I’m sure many of you have seen Monsters Inc. and can remember a time from your past when you left the bedroom door slightly ajar to let in just enough light to keep the monster under the bed (or the one who lived in the cupboard) at bay. In Southern African folklore there exists a similar monster that is said to hide under beds, in dark corners, or behind curtains and is referred to as the Tokoloshe.
Perhaps naively, I was of the impression that this was a creature created for younger children, by adults, as a preventative for naughty behaviour, however the tradition of elevating beds off the floor using bricks continues well into adulthood. One thing I know about many black South Africans is that they believe heavily in folklore and superstition and when there exists an evil spirit whose power extends to inducing illness, biting off toes, raping women and even causing death for its victims, they probably take the view that a few bricks under the bed couldn’t hurt anyone. The Tokoloshe is a creature feared by many.
There are mixed accounts as to what a Tokoloshe actually looks like, although the general consensus seems to be that it is scary, hairy, and shorter than the average human, possessing a huge third leg (more on this later). It is also hard to see (sometimes invisible) and should one happen to lay eyes on it, they are likely end up blind. Others say that only children have the ability to see the creature – a bit like Lizzie in the movie Drop Dead Fred.
Tokoloshes (pl.) can be summoned for a multitude of reasons and it is known to be resolute when it comes to completing a task. It has a proven track record in the breakup of marriages through maliciously sleeping with a wife, which in turn leads to a lack of fulfilment during subsequent how’s-your-father sessions with her husband. Who says size doesn’t matter (even if you happen to be short and slightly on the hairy side)? Of course, if the husband is better endowed than the Tokoloshe, i.e. longer than the average male forearm, the divorce attempt may be scuppered, sending Tokoloshe packing back to his drawing board. In writing this post, it has also dawned on me why there appear to be so many people handing out male ‘enlargement’ flyers at South African traffic lights. To drum up interest, these should rather read: “Insecure in your marriage? In 3 easy-to-follow steps, Tokoloshe no-more”.
It (Tokoloshe) can both be summoned and banished by witch doctors (Sangoma; Nyanga), using various guises of muti, which can be smeared, inhaled, ingested and/or used as an alternative to your supermarket bought shower gel. You can also get an accompanying incantation. One could keep himself/herself in a good state of employ by evoking or banishing Tokoloshes; townships have countless dark corners where the creature can hide out and many who may have reason to seek his service. Tokoloshe also loves the media spotlight, often featuring in the crime section of the Daily Sun, either through stealing, attacking, or impregnating of his victims (sounds like a bit of a scapegoat if you ask me). He is also the subject of the recent Jack Parrow song, ‘Hosh Tokolosh’ (‘Howzit Tokoloshe’) and features in a mini documentary with Die Antwoord – http://www.vice.com/vice-special/tokoloshe.