Bogeymen / Boogeymen


Stories about imaginary specters used to frighten children
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2021

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Contents

  1. Dictionary Definitions.

  2. Imaginary Monsters (England).

  3. Goblin Names (England).

  4. Peg Powler (England).

  5. The Bogey Man (England).

  6. The Fairies (Ireland).

  7. A Rhyme We Say While Skipping (Ireland).

  8. The Night Huntsman (Germany).

  9. The Rye-Mother (Germany).

  10. Frau Trude (Germany).

  11. Mother Hinne's Parlor (Germany).

  12. Frightening Children (Germany).

  13. Butzemann (Germany).

  14. The Devil Takes a Child (Austria).

  15. The Hard-Hearted Father (Austria).

  16. Link to a collection of fables where a nurse threatens to throw a crying child to a wolf: The Nurse and the Wolf (Aesop, Babrius, Avianus, and Others).


Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Dictionary Definitions

Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755)


Oxford English Dictionary (1971)


Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd edition (1947)


Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language (1947)


Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend (1984)


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    Imaginary Monsters

    England

    The boggarts who are named in those awful threats by means of which the young are quelled into obedience to authority seem wellnigh innumerable. They include monsters of every sort and description. Amongst these imaginary monsters are:

    Churn-Milk Peg and Melsh Dick are wood-demons supposed to protect soft, unripe nuts from being gathered by naughty children, the former being wont to beguile her leisure by smoking a pipe.

    The Gooseberry Wife, in the guise of a large furry caterpillar, takes charge of the green gooseberries, for example: "If ye goos out in the gearden, the Gooseberry-Wife'll be sure to ketch ye."

    In the orchards Awd Goggie is guarding the unripe apples. Grindylow, Jenny Green-Teeth, and Nelly Long Arms are the various names of a nymph or water-demon who is said to lurk at the bottom of deep pits, ponds, and wells. When children approach too near to the edge of her domain, she will stretch out her long, sinewy arms, seize them, and drag them under the water, holding them there till they are drowned. Her presence is indicated by a green scum on the surface of the water. If there is no pond or deep water for her near by, she has been supposed to take up a temporary lodging in the tops of trees, where after nightfall she may be heard moaning, in a voice like the sighing of the night-wind through the branches of trees.

    In some parts of the country, instead of Jenny Green-Teeth, the boggart of the ponds is a masculine water demon called Rawhead, Tommy Rawhead, Bloody-Bones, or Rawhead and Bloody-bones, for example: "Keep away from the marl-pit or Rawhead and Bloody-Bones will have you."

    Pictures such as these, when presented to the vivid imagination of children, doubtless gain rather than lose in lurid colouring and terrifying shape, and one shudders to think of the effect they must produce on impressionable minds, though in the majority of cases, no doubt, familiarity breeds a wholesome contempt.




    Goblin Names

    England




    Peg Powler

    England

    The river Tees has its sprite, called Peg Powler, a sort of Lorelei, with green tresses, and an insatiable desire for human life, as has the Jenny Greenteeth of Lancashire streams. Both are said to lure people to their subaqueous haunts, and then drown or devour them. The foam or froth, which is often seen floating on the higher portion of the Tees in large masses, is called "Peg Powler's suds;" the finer less sponge-like froth is called "Peg Powler's cream."

    Mr. Denham tells Mr. Denham tells us that children are still warned from playing on the banks of the river, especially on Sundays, by threats that Peg Powler will drag them into the water; and he pleads guilty to having experienced great terror whenever, as a boy, he found himself alone by the haunted stream.




    The Bogey Man

    England

    The Bogey Man is so terribly tall,
    The Bogey Man is as high as the wall,
    The Bogey Man is intended to fall
    On violent, truculent folks.

    The Bogey Man is the nurs'ry police,
    There isn't a nephew, nor is there a niece,
    But of whose folly he knows every piece,
    And his horrible wrath it provokes.

    "We told you he'd catch you," my family said,
    When I was a youngster; and there by the bed
    He seemed to be standing, all green, blue, and red,
    And every sort of a hue.

