No one likes being called a bad parent, but sometimes parents deserve their kids’ snarky remarks, especially if they’ve been scaring them way too often throughout their childhood years. Moms and dads may think they scare their children with seemingly harmless and rather ridiculous things (my own father used to tell me I’d grow teeth in my stomach if I didn’t stop eating my strawberry flavored toothpaste as a youngster), but when they start using frightening creatures in order to make the little ones behave better… well, things can get out of hand.
These creatures are usually extremely dreaded by kids because the children’s imagination lacks any form of boundaries. And while psychologists and therapists have been fighting over the controversial practice of using fictional bad guys as an aspect of a child’s upbringing for centuries, parents in general use this trick so often that countless kids all over the globe are way too familiar with the boogeyman waiting to snatch them from their homes.
We, Slavs, may not have a boogeyman, but we have a plethora of equivalents of him. Here’s a list of the top 3 most popular Slavic creatures that our parents used to scare us with.
Slavs can spit out a lengthy work of essays on Baba Yaga and every single one of them will give you a different reason as to why, when and how she would make an appearance. According to the bases of the popular legend, she’s an elder, grotesquely looking hag – a grandma gifted with magical powers and repulsive looks who uses her magic for dreadful things. If a kid isn’t behaving properly, Baba Yaga will snatch him/ her from the safety of his/ her home. And then she would allegedly eat the child.
Many adults are frightened by Baba Yaga even after they outgrow their childhood years. This popular creature from the Slavic mythology is widespread among adults and elders alike who give into their imagination and superstitions and believe the old hag is capable of harming them by casting powerful curses. Contrary to what most non-Slavs think, many Slavic kids outside Russia also get scared with Baba Yaga by their non-Russian parents.
Numerous cultures have variations of the Sack Man or Bag Man who comes at night and either snatches kids from their homes or just kidnaps them from the “scary” places they must stay away from. As you might have already guessed, this guy is somewhat of a male rival to Baba Yaga. We have an abundance of different names for this creature – Torbalan, Babay, Bubák…
Nobody really knows what this mythological creature looks like, which in result only drives a child’s imagination wilder. And in return that only makes the fear of Sack Man grow stronger. All mythology really tells us about this character is that he appears to be wearing a sack in which he can carry the naughty children away. Unlike Baba Yaga, parents don’t delve into details regarding what happens next. The fear induced by the sole idea of the scary old man with the bag, who will take you from your relatives, is already sufficient enough to make an irresponsible child behave better.
Scarecrow/ Golliwog/ Strašilo
It may not be as popular as Baba Yaga and Sack Man, but the good old scarecrow is present in tons of mythological tales that span even outside Slavic territory. The Strašilo is often depicted either as a man with magical powers that resembles a golliwog or just as a supernatural being that resembles the type of scarecrows many villagers use in their fields to shoo away crows and other similar pests. Due to the fact that misbehaving kids imagine all sorts of atrocious stuff about the Strašilo, they easily get scared into buying their parents’ threats.
Is this practice wrong? Yes, it is, especially if parents overdo it. But it most definitely doesn’t hurt to laugh about all those ridiculous, made-up things that used to seem frightening when we were younger.