Wednesday 28 October, 2020

5 St Lucian folklore stories from our childhood

Long, long ago when electricity was scarce and there were more areas dominated by ‘bush’, many of us were crippled by the fear of night or the forest.

When unexplained sounds of children laughing filled the forest, we would say that there was a Ti Bolom nearby or when children went missing, La Jabless was commonly accused as the kidnapper.

Stories of supernatural occurrences were widely told throughout the communities. In the absence of television or internet, it became the norm for children to gather in circles while elders told stories of their creepy encounters or urban legends handed down by their ancestors. The storytellers became the tool used to bring people together to socialize.

Although this rich collection of stories has become maligned or somewhat forgotten, they still inhabit our collective consciousness and maybe our forests. Here are a few folklore stories that many of us were told as children.

The video above explores La Diablesse from a Trinidadian perspective.

  1. La Diablesse – Translated as “female devil,” La Diablesse is the devil woman, a seductress, and a temptress to males. It was said that she was a beautiful white demoness usually encountered on bridges, rivers, isolated streets and even at parties. She would talk quietly and politely to her victim, before using her magical beauty to lure him into the forest. Once enchanted, the victim will be fed on lizards, wood ants and snakes. Sometimes he is never seen again; or if he is lucky, he will awake next morning in a crevice on some rockface or ravine. A Diablesse can be recognized from the fact that her left foot is cloven, and that under her skirts can be glimpsed heavy steel fetters. If in doubt make the sign of the cross; a true Diablesse will immediately disappear. The video above explores La Diablesse from a Trinidadian perspective.

 

  1. Compère Lapin tales - Compère Lapin stories have been a trademark of most of our childhoods. I really enjoyed listening to this cunning rabbit tales where he used his wits to outsmart the animals in the land. Most times it’s not for anybody’s betterment but for his personal pleasure or for him to trick Compère Tigre out of eating his dinner. Sometimes he is outsmarted too, especially when he is up to mischief, like building an oven to cook the village’s animals or a school to trap all their children. St Lucian Jacintha Lee has documented the stories in a book named ‘Compère Lapin Tales’.

 

  1. The Devil’s Bridge – Have you ever passed through Choiseul or Saltibus and heard persons speaking of a Devil’s Bridge? It’s a pretty interesting story about a man who made a pact with the devil to build a bridge and in turn promised the devil a soul. However, when the bridge was completed the man let his dog cross the bridge before him. The dog reached the other side but vanished and was never seen again. Check out the full story below from one of our Loop Adventures episodes.

 

  1. Bolom/Ti Bolom – This story always gave me chills. The bolom is a miniature man, roughly 2 feet tall, brought into being to do the evil bidding of his summoner. It is said that these evil doers are created by placing a raw egg under your pillow or arm for three days and on the third day the bolom is formed. But you have to be quick and say ‘mwen say met ou’ (I am your owner) before the bolom speaks in order to become its master and make it do all your desired wishes. However, if it speaks before you then it has control over your soul. According to legend, the bolom hides in secluded areas crying out like little lost kids in need of assistance and must be constantly supplied with raw meat or he may turn on the summoner.

 

  1. Ti Jean and his brothers – St. Lucia’s Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott’s renowned play ‘Ti Jean and His Brothers’ has been a local favorite since its inception. The play has the model of a fairy tale, but with a more mature story. The animals of the rainforest tell the story of Ti Jean and his two brothers, and their plight against the devil. Bolom offers the three brothers a challenge against the devil and the objective is to win and evoke emotion in the devil so that they can live in wealth and peace, if they lose the devil will eat them. (Full summary https://www.litcharts.com/lit/ti-jean-and-his-brothers/summary).

 

Do you remember any other folk stories from your childhood? Leave them in the comments.

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