• Fraser du Toit

Tokoloshe - South Africa's Build-a-Demon

South Africans have all heard of the small malevolent goblin called Tokoloshe. This creature from Zulu and Xhosa mythology is known to attack the enemies of evil witch doctors. We've mentioned Tokoloshes in this article about tiny humanoids. Several movies have featured the tiny terrors over the years. The earliest being Tokoloshe (1965).



What's the story with these pesky little monsters?


Now You See Me, Now You Don't


Descriptions of the Tokoloshe vary. According to the legends it is only visible to children. Adults can still be attacked though, in fact, adults are often the target of the Tokoloshe's wrath.

Tokoloshes are described as small humanoid beings, usually covered in thick hair, though some descriptions claim them to be hairless. They are around 20-30 cm tall and have long sharp claws on their three-fingered hands.

Some myths claim that the Tokoloshe can become invisible by using a magic stone that it keeps in its mouth. Others claim it lives near rivers. There's a variant of the Tokoloshe to fit everyone, from the demonologist to the cryptid enthusiast.

One thing that everyone agrees on is that the Tokoloshe strikes at night. Victims are choked, scratched, and can even be sexually assaulted by the diminutive demons. Whether it be a paranormal animal or a demon, the Tokoloshe is to be feared, if the stories are true.

According to the legends, the only way to protect yourself from the Tokoloshe is to raise your bed off the ground. The easiest way is to put a couple of bricks under the legs of your bed. If the little bastard can't reach you, you're safe.

Sangomas are able to easily banish the little bastards by reversing the curse. The Tokoloshe then turns on the Witch-Doctor that summoned them, and usually ends up taking their soul.


How Is It Made?



Many online sources will claim that it is a Sangoma, traditional healer, who creates a Tokoloshe. This isn't strictly true. While the Sangoma has the knowledge to do so, summoning the Tokoloshe is an act of evil, and is only done by a Witch-Doctor. The main difference between the two is intention. Sangomas are called to help and heal, whereas Witch-Doctors seek to cause harm.

The Witch-Doctor can summon a Tokoloshe for themself, but it is often done for a client who seeks revenge. Unfortunately for the client, the price is the soul of a loved-one. You don't get to choose whose soul is taken by the Tokoloshe. It decides.

Witch-Doctors get to customize their tiny terror as if they work at Build-a-Bear. Whatever form they choose, whether it be tiny humanoid-ape or shrunken zombie, they unleash the demon to pursue chaos on its own.

One weird thing that many modern reports of the Tokoloshe have in common is sexual assault.

South Africa has a real problem with Sexual Assault, and it could be that it is easier to blame a Tokoloshe than to report the actual crime.

Tabloids like the Daily Sun love stories of Tokoloshes.


It's Just a Myth, Right?


The objective, scientific part of me says that there is no such thing as a Tokoloshe. Unfortunately for that part of me, I happen to have seen one when I was a little guy myself.

It was tiny, hairy, and trying to pull me out of my bed. Skeptics could say that it was just my first experience of sleep paralysis, inspired by legends of the little demons. The only catch is that I was able to move during the encounter, and had never heard of a Tokoloshe at that point.

It could have been a hallucination, who knows? Maybe I'll tell the full story one day.



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