Tag Archives: ficts

Ethiopian bogeyman

The informant is my 18-year-old cousin, who was born and raised in the United States but has Ethiopian parents. She told me about a character called Soyo, which is an Ethiopian bogeyman character used to scare children.


“So, Soyo is basically this character, like a scary kidnapper character, that parents use to scare their kids. It’s basically like the Ethiopian version of Slenderman…and kind of, also, like, “stranger danger” So, like, if you’re being bad, or misbehaving–like, when I was little, my mom used to make me come inside at night by being like, “oh, if you keep playing outside after it gets dark, Soyo is going to come get you.”


This bogeyman figure is an example of the concept of “ficts” as introduced by Von Sydow: these characters are fictional creatures that adults make up to scare children, or to teach them how to behave (examples include Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, but also bogeyman characters like this one). I thought that Soyo was an interesting example of children’s folklore in that it does not exist in the world of adult belief, but it is almost exclusively told by adults to their children rather than told between children; children would not have these characters if adults did not use them as lessons for their kids. The purpose that this particular character serves is to teach children not to trust strangers, but is also a convenient way for parents to scare their kids into obeying them. I also thought it was a cool reaffirmation of Dundes’s idea of “multiplicity and variation,” because every culture seems to have a bogeyman character (La Llorona in Mexico, for example, or, as my cousin mentioned, the more recent example of Slenderman).