Monday, March 13, 2017
Nursery Tale Monsters by Elsie Clews Parsons 1915
By Elsie Clews Parsons, New York City 1915
For more see The Grimmest & Darkest Original Fairy Tales - 50 Books on CDrom
There are homes to-day where children are no longer frightened with Ghost stories and where the devil is kept out of their circle of acquaintances until they meet him as a literary character or in Sunday school; but even in such nurseries the Old Witch and Santa Claus still hold their own, for precious fairy stories have to be read and Christmas properly celebrated. And we suspect that if Nurse know she must forego the help of the old-fashioned bogyman she still threatens in time of stress to send for the policeman.
Outside of modern civilization this kind of nursery discipline is also in vogue. Although savage children are generally reputed less obstreperous than civilized, they, too, are sometimes scared into being quiet. In one of the folk tales of the Papuan peopled islands of the Torres Straits a mother and grandmother threaten a fractious girl with the Dogai if she will not stop crying. Failing to heed them, this female bogy does carry her off and torture her. In fact bad children in these islands may expect to be visited at any time by a Dogai. Fijian children are terrified into quietness by "grim, immodest representations of the human figure, about eighteen inches long," a sad kind of doll. Samoans have a juvenile scare-crow in Sina ai Mata or Sina the Eye-Eater, a bird-god. "Do not make such a noise; Sina the Eye-Eater will come and pick out your eyes," a harassed parent would say. Thompson River and Kootenay Indian parents also threaten noisy children with a bird. "The Owl will come and take you" or "I'll give you to the Owl," they say, and Thompson River big people themselves believe that once the Owl really did carry off the child of a chief of the Bear Clan of the Nisk'a'. The chief's son was a cry-baby and one day his father became impatient and sent him out of doors, saying, "The White Owl shall fetch you." The boy went out with his sister, but Owl seems to have made a mistake, for it was the girl he carried off to make her his bride.
Victorian children are also taught to be afraid of the Owl and whenever they hear its hoot they crawl under their grass-mats. An Owl-man is a night terror to naughty children among the Ponka
Indians. A Pueblo Indian friend has told me when she and her brothers were naughty her parents would threaten to send for Owl and Coyote. We remember that Hiawatha's grand-parent
"Stilled his fretful wail by saying.
Hush I the naked bear will get thee!"
Galla and Caffre parents have helpful stories of a supernatural lion and of other fabulous monsters. Important among them is one Tickolosche, a creature, according to Caffre mothers, in the habit of pulling children outdoors and taking them far away in the veld.
Peasant mothers, like savage, rely on supernatural aid. In Switzerland misbehaving children are threatened with one Wauwau and with Straggele, a giantess; in Epirus with the classical Lamia, a wild and very dangerous creature; at Rottingen with the Berch, a Thing with enormous mouth and belly; in Oldenburg with Bumann, a fellow who lurks in the dark. The Esthonians have a story of a spoiled boy who one day having ridden his father's horse to death was the day after himself carried off into the depths of the sea by a strange horse who came up to him as he played on the beach. This sea horse is a terror to disobedient children. So no doubt are the fabulous animals of Germany- werwolves, the dogs of the Wild Huntsman, dragons of all kinds. The East Frisian mother whose little boy rebels against mittens tells him that _De Fingerbiter is buten_, "the Finger-biter is outside;" our own Jack Frost has probably been put again and again to like service. In Baden twilight dawdlers hear:
"Go home, or the Nachtfrau will fetch you." Almost all over Germany the Sandman helps to get children to bed. Like so many Germans the Sandman is an American immigrant. I suspect that the
"gobble-uns" of the Hoosier poet are also of foreign parentage.
"You better mind yer parents, and yer teachers fond and dear
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about
Er the gobble-uns 'II git yer
A "good" child doesn't cry. Nor, for the peace of his elders, must he be adventuresome. It is troublesome to look for children who run away. And so would-be explorers are threatened with
supernatural mishap. The Euahlayi tribe of New South Wales has a bogy called from his cry Gineet Gineet. He goes about with a net across his shoulders into which he pops any children he can see.
