The curious case of demonic infants

By Shaikor Paul

Throughout literature and films which have a supernatural theme to it, there is nothing far worse than a spirit infant, in this case demonic babies. The idea of a spirit baby is a disturbing thought, babies or children are pure and innocent, however, when linked in with demonic behaviour it portrays a very horrifying image. The narrative of these demon babies differs from each folklore throughout the world from Scandinavia to Asia. Although they share similar narrative they are quite inconsistent, but still share the same premise.

SCANDINAVIA

The most famous narrative of spirit infants is from Scandinavia and there are various similar narratives in Scandinavia, but have a slight twist to them. A Myling [1] is a repulsive restless demon spirit, which takes form of a fetus or a young toddler. Moreover, a Myling is the incarnation of the soul of a child that has been born out of wedlock however, it can also be a child that is unbaptised. These spectral infants have been either killed by their own parents or someone who has been hired by their parents. The most common method of killing these children born out of wedlock has been usually through drowning and discarded away in the forest. Children born out of wedlock were frowned upon as they are seen unholy and especially if the child was a female. This form of infanticide is prevalent amongst many cultures throughout the world as illegitimate children were seen as a burden and the community would look down upon them. However, in some cases, infants were still killed if they were born into a married couple. This is due to families having too many children and they are unable to stay alive, which lead to them simply killing the infant, however, this was not as prevalent amongst children born out of wedlock.

an_artists_representation_of_a_myling_

The narrative of Myling does reflect the real-world practices of infanticide, the infants that were not buried they were not given a proper burial which resulted a spirit taking over and having one aim, to get buried. The appearance of a Myling is a malnourished and decomposing body of the infant, obviously, an unpleasant sight, a Myling is a resurrected dead body. Due to no proper burial, a Myling is set to wander the earth until it can get buried by the help of a human. These infants are enraged because they were abandoned and rejected, therefore, it preys upon wondering humans around the site where the infant was buried. Once the infant has latched onto a human it demands it to be taken to a graveyard and buried, if the human fails to do so the Myling kills the human. While the human is carrying the Myling it becomes heavier and heavier with each step the human becomes weaker. If the task is completed, there are narratives where the Myling returns to peace and leaves the earth

myling

Myling. Carrion House

AROUND THE WORLD

Not just in Scandinavia these spirit infants have appeared in places like the Philippines, Japan, Bangladesh and in some Slavic regions. In Slavic mythology, it is called a Poroeniec[2] however, in this case a malevolent demon takes over and demands to be buried or it will wreak havoc. Once the Poroeniec is buried, it becomes a protective house spirit. Another example is in the Philippines, where they are quite like the Myling however, they are demonic creatures. They are described as a vampire like creature and takes the form of a newborn baby, they are a malevolent being and have an evil agenda. Tiyanak[3] is the name given to them and they have the ability to imitate a baby or an infant to lure humans and even abducting infants.  Although they may not be as similar as a Myling or Poroeniec the origin story of a Tiyanak is very similar, it is believed that the Tiyanak is the soul of an infant that has died before being baptised. In Japanese folklore, it is called a Konaki-jiji  and again very similar to the Myling. The Konaki-jiji lures humans and takes a form of either a child or an Old man and asks to be picked up. Upon picking up the Konaki-jiji becomes heavy and crushes the human. In some parts of Bangladesh, very similar to a Myling however, much more demonic and aggressive. These demonic creatures called foonga a literal translation meaning bastard in some dialects of Bengali, are infants who are born out of wedlock. Once they are killed, they seek out revenge by possessing pregnant women.

 

[1] Klintberg, af, Bengt. Death and the Dead. The types of swedish Folk Legend. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2010

[2] Zych, Paul. Vargas, Witold. Slavic Bestiary: The thing about gnomes, wodnikach and rusalkach. Bosh, 2014 

[3] Eugenio, Damiana. Philippine Folk Literature: An Anthology. University of the Philippines Press, 2008

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