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Toyol and Tiyanak ― The Mischievous Child Spirits

From thousands of years ago, the Asian cultures and beliefs have presented such strange events in front of the world that are more eager to excite the curious people across all over the globe. Here we are going to talk about such a startling mythical character of "ghosts-ghouls-demons" from the South-East Asian cultures that is largely known as Toyol in the Malaysian folklore, and in Indonesia, it is called the Tuyul.

toyol-tuyul-tiyanak-folklore

Toyol is said to be the twisted spirit of a small child who passed away before it could be born. Goblin-like structure, this spooky baby looks like a toddler, newborn or under development (fetus) baby with grey or green skin and reddened eyes. They have very sharp teeth and pointed ear. The name "Toyol" literally means "mischievous thief”. The Toyol is similar to a creature from Filipino mythology called the Tiyanak and the legendary Guman Thong from Thailand.

Tiyanak is said to be a vampiric creature that imitates the form of a child. It usually takes the form of a newborn baby and cries like one in the jungle to attract unwary travellers. Once it is picked up by the victim, it reverts to its true form and attacks the victim. The Tiyanak is also depicted to take malevolent delight in leading travellers astray, or in abducting children.

People always describe the twisted spirits of Toyols to be too much mischievous and hard to spot their evil activities. A witch doctor or shaman can invoke the spirit through some ritualistic practices and black magic.

The Toyol is either bound to its reanimated body or parts of it the bones- or another object infused with corpse oil. Toyol is believed to be fond of milk, sweets, biscuits, clothing, toys etc and a small amount of owners blood.

Usually, Toyols are created and used to fulfil humans greed of selfishness. The master of a Toyol sends it to neighbour's house to steal something important to him and to give a harmful effect. Even, in very few circumstances Toyol could kill a person. A Toyol can be commanded to search for the spirits of other deceased children in order to fashion more Toyols.

People also say that these evil Toyols have some weakness too. They are scared of some sharp objects such as broken glass, needles, etc. and spreading toys. They also don't like their reflection.

Toyols are kept in jar, urn or other vessels till to be used. They can be passed down through generations of a family as an heirloom, they can be buried and laid to rest or allowed to roam free. It is also said that if a Toyol is ever without a master they are no longer a danger and essentially become observers of the living, watching us go about our lives unhindered. And they may also forcefully suck on the big toes of people whilst sleeping, so sometimes certain bite marks are also believed to be the indication of a Toyol's presence in the house.

According to the people, to stop a Toyol from disturbing them, they either try to catch the Toyol using mice traps or engage the services of a more powerful bomoh than the one who resurrected the Toyol in the first place. Some people leave marbles around their home and hang garlic over the doors to distract or forget the Toyol what it was meant to do. Whether some also try to make peace with the neighbour whom they suspect the Toyol belongs to.


In 2006, a fisherman in Malaysia found a glass jar snagged in his net. Inside the jar was a small black figure that looked like a baby and had red eyes. To his horror, he was convinced he had stumbled upon a Toyol.

The fisherman gave the bottle to his local Bomoh and the Bomoh turned it over to a museum. The museum theorized it was some sort of fetish figure that had been used in a healing ritual and had been cast into the water as part of that ritual.

Not knowing what else to do with it, they put it on display for a while and drew record crowds from Malay visitors anxious for a glimpse of the real supernatural. Eventually, the thing in the jar was returned to the sea.


In one Malaysian story, there was a young man named Bachuk who was very lazy and couldn’t hold down a steady job. He was also addicted to gambling and any money he had was squandered in the casino. He lived with his wife and her sister, and has a hard time providing for them because of his laziness and his gambling.

One day, he was searching through his dead grandfather’s possessions when he came across a dusty old suitcase. Upon opening it, he found it contained what looked like the withered corpse of a baby. Suddenly, to his horror, the baby opened its red eyes and began speaking to him. He realized that it was a Toyol.

"Thank you for releasing me," said the Toyol. "But there are... conditions. I can obey your wishes and give you power. But... I must eat..."

The young man sent the evil imp out to creep around the village at night, stealing the possessions of his neighbours. As time went on, Bachuk became rich and nobody suspected where his money came from.

However, the Toyol began making more and more demands. Bachuk realized that it wanted a new mother. The Toyol demanded to be allowed to breastfeed from Bachuk’s sister, sucking blood instead of milk.

Bachuk sent his wife and sister away to keep them safe and when the Toyol discovered this deception, it flew into a rage. Then the Toyol attacked Bachuk and sucked every drop of blood from his body until he was nothing more than a withered and desiccated corpse.

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