The story of the African Tokoloshe                                                       Home

The story of the African Tokoloshe

Zimbabwe's Tokoloshe is large, covered in fur with long talons and a bony spine reaching all the way down its back from the
top of its skull. It also has glowing red eyes, emits a foul stench and speaks in a rasping voice. Fear of them is such that many people will not sleep on the floor, and will raise their beds higher by placing bricks underneath the legs. This enables them to
see one hiding underneath the bed before they retire for the night. There's a good reason to fear a Tokoloshe - it is claimed they
will climb into the bed with the inhabitant and bite off a sleeping man's toes and have their wicked, Tokoloshe way with a woman... vile creatures indeed! Some people will not even mention the name Tokoloshe for fear of summoning this extremely unwelcome guest. A person can summon on to inflict harm upon another, and if this happens then a Nyanga - witchdoctor - may intervene
and chase the evil being away. Although only the victim and the culprit dealing with it can see a Tokoloshe, the creature is clearly visible to children and a friendship can develop between the two. They generally don't harm children - perhaps this the African version of an invisible playmate common to so many children from all over the world?
There's a story in Zimbabwean folklore that tells of a beautiful girl who used to bath in a river in the Manica province in the
Eastern Highlands every day. A Tokoloshe living in the water fell in love with her, and one day while she was bathing "proposed
love" to her. Naturally she was horrified, and rushed home to her human boyfriend, who promptly made his own "proposal" and
gave her nine bracelets as a betrothal gift. Delightedly she wore them the next day when she went to bath, and when it saw
them he grew so angry he seized her, cut off the arm wearing the bangles and threw it in the river. Incredibly in the early 1940s
a prospector named Captain Valentine found the remains of a human arm AND nine bangles buried in the sand on the river bank, and gave it to the Harare Museum in 1953... it is apparently still resident there.
A couple of recent stories involving The Tokoloshe in Zimbabwe:
In 1999 a woman living in the second largest city of Bulawayo summoned a witchdoctor to exorcise her house, believing that
her maid had contacted a Tokoloshe and asked it to harm her employer. The woman was of Portuguese descent, born and
brought up in Mozambique and then Zimbabwe. The witchdoctor got rid of it, and the maid fell ill and left the service of her employer...
Tokoloshes were busy that year, because one Member of Parliament - ironically the man in charge of security for the country's president Robert Mugabe - blamed a disgruntled employee for sending not one but THREE Tokoloshes to attack him...
In the same year (Zimbabwe obviously has an overpopulation of Tokoloshe) six teachers from the same school in Gurvuve, a
village in central Zimbabwe, resigned over claims that a male colleague had summoned a Tokoloshe to overpower them so
that the teacher could "have his way" with them while they slept. Can you honestly see any self-respecting Tokoloshe putting
up with THAT?
My family was not immune from the Tokoloshe. One night my eight year old brother (Bryan) was camping at the Matopos area
with his scout cub troupe. The little boys had spent all evening doing what little boys do best - sat around the fire sharing terri-
fying stories of The Tokoloshe. Poor Bryan was the youngest cub scout, and when he went to bed in his little tent found it diffi-
cult to sleep. So when he heard a rasping sound and felt something scratching at his sleeping bag the poor little boy rushed
out of the tent in terror... whereupon the rasping sound turned into peals of laughter!
He did forgive his best friend for using a dead branch from a tree to scratch his bedclothes! Little boys can be cruel!
By Sarah Todd

The writer was born in Africa, and lived there for the first 38 years of her life. She worked in the world of public relations for over
five years, running her own PR company and dealing extensively with the world of journalism and the print media. She is an
author on http://www.Writing.Com, a site for Writers.
Her blog can be visited at: http://www.writing.com/authors/zwisis/blog