Catholic Folkloric Warning to a Child: “The devil will pinch your toes off”

Text: “If you lie the devil is gonna come and pinch your toes off”


The informant’s mother would tell her this in order to get her to tell the truth. The informant said that it worked because she was raised Catholic and while she was younger, believed it. Once she was a little older and noticed that her mom would lie and still had her toes, she realized it wouldn’t actually happen. The mother had heard it from her own mother first.


In the institutional Catholic faith, the devil doesn’t personally physically attack children for their sins. However, the empty threat of that happening is dissuasive enough that it was used by a mother who had been fooled by it as a child. The devil in this threat could be substituted for a troll, or a witch, but for a Catholic in America, those creatures aren’t as convincing or as relevant.