the bogeyman legend bau bau illustration
The Bogeyman legend – Bau Bau monster illustration by Stefano Bruscolini

There is happy news this Halloween for our traveling friends from all over the world. Those who joined The Adventures of Kiara Yew or read our articles on Romanian folklore already know that we have discovered a lot of mythical villains by now. We thought this year a great idea for a Halloween costume would be the impersonation of a bogeyman or a bogeywoman. Why is the Bogeyman a villain by definition? Why has it been so popular in many cultures around the globe? You will find out all about that in what follows. Meanwhile, suffice to say Romanians have their own bogeyman legend version. This is the Bau-Bau.

The Bau-Bau Or The Bogeyman Legend in Romania

The Bogeyman legend in Romania is connected to the myth of fearing “the other” or “the stranger.” Parents and tutors often threaten naughty or misbehaving children with the Bau-Bau, who is going to come and kidnap them. The threat is usually followed, in the narration, by the parent offering to protect the child from the menace, only if the child starts to behave, to restore his/her authority. That is how the bogeyman legend parenting model is carried in all countries where the bogeyman exists.

Furthermore, the Romanian Bogeyman is described as an evil man wearing a long black coat and a hat or a hood that covers his face. Not only the Romanian folklore mentions it, but also Romanian poets like famous George Coșbuc. In one of his poems from 1896, the bogeyman consecutively takes the shape of a wolf, a poor man and a foreign merchant, who comes into the village to buy children who are not loved by their mothers. As opposed to the Russian bogeyman who is actually a female character, or the Spanish bogeyman who is practically shapeless, the Bau-Bau is a man, be it a gypsy (sometimes a gypsy woman) or an unknown person.

Is The Bogeyman Real?

Theoretically, the bogeyman exists only in legends and myths. So, from this point of view, the answer is no, the bogeyman is not real. It is a figment of the imagination. The origin and meaning of the word Bogeyman refer to a goblin or a scarecrow. Sometimes it is associated with the hobgoblin, which is a mixture between an elf and a goblin. Generally, the hobgoblin is a horrid mischievous fairy.

In many cultures, the Bogeyman is a mere allusion to a mythical monster that haunts children’s dreams if they misbehave. Parents from different countries try to frighten naughty children with the appearance of a certain Bogeyman who might kidnap or eat them. However, the imagined embodiment of such a creature takes various forms. For instance, in the Polish and Russian folklore, the Bogeyman legend unravels the mystery of a witch called Baba Yaga. She is pictured as an old woman flying in what appears to be a tree trunk. She is said to kidnap children and feed on them.

the bogeyman legend the park
The Bogeyman in The Secret World video game special Halloween edition The Seven Silences

The Bogeyman in Horror Video Games

Practically the Bogeyman does exist but as a popular video game character. A Norwegian online video game developer carries on the bogeyman legend. Funcom, as they are called, created The Secret World and released it in 2015. A special horror spin-off of the game, called The Park, features the Bogeyman as an antagonist. This time, the Bogeyman gets to be an adult-only mythical villain. After haunting children’s bedrooms for centuries, he now besets the abandoned site of Atlantic Island Park, in Solomon Island, Maine. The game developers invested the bogeyman with the power to feed on human emotions and incite them in those who trespass its territory. Sounds like a fun game to play on Halloween and maybe get some online costume inspiration, right?

What Does The Bogeyman Eat?

the bogeyman legend
Baba Yaga or the Russian Bogeywoman | Illustration by Denis Zilber

The bogeyman often appears in children’s imagery as a shapeless or formless creature. Many times though, it is a generic evil-looking being or spirit like a gnome, a monster, a ghost, or even the devil. However, not all the fictions and myths surrounding the bogeyman describe it like a children-eating monster. Likewise, L’Uomo Nero, the Italian bogeyman, is never supposed to eat children. He only takes them away to strange and scary places.

Nevertheless, there are at least nine bogeyman characters that eat children. From El Coco in Latin America to The Lubia in Albania, then Babaroga in the Balkans and The Old Hag in Canada, they all are children-eating fictional monsters. It is very common for kids to go through a period of fearing a bogeyman, and usually, they overcome it. Not all bogeymen are scary. Some are nice, just like the kid-friendly Fungus the Bogeyman.

The Bogeyman on Halloween

Got some pretty wild ideas about your Halloween costume out of these bogeyman legends? We sure hope so. For instance, this costume imitates the Norwegian and Danish bogeyman representations.  If the Bau-Bau is not inspiring enough this year, you can try creating an outfit based on other Romanian mythical monsters, or check out the werewolf legends of Romania for a werewolf look. You will definitely stand out of the crowd.

The story of the shapeless or the shapeshifting Bau-Bau is one of the many legends of Romania you can read about on The Adventures of Kiara Yew. In Romania, folklore resurfaces from the past and contributes to the creation of new caricatures from our present life. Be that as it may, old Romanian mythology is fascinating and worth exploring with Kiara Yew. Don’t forget! The Bau Bau is not the only mythical villain with a broad presence in European mythologies. For instance, the Romanian version of the basilisk is one curiously surviving villain you might want to read about. 

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