorry, what?” he says. (we both laugh)

“Give me back my taily poo.”

The man, realizing that this must be the creature who’s tail he shot off in the forest, pushes the dogs off the bed towards the creature, and they chase it off into the night. He waits for them to return, but when they come back, only two remain. He goes back to sleep. He wakes up later that night, in the early hours of the morning, maybe 1am… to see the same pair of bright yellow eyes, next to his bed this time. Scratching at the side of it with its claws.

“Give me back my taily poo.” Very startled, uh, the man sicks his dogs on the creature, chasing it away into the night. He waits for their return, but only one comes back.

It’s morning now, and he goes out to look for his two other dogs. He calls their names, but no response. He goes and looks for them, but is afraid of getting completely lost in the forest, and so, by sunset, he gives up hope, realizing the creature must have killed them. So he goes to bed that night, hungry, because the forest is bare. Um. Uhhh. Then he wakes up in the middle of the night to a ripping sound. (BL poorly imitates a ripping sound and we both laugh). He jumps awake, thinking it must be the creature, and he’s right. At the foot of his bed… No… revise, revise. On his bed, the creature is pawing and clawing his sheets, ripping them to shreds. It’s yellow eyes gleam in the pure darkness.

“Give it back! Give me back my taily poo!” The man sicks his last dog on the creature, which chases it outside the house. Only a few moments later, to hear a heartbreaking cry, which he only assumes can come from the dog. Now, shaking in fear in his own bed, in the pure darkness, he hears something walking up to his bed. Two yellow eyes peek over the bedframe. And that was the last we only heard of that man…

(We both laugh).

BL: That was terrible…

Me: That’s just how it ends?

BL: Alright…um. When his friends went to go look for him, because they hadn’t heard from him in days, when they show up at his house… his house was no longer there. The only thing that remained… was the chimney.

Analysis:

I think, for the most part, this story is just an entertaining campfire story, relying on the performer’s dramatic performance determine how well it’s received. BL here clearly did not remember the tale too vividly, as he paused with many “ums” and “uhs” to recall what happens next. Though the story is likely mainly for mere entertainment, it does have anti-hunting connotations, with the hunted returning for vengeance on the hunter, which is a common archetype in tales and stories. Also, the creature killing the hunter’s pets creates an interesting comparison between animals that we hunt and animals that we keep as pets. Stories like this often help us cope with the fact that we hunt and eat animals, as we soothe the moral complexity of the issue with stories of the hunted animals enacting vengeance on us.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Krasue in South Asian Folklore

NC: So there’s this story about crossaway or crosu (Krasue) I don’t know exactly how to pronounce the name but in southeast asian folklore she is supposed to be a very beautiful woman and she’s only a head, so she’s a decapitated head and her entails are hanging out and she’s supposed to float around uh a building- a haunted building or something um she’s- I think she’s searching for something and she might also kill anyone who comes into the building. That’s all I’ve heard about it.

 

Background:

Location of Story – Southeast Asia

Location of Performance – Dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. NC approached me in person in response to the text and had just discovered this creature herself. 

 

Analysis: Krasue is physically unlike any other “monster” or creature I have heard of before. I was particularly interested in the dichotomy between the woman’s beauty and the grotesqueness of her lower half. For me, this hints at a commentary about how women are viewed around the world globally: her head is attached but her body has been ripped apart by what exactly? If women often fall victim to objectification, then it makes sense that this lore would depict her “body” has being completely consumed by something else or at least lost to something or someone besides herself. Additionally, the fact that she is bound by a building, confirms the archetypical “domestic” woman, but the threat she poses to anyone else trying to reside in her household disrupts this stereotype and protects the space as her own.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Protection
Tales /märchen

El Cucuy – “Boogeyman” Creature in Mexican Folklore

The Cucuy, I’m not really quite sure what it is, um, but, usually, uh, when like children are acting like- out of like the norm, like when they’re misbehaving uh parents will be like “oi, there comes the cucuy!” Like he’s gonna come eat you if you don’t stop being a bad person, um…and it’s sorta like similar to like the boogeyman like if you- if you put your child to sleep, and like they don’t go to sleep, you’ll be like the cuc- if you don’t close your eyes, the cucuy’s gonna come get you…so yeah.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friends with KF. This story followed two of KF’s previously about La Llorona and the devil appearing on people’s horses at night.

