Trini Legends and Folklore: Part 2 - The Douens

9/17/2005 07:52:00 AM Edit This 4 Comments »

In keeping with the promise I made, I shall continue the Trini Legends series on Saturdays from now on... until I run out of local superstitions to talk about.

This week belongs to the Douens.

By Definition

Douens are the spirits of children who have died before they were baptized and as such, they are fated to roam the forests of Trinidad, practising their wide repertoire of pranks. They take the form of naked children, never growing in excess of two or three feet in height. Their faces, which are featureless with the exception of a small mouth, are hidden behind a large, floppy, straw hat but, you can identify a Douen by his feet, which are turned backward, heels facing forward. Malicious little creatures, Douens take pleasure in luring normal children away from their homes and deep into the woods until they become lost. Parents are advised not to shout the names of their children in open places as Douens use this knowledge to entice young ones away. However mischievous they may be, Douens do have a good natured side. They have been know to aid Papa Bois in the forest by leading him to injured or trapped animals and imitating animal calls to throw hunters off track.

They are supposedly found in rural areas where there the source of their favourite food, Crayfish or River crabs, reside. Their footprints are very misleading due to the fact that they would be going in one direction and the prints would be facing the other way.

When I was younger I was given a book called Crick Crack by my godfather, it was filled with local superstitions. One of which involved the story of a man who was walking through the forest and came across a silk cotton tree. These trees have a reputation for being the gateway for Jumbies (a local word for ghosts and goblins). Under the tree, the man saw a baby crying and wriggling. Feeling sorry for the child he picked it up and decided to take it home where he and his wife would take care of it. It was a long way home and the man noticed that the child seemed to be getting heavier and larger with every step. Ignoring it , he kept shifting the child about his body so that he would he able to carry him better. Eventually, he moved the now very large child to his back when the "child" suddenly started choking him and in a very deep, manly voice chanted "Put meh back where yuh find meh!" The man, eyes bulging, ran all the way back to the tree. On his way back, the thing reverted to it's original size and fell asleep when he placed it, once again, under the silk cotton tree.

That story used to scared the shit out of me. Still does every time I read it.

This particular superstition, I have heard many other stories about from family and friends who claim to have encountered them. My closest cousin, claimed to have seen one while going for a walk around the hills where she lives. She was passing a large stretch of grass, when she noticed a large straw hat moving about in them. She stopped and observed for a while, then (for what reason I don't know) called out to the "person". It stopped and looked around and she claimed to see nothing but a gaping mouth and then it started coming toward her. Of course she ran screaming all the way home and has never been back that way since.

Another claimed to have encountered it on the way home from school and it tried to draw him into the bushes. But he noticed it's backward feet and ran in the other direction.

Also here is a poem written by Lauren K. Alleyne

That's all for now.
Next week, the La Diablesse.

Credits for the definition go to Best Caribbean Holidays.

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fruey said...

Interesting story. I like the look of your blog (but the text in the header is a little difficult to read). The content of this post is really cool, it's nice to surf around and read local legends, myths and so on.


Suzi said...

I like your stories very much. Very entertaining, but they won't wig me out so much that I'll lose any sleep. The idea of the backwards feet is particularly intriguing. Very tricky!

Abeni said...

Familiar with that story too about the childthat kept getting heavier.Never heard of douens tho

Jdid said...

yea like abeni that story about the child getting bigger is familiar to me too