June 8, 2012

Characters in Caribbean Folk Tales; Anancy Festival 2012

For the children's writing workshop, "How to Write Your Own Caribbean Folktale," that I'll be conducting at the Anancy Festival in Pembroke Pines tomorrow, I'll be introducing some of the characters that live in our dreams, fears, and hopes.

"Anancy" by Christina Philp

Anancy or Anansi, the Trickster/ spider man can change into a man or spider at will. A rugged survivor, who uses his wits to over come any obstacle, Anancy is rarely a victim.

"Papa Bois" by Christina Philp

"Papa Bois." An old man ragged clothes, sometimes hairy and though very old, extremely strong and muscular, with cloven hoofs and leaves growing out of his beard.

"La Sirene" by Christina Philp

"La Sirene," "River Mumma," "Mama Dlo," "Mama Dglo" or "Mammy Wata". A female water spirit who guards the source of many of our rivers. She can sometimes be seen sitting in the river, combing her hair with a golden comb. She sometimes leaves her comb on a rock, to entice victims whom she then draws into the water

"Soucouyant" by Christina Philp 

"Ole Hig" or "Soucouyant." A woman, often old, who sheds her skin at night and flies through the skies, sometimes as a ball of flame, to suck blood from her victims.

"Loup Garou": bit.ly/LbqnJM

The "Ligahoo" or "Loup Garou." A shape shifter, who can change form (to a werewolf) so that at night he could go around to kill without ever being caught.

"Rolling Calf" : bit.ly/MKgTLi

Rolling Calf. A huge, calf-like creature, which rolls along the road, blocking the way of nighttime travelers, and chasing them with a wicked intention. It has blazing red eyes that gash fire, and a chain that it drags behind it, making an unnerving clanking noise.

"La Diablesse": bit.ly/MKfK6p
"La Diablesse." An old woman who steps forth with her cloven hoof from behind a tree on a lonely road, the sound of chains mingling with the rustle of her petticoat. Sometimes she takes the form of a beautiful woman, to lure some unsuspecting passerby to his death or perhaps to madness. 

"Headless Horseman" by Christina Philp

The Headless Horseman. An evil spirit riding a black horse and carrying his head under one arm (or holding it high to see at great distance). He wields a whip made from a human corpse's spine. When the headless horseman stops riding, death occurs. He usually calls out a name, at which point the named person dies immediately. In another version, he is the headless driver of a black carriage. 

It will be interesting to see how the kids react to and change these characters for their stories.

See you tomorrow!


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Unknown said...

Are there any pleasant characters in our folklore?

Geoffrey Philp said...

Grimms' Fairy tales if I remember didn't have a lot of pleasant characters either. I think it had to do with the age and the viewpoint of scarcity and the hardness of life. Which is why I think it is vitally important for us to retell and recast the stories that we tell our children. At least, that's how I'll be doing it tomorrow.

Thanks, Hazel

Andrew Blackman said...

Fascinating! I was also struck by how scary most of these characters are, and this does conform with European folk tales and what I know of traditional stories from other parts of the world. Keeping their children alive was a big part of a parent's duty in those days, and scaring them was a good tactic. The sad thing is that today's kids probably wouldn't even be scared by a Soucouyant or a Headless Horseman - they probably battle far scarier enemies on their Xbox every day!

Geoffrey Philp said...

Andrew, as you know, it all depends on how it's done. Read Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson and you'll see what I mean.