 

Analysis: This performance demonstrates the phenomenon of children being more inclined to follow instructions based on the threat of a supernatural creature or element rather than their own parents. Likewise, the parents utilize this tactic because the effect is so immediate. It is also interesting to note that the comparison to the boogeyman is drawn because I have only known the American version of that bedtime creature: bedtime and a fear of the dark seems to conjure similar fears and potential monsters across cultures.

Folk Beliefs

The Jersey Devil

Title: The Jersey Devil

Interviewee: Steven Miao

Ethnicity: Chinese-American

Age: 19

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): In his room at Webb tower, at USC in Los Angeles. Me and the interviewer.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “It lives in a forest. The forests what remaining forests we have. Apparently people disappear, and they get eaten by the devil. There are also sightings from time to time. Its humanoid, but the devil. And it eats people. Oh it lives in the Pine Barrens. I heard it from my friends that live around Jersey. It kills livestock and attacks humans. It looks like a kangaroo with goats head and it has bat wings. Random sightings of it randomly. It is the reason that the hockey team is called the New Jersey Devils. They are named after the devil.”

Interviewer- “Why do you like this story so much?”

Interviewee- “Well its more than a story to me, I mean it is pretty much something that I believe in, I guess it’s more than just a story to me is all I’m saying. Where I grew up people never really talked about it much, but it was just one of those things that everyone knew about. I don’t know. It was something in our sub-conscience I guess.”

Interviewer- “Do you remember where you first heard of it or from who?”

Interviewee- “No, not really. I only remember that eventually, like when I got into middle school, I knew about the Jersey Devil. I don’t remember the first time I heard about it.”

Analyzation:

This mythical story of the Jersey Devil appears to be closely kept and remembered by the Interviewee, as he was in a defensive mindset when asked further about the story. Even though the Interviewee has not had a personal encounter with the mythical creature, he still believes deeply in the monster, or at least believes in continuing the story and telling others about it. Similar to the headhunters of Borneo, where they embraced something that at first is a little embracing, but they embrace it nonetheless simply because it sets them apart from the rest. The Interviewee cherishes the story because it marks him apart from the other people of Los Angeles, it marks him as someone from New Jersey. It makes him unique.

 

For another story of the Jersey Devil detailing its birth, see “The Jersey Devil” in the USC folklore archives.

http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=24054

Tags: Jersey Devil, Mythical, Creature

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Sidehill Gougers

The informant is my mother, who was born and raised in North Vancouver, Canada. She has two older brothers, and both of her parents immigrated from the United Kingdom when they were adults. She worked in accounting until she retired at the age of 50. She is widowed and has two children: myself and my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy.

This is a story her father used to tell her to explain the ridges in the sides of hills in England.

“So, when I was 15, I went to England with dad, and my girlfriend Laurie came with us. And when we were driving along through England, it was all these various hills, and they all had sort of…what looks like rings going around the hills. Um, and I said to dad, “What causes those rings?” And dad goes, “Sidehill gougers.”

And I went, “What?” And he said, “Sidehill gougers. Haven’t you ever heard of Sidehill gougers?” And I said, “No..?” And he said, “Oh, of course you have.” And I said no. “Oh, well I’ll just have to tell you all about Sidehill gougers, then. Okay, so, Sidehill gougers are this unusual animal that are born with one side of their legs shorter than the other side. And as a consequence, they can only go one direction up a hill. And they go around and around the hill and as they climb up the hill, they eat their way up and as they get older and older and older. And then they die right at the top and that’s how the hill starts to grow up.”

Of course, my father’s story was a little more elaborate and went on for a lot longer. And occasionally, most Sidehill gougers have shorter right legs than left legs and are always going around the same direction. Occasionally, though, there’s a Sidehill gouger that may be born with shorter left legs than right legs, and then he’s going the opposite direction from all the rest of them and he ends up bumping into them and causing a big havoc. But a Sidehill gouger’s life is going around, and that’s what makes the rings on the hills is these Sidehill gougers as they make their way up slowly up the mountain as they’re aging, they eat their way up and as they slowly climb their way to the top of the hill, the Sidehill gougers.

