My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and my informant visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.
“My grandparents always had a bunch of stories, that were like, supposed to make me do their bidding (laughs) but my grandmother had this story about a little house elf called a Domovoi. It’s spelled — (she struggles to spell it, and I tell her I’ll look it up later) Okay, but yeah, these little house elves would like, live in your house and protects it and neatens up at night. But if you were bad — like, made a mess, broke stuff, tracked dirt in — he’d get angry and start making scary noises all over the house. I remember once I broke a vase or something and that night while I was trying to sleep there was this thumping on my door and I remember being so fucking scared because I’d pissed off this elf and I thought he was going to like, murder me or something. I was a lot more careful around the house after that.”
This seems to be a classic example of adults using folklore to control and discipline children. This household beast shares a lot in common with characters from other cultural traditions, like brownies, hobgoblins, and even the Roman concept of a household god. The adults use the creature as an incentive for children to respect their home and keep things neat — in other words, to prevent them from adding to their parent’s workload.
“We’ve just moved into a new house in July. It was an old house. We live here temporarily as our house was going under renovation and it would take a while to finish it.
It was the second month until something weird started happening. I have my own bedroom on the second floor and one night I just heard my two dogs barking non-stop for the whole night. I looked out the window and yelled at them several times but they never stopped until the sun came up. I thought it was just some stray cats running around our field. Then one night, I experienced some odd feelings while I was asleep. I am very easy person to fall asleep but that night, I just couldn’t. I went to toilet many times and tried to fall asleep. Every time I was about to fall into unconsciousness I felt like my whole body went numb. It was harder to breathe and I couldn’t move at all. Every time that happened I tried to fight it off and when I was able to move again I felt like the whole thing was just a dream. This dream though, kept repeating itself for the next hour or more. By 5am my whole body was covered in sweat and I had this piercing headache. I ended up sleeping with my mother and got through the night.
This happened a few times before I realized it wasn’t just a bad dream. I finally told my mother about it. She never experienced it before, but she believed me. We consulted many friends and people around us and one suggested that it could have been house’s spirit that was bothering me. I didn’t understand why it had to be me, not anyone else in the family. Then as we did researches into this, we found that the bed was in the wrong direction- it was headed south and that was the direction where dead people laid. Furthermore, it was commonly believed that house’s spirits need a place to stay so that they can take care of the household.”
In Thailand we call it “San Pra-Poom”- it is in a form of small wooden house with a little decorations and is usually located outside the house. The spirit that lives here offers protection to the house. Many houses including mine have it but the informant’s did not, so she concluded that either the spirit might want to tell her that they need somewhere to live or that she was actually disturbed by outsider’s spirit. It made sense that her house’s spirit couldn’t protect her because there was no place for them.