El Silbón – folklore



El Silbón – English translation: “The Whistler” – is a character appearing in both Colombian and Venezuelan folk tales, famed for terrorising men, women and children, especially the latter whom he is known to feast upon.


The legend of El Silbón is thought to date back to the 19th Century and always concerns the events beginning with a young man murdering his father, for deeds as diverse as:

  1. Finding his father abusing his young wife.

  2. His father’s refusal to allow his son to feast upon the blood and innards of a recently slaughtered deer. The son’s solution is to kill and gut his father and to serve the resultant stew of human offal to his mother.


Either way and accounting for further slight deviations, the mother flees the scene, returning with her father who it seems is a dab hand at dishing out punishments and curses. Tying the boy to a tree, he rubs lemons and chillies (or red peppers) into his eyes, whips him soundly and, being a frugal sort, squeezes the remaining lemons over the wounds. He is then presented with a sack containing his father’s remains (or sometimes, future victims), which he must carry on his back for eternity. Not quite finished, spectral hounds are sent to pursue him wherever he wanders. A final curse is uttered to send him on his way:

Eso no se le hace a su padre…¡Maldito eres pa´ toa´ la vida [roughly: “You should not have killed your father, you are cursed for the rest of your life”]

As the ghostly son sets off, with dogs not far behind, he whistles a distinctive tune; think “Do-re-me…” or the note progression C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.


The cursed young man now takes his anger out on many who cross his path but particularly men who have cheated on their wives, drunkards and children. The sight of him distantly traipsing across the plains, stick-thin and sporting a large-brimmed farming hat, can often be preempted by the sound of his distinctive whistle, as well as the sound of the bones in his sack grinding against one another. Though common sense would dictate the louder it is heard, the nearer he is, in actual fact is actually true, meaning a distant sound after a glimpse of the boy could spell imminent doom.


Every night the ghoulish traveller stops at a different house in order to count the bones in his sack. If no-one at home is roused by the sound of this by the following dawn, a member of the household is certain to die. Drunks are given less of a chance; those found sleeping off the booze are dispatched at once, by the novel approach of having their alcohol and blood sucked out of their body via the belly button.




He is often to be seen during the rainy seasons. It is possible to arm oneself against attack from El Silbón by either reminding him of the crimes which have led to his torment, or by keeping one of the items he was tortured with close to hand; red peppers, a whip or a dog. This writer makes no comment on the kind of homes which may have all three of these things.

Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA

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