I said, “Well what happens when they get to the top?” “Well, that’s where they die, isn’t it?”

And then the generation of Sidehill gougers continues. And the predominant ones are right head leg—right leg short side gougers, and left—and I believed him. I believed this story.”

Do you know if he learned that from someone else or if he made it up?

“I don’t know where he learned it from. I’m probably sure that someone would have told him but he was very good at making up stories as well. And he always did like to…he was a bit theatrical, so of course when he told this story it was very elaborate and very long, and very intricate on the whole lifespan of Sidehill gougers and how they developed.

And of course because of the elaborateness of the story I’ve quite shortened it, um, I believed the whole story and was asking him questions, and he was giving me answers you know, “Oh, are they all born with short right legs?” “No, some of them are born with short left legs and they have to walk the other way, and they cause all kinds of havoc. But they end up dying out in the long run because there aren’t as many of them.” So it was a big long process.”

Analysis:

The Sidehill gouger interests me because as a folkloric creature, it has a fairly small impact on humans in their everyday lives. Unlike fairies or leprechauns or other such creatures, all the Sidehill gouger does is walk around hills in circles. As a result, it seems more as though they are used to explain unusual geographic features, in this particular case, the ridges on British hills. I would be interested in collecting different versions of this piece of folklore to see if they have a larger roles in other contexts.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends

Succineers

These creatures are typically females who have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for power and earthly rewards. They shed their human skins at night and fly around as balls of fire. Often, they practice various forms of black magic and are generally evil beings. However, they are not immortal, and during the day cannot be distinguished between you and me. A way to kill them would be to find their human skins late at night, and put copious amounts of salt in them. The logic in this is that the salt would burn their flesh, and since they cannot exist as balls of fire in the day, the act of putting their skins back on would cause so much pain that they’d die as a result.

My informant heard this from her grandmother and her mother, who were both first generation immigrants from Trinidad. According to her grandmother, their neighbor in Trinidad was one of these creatures. One time, she told my informant’s grandmother that she had red roses from the Queen of England’s garden and then proceeded to produce to two red roses. While this might not be strange by itself, roses were not native to Trinidad and could not be found anywhere during that period of time. Additionally, when my informant’s grandmother was pregnant, she saw one in her room, trying to suck on her blood. However, they could not stand people who were associated with God and spat the blood out and left.

There are many things that skirt the edge of belief and this is one of them. This is an example of binary opposition in more agricultural/hunting cultures that exists in those islands. Note the Christian influences in this story. As learned in class, the idea of God and the Devil spawned from the missionaries that came to the various places that they spread the word of God. The missionaries tended to place a God vs. Satan spin on most of the folklore and culture that they touched and is evident here.

Folk Beliefs
Myths

Nightmare

Informant Bio

My informant is an office manager living in Hollywood, California. He grew up in the midwestern United States and moved to Los Angeles to attend USC’s graduate program in film production. He now does media work in an office at USC, and in his spare time stays active with creative endeavors like creating web videos and writing a web comic that updates twice weekly. He completes the daily crossword puzzle at lunch every day, and is the type of person who probably always wins Trivial Pursuit.

The Cauchemar

I was chatting with my informant (my boss) at our office – near the water cooler, yes,  it actually happens – and he told me a strange story about his roommate who had recently attempted astral projection (magical transportation of her consciousness to another place) by putting herself into a meditative state. Though her attempt was not successful, she did descend deep enough into her meditation that she had a dreamlike vision of a small, humanoid creature sitting in darkness. She asked it, “what are you doing?” It replied, “waiting.” Frightened by the image, she quickly snapped herself out of her meditative state.

My boss thought the creature sounded like a cauchemar. The cauchemar, he explained, is a demon-like creature whose name means “nightmare” in French. He had first learned of it from a friend who lived in Louisiana, though he suspected stories about the creature had been brought to Louisiana by the French because the myth “seems European.”

According to my informant, the cauchemar is an evil creature, that chooses its victims at random. It sits on your chest while you sleep and either: rides your sleeping body where ever it likes, or sucks the breath out of you, killing you slowly while you sleep. My informant thought that the cauchemar sounded like an explanation someone might have given for conditions that cause sleepers to wake in the middle of the night feeling pressure on their bodies, like sleep apnea.

