“If you don’t go to sleep, the bogeyman will get you…”
Words guaranteed to keep any child awake for the night.
Trying to scare someone to sleep has never seemed like a good idea to me, but many cultures disagree. Lots of places around the world tell stories of a man who takes kids who don’t do what their parents ask and stuffs them in a sack. The kids are never seen again.
In Vietnam, it’s ong ba bi, Mister Three Bags.
In Sri Lanka, it’s Goni Billa.
In Haiti, he’s Tonton Macoute.
In India, he’s Bori Baba.
In Croatia, she’s Babaroga.
In the Czech Republic and Poland, he’s the Bubak or hastrman, and on full moon nights he makes clothes for the children and adults he’s stolen, and has a cart pulled by cats. (I love that one.)
In Bulgaria, he’s Torbalan.
In Brazil and Portugal, two creatures share the bogeyman duties– homem do saco in the day, and Bicho Papao at night.
There are lots of other bogeyman-type creatures, but these are the only ones who carry a sack.
I think it’s amazing that there are so many similar bogeymen in different cultures. And I also think it can’t be a coincidence.
So what’s going on here? Could there really be a bogeyman? And how would he get from Bulgaria to India to Brazil?
Usually when you hear a folkstory from a lot of different sources like this, there’s a grain of truth in it somewhere. In other words, maybe there really was a person who liked carrying off kids in a sack, and parents thought it was a good idea to start threatening their kids with him/her.
If that was true, then we could expect to see these stories clustered in a single area, for example, just Europe or Asia. But this bogeyman story is spread all over the world.
So, what’s up? Did a bunch of parents all over the world have the same idea? Or is carrying off children in sacks a more common crime than we imagine?
Or is the bogeyman one busy demon?