    I thought he would leap in the dark with a cry
    And carry me off to his home in the sky --
    But he never did yet, for here still am I --
    So I don't believe that it's true.




    The Fairies

    Ireland

    The fairies are the Tuatha De Danaans. Most people believe in fairies. Now those fairies are supposed to live in the old forts. Many people are afraid of the anger of the fairies. There are many old tales told about the fairies. When young children do not do as they are told, their mothers threaten to bring them to the fairies. The fairies are very important to the people in Ireland. No one has ever done any harm to them.

    M. Murray, aged about 45 years.




    A Rhyme We Say While Skipping

    Ireland

    As I was in the kitchen,
    Doing a bit of stitching,
    In came a bogey man,
    And I ran out.

    Collector: Eva Nolan.




    The Night Huntsman

    Germany

    In the nighttime one often hears sounds of wild animals and the voice and the horn of a huntsman. This is said to be the night huntsman. His cries terrify the children. They can be brought to silence calling out to them, "Be quiet! Can't you hear the night huntsman?"

    This threat is similar to that of the Romans when they said, "Hannibal ad portas! [Hannibal is at the gates!]

    Similarly, the Germans say, "Be quiet, or Truyd will come!"

    In the old Mark among my fellow countrymen they say, "Shut your mouth, or the Rye-Mother with her long black tits will come and take you away."

    In other places they say, "Be quiet, or the Popanz will come."

    Or: "Knecht Ruprecht will put you into his sack."

    In this manner the Silesians threaten their obstinate little ones with the night huntsman. Perhaps they believe that this is Rübezahl's ghost.




    The Rye-Mother

    Germany

    The rural people of Mark Brandenburg tell the legend of the Rye-Mother who hides in grain fields. For this reason children do not dare to walk into a grain field.

    Children in Altmark are kept silent with the words: "Hold your mouth or the Rye-Mother, with her long black tits, will come and take you away!"

    In the vicinity of Braunschweig and Lüneburg she is called the Grain-Wife. Children seeking cornflowers tell one another stories about how she steals little children; and hence they do not dare go too far into the green fields.




    Frau Trude

    Germany

    Once upon a time there was a small girl who was strong willed and forward, and whenever her parents said anything to her, she disobeyed them. How could anything go well with her?

    One day she said to her parents: "I have heard so much about Frau Trude. Someday I want to go to her place. People say such amazing things are seen there, and such strange things happen there, that I have become very curious.

    Her parents strictly forbade her, saying: "Frau Trude is a wicked woman who commits godless acts. If you go there, you will no longer be our child.

    But the girl paid no attention to her parents and went to Frau Trude's place anyway.

    When she arrived there, Frau Trude asked: "Why are you so pale?"

    "Oh," she answered, trembling all over, "I saw something that frightened me."

    "What did you see?"

    "I saw a black man on your steps."

    "That was a charcoal burner."

    "Then I saw a green man."

    "That was a huntsman."

    "Then I saw a blood-red man."

    "That was a butcher."

    "Oh, Frau Trude, it frightened me when I looked through your window and could not see you, but instead saw the devil with a head of fire."

    "Aha!" she said. "So you saw the witch properly outfitted. I have been waiting for you and wanting you for a long time. Light the way for me now!"

    With that she turned to girl into a block of wood and threw it into the fire. When it was thoroughly aglow Frau Trude sat down next to it, and warmed herself by it, saying: "It gives such a bright light!"




    Mother Hinne's Parlor

    Germany

    On the way from Westerhausen to Thale, directly behind the village, there is a stone cave in a mountain covered with sandstone cliffs. A wild woman lives there, Mother Hinne. No one knows how she came to be there.

    Some say that she is no longer there, but the children know better, for if they do not behave themselves, one says to them: "Just wait, Mother Hinne is coming now to take you away!"

    That helps a lot, even if they are misbehaving terribly.




    Frightening Children

    Germany

    1.

    In the vicinity of Tübingen, Heilbronn, and elsewhere they say to misbehaving children: "Just wait, Hairy Martin will come with his sack and carry you away into the woods." Or: "The chimney sweep will stuff you into his sack and throw you into the water."