Because the cauchemar does not discriminate when it chooses a victim, it seems to me to be a simple personification of nightmares. Its impossible to control whether or not one will have a nightmare, and that lack of control, especially while vulnerable (unconscious), is frightening. Giving them a face makes nightmares easier or us to understand, and even if depicted as a hideous, malicious creature, this is comforting.

Authored Forms

This painting of the creature from the 1700s  by Swiss painter Johann Heinrich Fussili supports my informant’s suspicion that the mythological creature may have been brought to the United States from Europe. It depicts an impish creature with large ears and fur covering its body, sitting on the chest of a woman in white. In spite of its comical appearance, the distressed pose of the sleeping woman, and the alarmed face of her horse suggest that this is indeed a creature to be feared.

Cited

Image found at: “Cauchemar.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 4 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cauchemar>.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Tales /märchen

Pontianak

Found throughout South East Asia, this is a female monster that appears at first glance to be a beautiful woman with long black hair. On closer examination though, she has sharp fangs and razor like claws.  Unlike most female monsters that only target males, the Pontianak kills and is rather indiscriminate in her choice of victims, though there seems to be a preference for pregnant females and men. Depending on her choice of victims, males tend to have their bodies drained of blood. Whereas, pregnant women usually have their unborn fetuses ripped from their bodies before the Pontianak eats the unborn baby and drains the mother of all her blood. There is no know way to subdue the Pontianak other than not to stop for her, as her preferred location tends to be on highways and abandoned roads late at night.

                  My informant first heard of this particular breed of monster was at a campfire when he was about 15 years old. The Pontianak is a classic horror story told to scare people from travelling alone at night. However, there are real stories of encounters with this monster. Often, they are in a taxi and they pass by a beautiful woman on the side of the road wearing a sarong kebaya and when they pass by, they usually see the pale face, sharp teeth and claws that characterize the Pontianak. Those fortunate enough to live though seeing a Pontianak are few and far between.

                  Like most creatures like this, they are often the center of many a horror film. According to my informant, there are at least 3 movies that involve the Pontianak; however, none of them were made in English but in Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia. This is because this is a creature, primarily in Malay folklore and this extends to both Malaysia and Indonesia. There are variations on the Pontianak in the other South East Asian countries, but the Pontianak spans at least three countries on that area of the continent.

                  This can be viewed as a variation of the vengeful female demon/creature in most folklore. While there is various speculation on her origins, for in some, she is the embodiment mother’s who have died due to either childbirth or a miscarriage and she is the bitter result because she cannot stand other people having children when she couldn’t. In other tales, she is what happened to a scorned woman whose fiancé betrays her for someone else and she kills herself in response.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends

Orang Minyak or “Oily Man”

This is a male creature, commonly shaped as a human. As can be inferred from his name, he is covered from head to toe in black oil. Sometimes, he is described as naked and sometimes he’s wearing a black pair of swimming trunks. In many stories, he plays a significant roles as a rapist that only targets virgins. There is some dispute over his origins though, it is unclear whether or not he is of human origin or is a creature from the spirit world. Some speculate that the Orang Minyak is the result of a spurned lover that has powers due to his solicitation of either a bomoh (Malayan Witch Doctor) or a contract with a creature from the spiritual world. The Orang Minyak is commonly found in Malayan folklore with appearances made in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

This knowledge was imparted to my informant when she was on a school camping trip at the tender age of 16 in Singapore in the late nineteen sixties.  The Orang Minyak is commonly one of the perpetrators and has been blamed for many rapes especially in the 1960s, early nineteen seventies, even though the reports have been few and far between since the 2000s.  According to my informant, the more superstitious Malay students would wear sweaty shirts to give the appearance of someone who had just been with a man.

Strangely enough, while the Orang Minyak has always been part of Malay folklore, there was a surprising amount of hype produced after a series of movies about the Orang Minyak were produced in the 1960s. Before this, there was an occasional sighting and crime committed by the Orang Minyak, however, there was a sudden onslaught of cases and sightings of the Orang Minyak after the movies came out. This prompts many to question if the Orang Minyak became a convenient cover-up for many rapists and rape cases.

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