A to Z Challenge Folklore

Terrifying Tokoloshe #folklore #AtoZChallenge

T is for Tokoloshe

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A-Z Challenge here.

I grew up hearing about the tokoloshe, mainly from domestic workers who said that if we (the children) were naughty, the tokoloshe would get us.

Tokoloshe. Image credit

Folklore

No actual sources except word-of-mouth. The connection to water some of the sources below state, is iffy at best.

In a dissertation published in 2022, it was found that the belief in the Tokoloshe was prominent and caused destruction psychologically, physically and sexually.

“In South Africa, the tokoloshe is an example of a supernatural cultural figure, believed to be short, stout, and hairy, similar to a goblin, who terrorises its victims during the night while they are asleep.”

tokoloshe robs spaza
Newspaper headline about tokoloshe. Image credit.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Tokoloshe

A malevolent South African demon, a small, hairy entity living near water in remote places. A sexual predator, a familiar of witchdoctors and general causer of mischief and mayhem, he is a potent figure to be feared and blamed for all the evil-doing of society. He features in media reports and in online debates, comic strips, and songs, and some superstitious people still raise their beds high off the floor with breaks to thwart his possible sexual advances.

*More can be read in the book.

Tokoloshe. Image credit.

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Tikoloshe

A hairy amphibious creature in the folklore of the Xhosa natives of South Africa. It is about the size and shape of a baboon, but walks upright, with its long arms trailing on the ground. It can appear human, and even turn invisible. Once confined to the rivers of the Transvaal, it has lately been seen in the Natal and even in urban Johannesburg. It is notorious for raping and strangling women, and for robbing and murdering rich men.

*More can be read in the book.

terror by tokoloshe
Newspaper article featuring tokoloshe. Image credit.

Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology by Theresa Bane

Tikoloshe (TIC- ah- la- lish)

Variations: Gilikango, HILI, Thokolosi, Tikaloshe, Tokolosh, Tokoloshe, Tokoloshi

The Xhosa people of Lesotho, Africa, have in their lore a vampiric creature known as a tikoloshe (see AFRICAN VAMPIRE WITCH). It is an excellent familiar for a witch and many do not mind the high price that must be paid for its summoning spell to work—a family member of the witch will die within a year’s time of the spell being cast. Accepting this, a tikoloshe is created by removing the eyes and tongue from a corpse, piercing the skull with a red- hot iron poker, and then blowing a magical powder, whose ingredients are a well- guarded secret, into its mouth. The powder will animate and transform the corpse into an obedient and much- prized familiar.

*More can be read in the book.

Tokoloshe. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Tokoloshe. Image credit.

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

I had to laugh while doing research for this creature, as so many people who aren’t South African post articles, reels and podcast episodes about it – but cannot pronounce “Tokoloshe” or “Xhosa”, or even understand the culture of fear behind it.

As shown in the various newspaper clippings in the blog post, the reality of the Tokoloshe is enough to be taken seriously by journalists – even if it’s in the type of newspapers that also post other things that should be taken with a grain of salt. But then, most mainstream news should be double-checked for facts anyway.

There are different aspects to the Tokoloshe, though it usually only attacks at night. There is the bogeyman, who is used to frighten children, much the way the domestic workers at nursery schools I attended told us that if we weren’t good, the Tokoloshe would get us. As a bogeyman, the Tokoloshe is a short, hairy creature out to cause nightmares while hiding under your bed – which is one reason to lift your bed up on bricks (at least two in height) to deter it from entering your mind as it’s such a short creature and won’t be able to reach. It can also be invisible. As a monster sent by a Sangoma – or witch doctor – who created it, the Tokoloshe is blamed for everything from nightmares, bad luck, misfortune such as illness or death, and sexual assault. Usually, when its sent after a person purposely, it is made of jealousy or anger, and that is why it enacts worse crimes than when it is merely a creature wandering the earth. And though it appears much the same as in its bogeyman form, apparently it has a huge shlong and is filled with lust and will either act much like an incubus – which was in a previous post – or will cause such terror in its victim that the person will die and not just be unable to have children in the future.

Only a sangoma, using some muti or magic, can rid one of a tokoloshe.

And though a lot of slapstick comedy surrounds the tokoloshe – see the comedy strips and video clips in the blog post – the fear surrounding this creature is real, tangible in the air when you speak to those who believe this creature is real and that they are being tormented by it, and could even be the scapegoat for real, human predators preying on the vulnerable and innocent as one of the movie clips in the modern culture section in the blog post shows.

The tokoloshe is a figure of mischief, malicious actions, and inappropriate sexual aggression. Whether real, or just something used to protect the victim when seeking help, it’s alive and well in South Africa.

Tokoloshe. Fear. Image credit.

Tokoloshe in Modern Culture

The Madam and Eve cartoon strip regularly features tokoloshes. Here are two samples I enjoyed. (You can see more here.)

Tokoloshe comic strip. Image credit

There’s not a lot of this creature in modern culture, but this candid-camera clip from one of Leon Schuster’s movies (a prank he’s used in almost all of his films using the actor/comedian Alfred Ntobela) is a good example of real-life reactions of people to the Tokoloshe.

(If the above video doesn’t work for some reason, go watch it on YouTube here.)

There is also a rather scary movie with loads of social commentary titled “The Tokoloshe” that seems rather good. Read about it here and watch the trailer below (or watch it on YouTube if the video doesn’t work).

Tokoloshe in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Tokoloshe

The tokoloshe is a type of goblin created by a witch or other magic user with dark intentions. Though it exists in the Dark Realm, it doesn’t walk freely in the mortal realm. Though it isn’t clear how they are created, they do resemble goblins as they are short with pointed ears, and supposedly hairy. They can be invisible at will to everyone except the one who summoned/created them. Though they are usually connected to nightmares and the way to protect oneself from that is to raise your bed on bricks, they are also the henchman of the one who summoned them and thus can do any mischief or malicious deed the magic user wants them to. The only way to protect yourself against the haunting of the tokoloshe is to plant lavender outside your windows and doors, bury iron outside your house, and to burn sage in the room your wish to sleep in. Only a powerful magic user can banish the tokoloshe to the realm it came from.

Tokoloshe translated to Afrikaans: Tokkelossie.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where have you encountered the Tokoloshe for the first time? Have you seen the Tokoloshe? Have you read stories about the Tokoloshe or used it in your own writing? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

You can now support my time in producing folklore posts (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

3 thoughts on “Terrifying Tokoloshe #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Thank you for introducing me to tokoloshe! I had never heard of them before now. Sad to scare little children into behaving with threats of something coming to get them. Then, again, many adults are scared into being good with the treat of eternal torment! The closest I ever got to a threat was once as a teenager. My mother said, “God will get you if you’re lying.” Okay. Odd thing to say, we weren’t in the least bit a religious family! Not at all! Never! I don’t remember if I was lying that time, but of course as a teenager there were times I did lie to my parents!

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