Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Douen, Duende, Douaine, Doune, Dwen, Duegne (n): A Trinidad folklore character, the spirit of a child who died before baptism. Douens wear large hats, have backwards-pointing feet, utter a soft hooting cry, and often lead children to wander off. <Spanish duende ‘goblin’>
Nex’ ting you know douen hauntin’ TTT, an’ we seein’ all dem programmes runnin’ backwards instead of upside-down as dey does run sometimes. (Keens-Douglas 1984:3)
Trini folklore such as Buck, Papa Bois, Phantom, Mermaids and La Jahbless is an oral tradition to pass on the stories to the next generation. Other Trini phrases in the vernacular are Doux-Doux, Kote-si Kote-la, Light Candle, Sprawl Off, Jhorts, Sancoche, Kaka-Nay, Rum Jumbie.
A legendary little creature, the douen is the spirit of an infant who died before it was baptized and now wanders in the forest, its feet turned backwards, its big head covered with a large mushroom-shaped hat so that its face is not seen, joining with others of its kind in bands to lure children or hunters into the forest until they are lead astray. Also known as duhende in Belize. French Creole influences <duègne> implying ‘nuisance’.
In Trinidad, the oral folklore traditions were handed down over the generations. As a result, the contents of the douen and other stories may have changed over time. Trinidad and Tobago’s oral traditions can be traced back to our ancestors from West Africa and East India. Local authors such as Michael Anthony are trying to preserve Papa Bois’s legend and other stories via written media via books such as Caribbean Folktales and Fantasies.
Here is a sample of a douen story from the Trinidad Guardian:
Slowly, the little beings backed away from the tomato plant. They were at least two feet shorter than my four-foot frame at 12-years-old. Their straw hats flopped from side to side as they began to edge away into the thick of trees on that side of the house. I watched their heads bobble as they walked away, still facing me, due to their feet being turned backwards. They disappeared into the forest as I headed back to where my parents and Amy were. My parents did not know that their beach house had a Douen infestation.http://www.guardian.co.tt/article-6.2.430951.7a92d7e8fb
Source: Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago by Lise Winer
Featured Image by KongQueror.
3 thoughts on “Trini Folklore: Douen”
So scary! The backward facing feet…I remember learning about these guys, and how if you run away from their footsteps thinking you are escalating, you’re actually running right to them!
Yeah. My grandpa used to tell us these stories at night.
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