A Toyol or Tuyul is a mythical spirit in Malay mythology of South-East Asia, especially in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.
The spirit is sometimes called the “Kwee Kia” in Hokkien. In Thailand, they are called Koman-tong (Male) and Koman-lay (Female). In the Philippines, they have a similar child spirit called the “tiyanak”. In Cambodia, they are called “Cohen Kroh”. In South Korea called “Do Yeol”. It is a small child spirit invoked by a dukun (Indonesian shaman) or pawang (Malay witch doctor) from a dead human fetus using black magic.
People normally associate the appearance of a toyol with that of a small baby, frequently that of a newborn baby walking naked with a big head, small hands, clouded eyes and usually greenish skin. It can be seen without the use of magic, though they are unlikely to be spotted casually.
Those who did claim to encounter it described its actual appearance to be childlike (a toddler) with green/grey skin, bald, big red (alien-like) eyes, pointy ears and rows of sharp teeth, and sometimes reported with hairs, like a monkey. Its behaviour is more animal-like. It tends to climb on rooftops either to play or prior to entering houses.
In old village tales, people keep toyols for selfish but petty gains. They use such spirits for theft, sabotage and other minor crimes. With special rituals the toyol can be made powerful and perform murder. A person who suddenly becomes wealthy without explanation might be suspected of keeping a toyol. The toyol is kept in a jar or an urn, and hidden away in a dark place until needed.
What happens at the end of the “contract” is not very clear. It could be that the tablet, along with the urn, is buried in a graveyard (with the relevant rituals), and the spirit is then laid to rest. An alternative method is to dispose of them in the sea. Or else, a toyol gets passed down in a family through the generations. This seems to suggest that once you obtain a toyol, not only are you stuck with it for the rest of your life but all your descendants will also be condemned to own it.
However, it can still get released by either the owner or “bomoh” (shaman) to roam free. Without a master, it would stray into the jungle or visit homes as an observer without disturbing residents. Based on an anecdote, a toyol confessed that it likes to peek into people’s lives apart from the occasional distraction of playing with any toys found within houses. Simply put, toyol is quite harmless without a master but like a gun, it can turn to crime or mischief under the command of an unscrupulous individual.
When it comes to stealing money or jewellery, people wonder how the toyol can find such valuables in hidden places where even humans fail to find them. There is speculation that it can somehow see through walls or barriers with its big red eyes (like infrared) to spot hidden valuables but this is unconfirmed. After stealing, the only traces of its presence are its childlike footprints and fingerprints found at the crime scene if it happens to have dust on its hands and feet. Otherwise, people would not suspect that a toyol had raided their premises.
Although seemingly cunning, toyols are supposedly not very intelligent. It is said that they are easily deceived by marbles, beans and sand and strands of garlic hanging on the doorpost or placed on certain parts of the house. The toyol will start playing with these items until it forgets its task at the intended victim’s house. Money placed under mirrors has the potency to ward off toyols due to a fear of their reflection.
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