Among the Koita, a Melanesian tribe of New Guinea, the Vadavadas keep children from straying into the bush at night. A Vadavada is a man who travels only at night and who brings sickness and death to those he Encounters. Chemosit is a Nandi devil, half man, half bird, with one leg, nine buttocks and a red mouth which shines at night like a lamp. He catches children who are foolish enough to be lured away from home by his night song. Nenaunir of the Masai is a kindred monster. He is an invulnerable, stony-bodied creature with the head of a beast of prey: and feet with claws. "Don't go too far," a mother says to her children, "or 'Nenaunir will get you." Japanese boys believe that if they go swimming without permission they are liable to be drawn down under the current by the long arm of his Highness the Sea-Monkey. The Slavs of the Spreewald keep their children within bounds by saying: "Don't go there, Scerpel is there. He will cut off your head." Scerpel is a ghost with an alarmingly long head. In the Tyrol stray children are liable to be kidnapped by Stampa, a horse-headed spirit, Frigga modernized. In Brunswick there lives a Corn Woman who makes off with little children looking for flowers in the fields. Elsewhere in Germany children are kept away from pool and stream through fear of their enticing Nixe and Wasserweibe, and German woods and wilds are furnished with multitudinous witches and hobgoblins - a rich assortment of "Kinderschrecken."
Then there are "moral" stories for runaways. The Bunya-Bunya of Queensland have a story about two boys who were once left alone in camp with strict orders not to leave it until the elders returned. Nevertheless, tiring of the camp, the boys went down to the beach. Then the Thugine or Great Serpent of the Rainbow, came out of the sea and, always on the watch for unprotected children, caught the boys and turned them into the two rocks that now stand between Double Island Point and Inskip Point. "Here you see," the old Blackfellow used to say to the boys, "the result. of not paying attention to what you are told by your elders." On Rogea, an island off South East New Guinea, once lived a little girl, say the Melanesian natives, a little girl much given to wandering about. "At all times her mother and father they said, 'Don't wander, or else the sorceress in the bush will eat you.' The girl didn't listen, she walked about. The old woman saw the girl and called her and said, 'You come.' The sorceress took the girl to a cave and tattooed her. She boiled the blood and ate it. Then she said to the girl, 'You stay, I go and seek our food.' She lied to the girl, her idea was to go far searching, that she might eat her on the morrow. The girl ran home, and her father killed the sorceress."-"The Babes in the Wood" and " Hanzel and Gretchen" carry their moral with them. I suspect that the childlike mothers of Greece pointed out to their little girls that if Europa and Proserpina had only stayed at home . . . And no doubt our own primitive mothers are unfair enough to put even "Golden Locks" and " Little Red Riding Hood " to moral uses.
The folklorist could undoubtedly add to these stories of the misfortunes of runaway children; for primitive society is even more apt than civilized to snub the youthful explorer or inventor. In
fact the story of the adventuresome lad who always begins by running away from home and always ends as a success, whether as sea-captain or cowboy, highwayman or merchant, is essentially modem. Even Jack the Giant-Killer is comparatively modern. In its primitive version I suspect the Giant killed Jack and ate him up.
Like Jack's Giant and Hanzel's and Gretchen's Old Witch, savage bogies are apt to be cannibalistic. Muuruup of West Victoria was one of these epicures of child flesh. Troubled parents would threaten to send for an agent of his who lived on the moon. Once upon a time, in Pulu, an islet of the Torres Straits, the boys and girls used to disobey their parents and play a game of twirling around with outspread arms. They played every night on the beach, until finally a great rock fell from the sky and killed everybody on the island except one indispensable couple. Parents still tell their children never to play this game at night, and the old men remind bad children that by and by, if they are not good. the Pulu Stone will come and eat them up. In one of the Zuni summer dances there is a mask of an old woman, a ceremonial scold, and part of her "business" is to threaten to eat up the children. A katcina in a Hopi dance makes the same threat. Both Chemosit of the Nandi and 'Nenaunir of the Masai are addicted to devouring children. So is the Songomby, a fleet-footed, ox-like bogy of the Betsilio of Madagascar.
