The Torbalan

Informant: CS

Ethnicity: Bulgarian

Primary Language: English

Age: 22

Text: [CS] The story goes that there’s a Bulgarian monster called the Torbalan, who carries around a huge sack. The Torbalan kidnaps children who misbehave and stuffs them into his sack in the dead of night. If you are a good and obedient child, then the Torbalan will leave you alone.

Context: [CS] My Baba used to tell me this story to scare me into behaving as a child, especially when I was being a troublemaker. If I got in trouble, she would say “the Torbalan will come collect you tonight unless you apologize!” I was so scared of the Torbalan back then, that I would immediately listen to whatever she told me. 

Analysis: As in many other cultures, the Torbalan is a monster invented as a way to get children to behave, reinforcing good behavior and a sense of obedience towards adults in the family. By warning them that disobedience leads to dire consequences (being kidnapped), the tale uses fear tactics to motivate children to listen to their parents. Furthermore, it is also used as a way to get children to think about their actions and the impact they have on others; personifying the consequences of bad behavior as a scary monster creates a tangible representation of what is otherwise an abstract concept, making the underlying message more digestible to children.