The Folklore of Trinidad and Tobago Part 1of 3

So you’ve heard the stories and you never forget to end your story with “Crick Crack Monkey break he back for ah piece ah pomerac’ because you don’t want any evil spirits to be following you – good for you. Well if you like tall tales then Trinidadians can spin a good yarn and mesmerize you with the stories of old. Just as the Carnival celebration colors the landscape with the fuchsia of dancing colors so too in the country districts one can be caught with one’s mouth open as the old folks paint very colorful stories of jumbies and unsavory characters that wait in the dark to scare your soul straight to hell.

So now is the time for us to take a brief look at some of these famous stories that are legendary to Trinidad and Tobago. As we proceed you will notice that some of the names given to the characters are that of French Creole which was the dominant language spoken before the English took control of the Islands. The cosmopolitan make-up of the Islands meant that a little was added from each culture to create these famous characters but the majority of the characters are of African origin. We will start with one of my favorite characters Papa Bois.
Papa Bois or Daddy Bounchon (hairy man) is the custodian of the forests.  His body was half-human (waist up) while the lower half was that of a goat. He ensured that the flora and fauna of the forests were not abused by people coming to harvest lumber or hunt the animals.  However, people were allowed to take what they needed to live but never in excess.  If Papa Bois realized that the hunters were killing for fun he had the power to change into an animal (a deer or wild hog) that would lead the hunters deep into the forest. He would then change into his regular form and warn the hunters about their abuse then leaving them confused and lost. Sometimes it is said that he makes them pay a heavy price by marrying Mama Dlo but that is another story.
Mama DLO was also called Mama Glow derived her name from the French term “maman de l’ eau” which translates to mother of the water. In other words, she was the flip side of Papa Bois and she was responsible for the care of the rivers and streams. If anyone was caught polluting any of these natural resources then she would wrap them with her snake-like tail and take them to the bottom of the water. In many other islands, it is reported that she is regularly seen combing her hair at the banks of rivers. It has been said that she could transform into a beautiful lady to captivate unsuspecting men. However, one could get protection by “taking off your left shoe, turn it upside down and quickly walk backward until you reach home.
The La Diablesse or devil woman was the one story that scared me as a child. It is said that she is an evil spirit who sometimes takes the form of a beautiful woman to lure unsuspecting men to their death. She walks the country roads looking for victims but she always walks with one foot on the side of the road on the grass to conceal the sound of her cloven foot.  The beautiful Creole woman is sought after by men who try to catch up with her but are unable to meet her. She keeps beckoning to them to follow her and not long after they find themselves lost and confused or for the unfortunate one's death come swiftly.  It had been said that if you believe that you have seen the La Diablesse then to protect yourself you must take off your clothes and turn them inside out and put them back on again then go home. I believe that the story of the La Diablesse was created to keep young men at home and away from young women.  In Trinidad, mothers are very protective of their young men and would prefer that they stay at home instead of moving out. We will end this segment with the Ligahoo or as some say lugarhoo.  Most of the older folks will address them as Loup Garou.
The Loup Garou or Lugarhoo was considered to be a shape changer. Some said that he was an old man who was respected and feared and had the ability to change his form usually to a ferocious animal. He had power over nature and had the ability to cast spells and charms and knew all the bush medicines for any malady – I am sure you knew someone like that in the village but you never knew what he could have been. There is an odd saying about having the ability to see the Lugarhoo without being seen. It has been said that if you take the ‘Yampi’(eye crust) from the corner of a dog’s eye and put it in your eye then peep through a keyhole at twelve midnight then you will see the Lugarhoo but not be seen. Yuk!


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Unknown said…
Mouth open ! Tory jump out!!