It is etiquette in Caffre families for older children to leave the hut when their elders begin to eat; but as elsewhere the younger hang around for a taste- until their father bids them go out into the veld to call Nomgogwana. If the youngsters object, Father says in an off-hand manner: "Very well, sit where you are; the food will not cook. as you know, till Nomgogwana comes, and then when he does come he will be so angry at seeing the food uncooked that he will eat all the children he can find." Further admonition at the moment is naturally uncalled for, but if the children happen to return too soon for parental comfort, they are told that Nomgogwana has not come yet because they did not go far enough out on the veld to call him, that he did not hear, that the conditions were not right, the usual explanation of failure is summoning a spirit.
It is probable that the savage like the civilized nursery is particularly conservative, and so we wonder if this marked tendency to cannibalism is an echo out of a remote past where Cannibalism was not merely ritualistic as it is among almost all the savages of to-day.
In some cases the bogyman comes systematically to the help of parents. The Zuni "scold" and the Hopi katcina, for example. Both are much dreaded by the children. The Hopi mask goes up to the
child and says: "You are naughty and bad ; we have come to get you. You fight the other children, kill chickens, etc., and we shall now take you away." The child naturally begins to cry and promises to be good. It is said that formerly the katcina would actually carry off a child; but that once a child died of fright,- hazing anywhere having an unlooked for outcome, and at times tragic.
In western Victoria the white kangaroo pouch masks worn over head and face by clowns at corroborees are often used to frighten misbehaving children. Catholic children go to confession when they are seven years old. What impression, we wonder, does the unseen figure in the confessional make upon their imaginations? Even outside of the confessional, the black-garbed priest was once made an object of fear, according to Fenelon, to little French children. In parts of Germany a mask of St. Nicholas makes a preliminary visitation every year some evening early in December. He is dressed in fur, of course, and he carries a switch or rod. He threatens the naughty children, throws apples and nuts out of his bag to the good, and has all the children say a prayer. Our invisible Santa Claus who merely writes the names of good and bad children down in his books is a good-for-nothing fellow in comparison. In Germany, too, St. Nicholas has even a spring deputy, so to speak, in Easter Rabbit, that cunning little animal who forgets the bad children and brings his eggs only to the good.
Sinners as well as saints aid nursery discipline. To Roman children Attila was a bogyman; to Assyrian, Narses; to Moslem, Saracen, and Turkish, Richard Coeur de Lion and Matthias Corvinus; to Persian, Tamerlaine; and to children throughout Europe, Bonaparte. There were barrios in the Philippines where a child who cried was bushed with the exclamation "Castila!" I have no doubt that many a Spanish conquistador became a bogyman to American Indian children and that, already a bogyman to adults, our own Rough Rider in his ceremonial mask will serve for one some day to children.
The role of the bugaboo in the child's life has sometimes been questioned by the modern educator, that unquiet person who has begun to question everything - even the last two lines of "Now I
lay me down to sleep." But without the help of bugaboos we ask in turn whether children could be completely prepared for society, at least for many of its boundaries, sanctions, and goals. Thanks to Ravenous Monster or Old Witch, fear of the Unseen or Unknown takes the place in their mind of curiosity. Stories of the misfortunes of the wayward have set a value on obedience to authority and helped make potentially good subjects, wives, and worshipers. The fearful foreigner has helped develop the patriotism that identifies itself with bloodshed. Ghost stories or Christmas gifts have turned attention from the more to the less immediate reward, from the needs of every day to the promises of a life to come. Truly, so far as society appeals for its support to the spirit of apprehensiveness, of docility, of hatred, and of long-suffering, the nursery bugaboo is an assistant invaluable and indispensable. If we reject its services, let us be sure we realize what we forego.
For more see The Grimmest & Darkest Original Fairy Tales - 50 Books on CDrom
For a list of all of my disks, with links click here