    In Pfullingen and elsewhere instead of "Hairy Martin" they say "Hairy Michael." However, most often they fighten children with "Shame Klaus." In Tübingen they also say "Santa Klaus," a corruption of "Saint Nicholas," who goes about on December 6th just as Hairy Martin does on December 24th, punishing naughty children and giving presents to the good ones.


    2.

    In Poltringen and elsewhere they fighten children with the "Butzemäckeler." (A Butzemann is understood to be a scarecrow set up in a field to frighten away birds and wild animals. It is usually crossed sticks with an old hat and a pair of trousers.)

    In the Black Forest children are threatened with the "Butzegraale." In Fildern and in Mittelstadt they say: "The Graale is coming." Here Hairy Martin is called Graale, which means "Little Gray Man."

    In the Black Forest they also say: "Just wait, you'll be taken to Höllehäfele." They say the same thing in Derendingen whenever a child curses or cries.


    3.

    In Wurmlingen to frighten children away from water they say: "Someone is under there with a hook, and he'll pull you in." Generally they say: "The Hook Man will grab you." Or: "He will pull you in with his hook."

    In Bühlerthann they say to the children: "There is a cart man in the water, and he'll take you to the bottom in his cart.


    4.

    When there were still wild pigs in Pfullingen, whenever children wanted to go into a grain field they would say: "Don't go there. There's a wild sow there."


    5.

    In the vicinity of Brettn in Baden in the evening they frighten children with the "Nachtape," an old woman. Around Lahr and elsewhere in the Black Forest it is the "Nachtrab (night raven), a ghost-like bird who similarly takes children away.

    In Bretten when carnival cakes are being baked, and the children do not want to leave the kitchen, they frighten the children away with the "Carnival Mother," who sticks the children with pins.


    6.

    In the vicinity of Tübingen children who want to go into the town with their parents are told: "At the town gate you would have to bite into an iron chain," and then they remain at home.

    In Pfullingen they say: "I'm going into the Sow Woods. You cannot come with me."




    Butzemann

    Germany, Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano

    Es tranzt ein Butzemann
    In unserm Haus herum di dum,
    Er rüttelt sich, er schüttelt sich.
    Er wirft sein Säckchen hinter sich.
    Es tanzt ein Butzemann
    In unserm Haus herum.
    A Butzemann is dancing
    In our house around, di dum,
    He prances and he shakes.
    He throws his sack behind himself.
    A Butzemann is dancing
    In our house around.




    The Devil Takes a Child

    Austria

    If one calls on the devil, he will come. This was learned by a woman in Obermiemingen who was more often invoking the devil than God.

    One evening her child would not stop crying, and she said, "Just wait, if you do not be still, the devil will take you away," and she held the child out of the window.

    The child was ripped away from her, and its crying could long be heard from the ever increasing distance. That opened the woman's eyes, and she never again called on the devil.




    The Hard-Hearted Father

    Austria

    "Crippled Simon," a cobbler at Signa near Reit or Rattenberg, is still alive. His feet are terribly twisted, and he can only walk very slowly with his cane.

    His father was an evil-tempered laborer who was fond of drinking. When Simon was approaching his fourth year he was a lively healthy child. Once when his father came home late, the child was crying and would not fall asleep. The father shouted at the boy to be still, but this only frightened the youngster, and he cried even louder. The father became so angry that he threatened the child with the devil, calling him the devil's rascal.

    Finally he ripped open the window and held the boy out in the cold night, shouting, "The devil can take him, because he won't be still!"

    Outside it howled like a fierce storm. The mother began to cry and tremble, and when the window began to rattle the father took fright as well. He pulled the child back in, but the boy's feet were twisted out of shape, and he was now quite still, as though dead. From that time onward the boy suffered from cramps, lameness, and tremors.

    He is now 46 years old, and he remains a cripple.

    The father suffered from a bad conscience until he himself died. Others always accused him of his son's misfortune.

    Everyone who hears or reads this account will understand what the moral of the story is.




    Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

    Revised June 11, 2021.