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Trinidad and Tobago’s oral traditions originated with our ancestors from West Africa and East India, including Papa Bois. Local author Michael Anthony is preserving Papa Bois legend and other stories with books such as Caribbean Folktales and Fantasies. “The migration of French Creoles, free people of colour (gens de couleur libres), and slaves from France and other French colonies beginning in the eighteenth century drastically altered the economy and culture of Trinidad.”
Papa Bois (n): Is a folklore character, usually depicted as having a man’s head, chest and arms. Papa Bois has goat-horns on his head and the lower body of a goat or similar animal. He is the protector of animals in the forests and can change himself into animal forms to lead hunters away. <French Creole Papa ‘father’ + French Bois ‘woods; forest’>
Papa Bois Folklore
Firstly, folklore in Trinidad and Tobago and many parts of the Caribbean are inspired by the West African and French Creole peoples who came to the islands centuries ago. Secondly, many of their spiritual beliefs and practices were incorporated into the stories shared today. Lastly, some characters in our folklore may even be versions of divinities revered by ancient societies. However, there may have also been a fusion of ideas with the Amerindians and the Westerners, resulting in even more complex mythicisms. Also, stories of encounters with strange folks are not as prevalent as when electricity was scarce, and there were more areas dominated by “bush”. However, that does not mean this rich collection of characters have been accused or disremembered. Above all, they still occupy our combined cognisance and maybe our woods.
In conclusion, Papa Bois is a Trinis oral tradition meant to pass on the next generation’s stories. Buck, Douen, Phantom, Mermaids, Mama D’Leau and Loup Garou are stories in the oral folklore tradition. Other Trinidad phrases in the vernacular are Bad John, Doux-Doux and Jhorts.
Featured Image by KongQueror.