Trini Folklore: Douen


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Douen, Duende, Douaine, Doune, Dwen, Duegne (n): A Trinidad folklore character.  Douens wear large hats, have backwards-pointing feet, utter a soft hooting cry, and often lead children to wander off.  <Spanish duende ‘goblin’>

Introduction: Who are the Trinidad Douen?

The Trinidad Douen is a mysterious and haunting figure in Trinidadian folklore. Douens are believed to be the spirits of children who died before baptism or as infants or young children. According to legend, these spirits cannot enter the afterlife and are left to wander the earth, crying out for their mothers.

Douen Legend

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’.

They are said to wander the forest at night, crying out for their mothers and luring unsuspecting children away from their homes.

It is believed that Douens can only be heard but not seen, and they communicate in a high-pitched voice that is almost childlike. Those who have listened to the cries of the Douen say that the sound is bone-chilling and unsettling and can be heard from miles away.

Douen Characteristics and Appearance

Douens are believed to be small in stature, with oversized heads and glowing eyes. They are said to have feet that point backwards, which makes it difficult for them to be tracked. According to legend, they wear wide-brimmed hats to cover their faces and often carry a whip made of dried banana leaves.

Douens are also known to be naughty and playful, and they enjoy playing pranks on people who venture into the forest at night. For example, they have been known to throw stones, rustle leaves, and make eerie sounds to scare unsuspecting victims.


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.

The Significance of the Douen in Trinidadian Culture

The Douen is a significant figure in Trinidadian culture and symbolizes the island’s rich and diverse folklore. The legend of the Douen has been passed down through generations and is a part of the island’s oral tradition.

Douens are also believed to have a spiritual significance and are seen as protectors of the forest and the natural world. In Trinidadian culture, the forest is seen as a place of mystery and magic and is believed to be inhabited by many supernatural beings.

Douen in Popular Culture

The legend of the Douen has been featured in many works of art and literature, both in Trinidad and beyond. It has been the subject of numerous books, plays, and films and has inspired many artists and writers to explore Trinidadian folklore’s haunting and mysterious world.

The Douen has also been depicted in visual art, including paintings, sculptures, and illustrations. These depictions often capture the haunting and eerie nature of the legend and evoke a sense of mystery and intrigue.

Conclusion: Exploring the Mystique of the Douen

The Douen is a haunting and mysterious Trinidadian folklore figure and an essential part of the island’s cultural heritage. By exploring the legend of the Douen, we can gain insight into the beliefs, traditions, and customs of the local people and appreciate Trinidad and Tobago’s rich and diverse folklore.

Whether it’s through exploring the forest at night, listening to local legends, or reading works of literature and art

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.


Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago by Lise Winer

Featured Image by KongQueror.


3 thoughts on “Trini Folklore: Douen”

  1. lagiraffaminor – Writing my way to understanding a bit more of this crazy world

    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!

    1. Kirt Morris – I am a traveller, wanna be foodie, soccer fanatic and budding blogger with 18 years of experience in the information technology and marketing technology space. Originally from Trinidad & Tobago, now sheltering in place in Maryland, USA.

      Yeah. My grandpa used to tell us these stories at night.

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