|Monster Art Show III: The Yara-ma-yha-who
In Brazilian folklore, misbehaving children were traditionally told that the dreaded Sack Man
would steal them away for continued mischief. In Germany, it was the hairy demon Krampus, a
sort of reverse Santa Claus who would carry naughty children off in bags and chains. In Egypt, it
was the cannibalistic "man with the burnt leg," who became such a freak when he failed to listen
to his own parents. Haiti had the giant uncle gunnysack, and in Vietnam it was Mr. Three-bags.
One thing we can learn from these traditions, besides the fact that children hate bags, is that
virtually every culture has found the threat of monsters to be an effective form of discipline for
thousands of years; what we in the western world have come to know as "bogeymen."
|Artwork created especially for bogleech.com! Click thumbnails for a larger view and click usernames (where
applicable) to see more by these artists! Images are not for use without the original creator's permission!
...But while the majority of bogeymen (or bogeywomen) are left undescribed (what better way to
sew fear than the let a child's imagination fill in the blanks?) or relatively human, one particular
disciplinary goblin boasts the most specific, most unusual appearance and behavior of them all:
the Yara-ma-yha-who of Australian Aboriginal culture. Home to some of the world's most
dangerous snakes, spiders, crocodilians and even the deadliest snail, wild Australia is one of
the worst possible places to leave a child unattended, and since the funnelweb spider apparently
wasn't bad enough for young Aboriginal kids, their parents spun stories of a bizarre forest
creature just waiting to catch someone all alone in its territory...
Standing only three to four feet tall, the Yara-ma-yha-who was a frog-like or monkey-like little
man owing much of its height to a comically oversized head. Its entire body was said to be
covered in red skin or hair, and the tips of its fingers and toes were described as "octopus-like"
suckers. Its face was dominated by a wide, toothless mouth like that of a frog, apparently large
enough or stretchy enough to engulf a human being.
This outlandish creature was said to lurk almost exclusively in the foliage of fig trees, patiently
lying in wait for a very specific sort of prey - a lone human stopping to rest at the base of its tree.
Once the interloper let their guard down, the monster would drop from above and begin a
multi-step feeding ritual even more peculiar than its physical appearance...
First, the Yara-ma-yha-who would latch on to the victim and rapidly drain blood in a leech-like
manner through its sucker-tipped digits, feeding until the victim was on the very brink of death.
Children were advised to simply lie back and submit to this attack, as the monster would leave
them be when their struggling ceased.
Too weak to escape, the prey would be left lying helpless for an indeterminate amount of time
before the monster returned and promptly swallowed them whole. Washing down its meal at the
nearest river, the Yara-ma-yha-who would proceed to take a long nap.
As soon as the curious creature awoke, it would regurgitate its victim completely alive and
unharmed as though the attack had never happened at all...except that the unfortunate soul
would be very slightly shorter for the rest of their days.
|Written by Jonathan Wojcik
A yara-ma-yha-who would never miss an opportunity to attack the same person again and
again, and with every attack, the persistent fool would be left a little smaller, a little redder, and a
little bit hungrier for blood. It was never certain just how many attacks were necessary, but
anyone stupid enough to keep sleeping under fig trees would soon find themselves living in one,
waiting to catch the next reckless moron off guard.
Due to its blood-feeding habits, the Yara-ma-yha-who has been branded a type of "vampire" by
hundreds of literary and internet sources; the vast majority of which are all quoting the same
internet "vampire list" that went up decades ago. I was guilty of this in one of my own articles
written six years before this gallery went up, and I've since updated the page to reflect a changed
outlook. The Yara-ma-yha-who may share the diet and transformative powers of many "vampiric"
monsters, but has never been described as a form of the living dead, and it feels a little cheap to
label every mythical bloodsucker a "vampire." The sucker-fingered pygmy isn't even explicitly
supernatural, but viewed more as a very weird, very special beast of the forest.
Some folklorists believe the Yara-ma-yha-who to be an exaggeration of the red-eyed tree frog,
native only to Australia's tropical forests. While the darling amphibians are only partially
red-bodied, it's not a far-fetched comparison; just imagine the impression one might leave were
it to drop on your face in the middle of a quick nap.
|Legend of the Yara-ma-yha-who