Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/12
Primary Language: English
Interview with informant:
“Okay, so this is from South Africa. The tokoloshe is this creature type thing. The way it works is he’s like this creature thing and it rides on this bicycle, or no it’s like this unicycle. And, like, you’ll just be like walking down the street and you’ll see a unicycle with just like shoes on it, like going down the street. Like the shoes themselves are pedaling the unicycle, and it’s weird as shit. And that’s the tokoloshe, right. And it’s this thing that no one can describe how it looks, you know, it’s invisible, it just has shoes or whatever. And, uh, it appears to children who put hot pap, which is like grits, but like not really. It’s like slightly different, it’s like, you know, cornmeal-type stuff. But if you put it—and it’s hot—you put it under your bed the tokoloshe will appear to you the next day or some shit. And he comes up to little kids and he’s like ‘Hey do you want to play marbles?’ and he starts playing marbles with them, right? And if you say yes, you want to play marbles, then, uh, you know, you’re never seen again. And that’s it.”
Very weird folk creature from South Africa, likely used by many parents to frighten children. Cautionary tale type stuff used to discourage unwanted behavior, whether it be playing with marbles or perhaps other frowned upon activities. Putting hot food under the bed to attract it could mean food is supposed to be eaten entirely. Like, hiding part of a meal causes the Tokoloshe to seek retribution. As to the invisible unicycle aspects, I haven’t the foggiest. Something very sinister about an empty pair of shoes.
Annotation: The tokoloshe gets several mentions in the 2003 film The Bone Snatcher, a British-Canadian horror movie. Though the creature in the film isn’t explicitly a tokoloshe (but rather a swarm of ants that join to form a body using the bones of their victims) but it is referenced, which is to be expected as the director, Jason Wolfsohn, is South African.