Papa Bois

Papa Bois is a mythical character of Caribbean folklore. You mainly hear about him in Trinidad and St. Lucia. His name loosely translates to “father of the forest” in French. The word Papa is pronounced just as it sounds. Bois is a bit trickier. It sounds like ‘bwa’ and you do not pronounce the ‘s’ at the end. He is one of the oldest characters of Caribbean lore. Some historians say that he was known as far back as the first inhabitants of the Caribbean islands.

Papa Bois is the protector of the plants and the animals of forests. He is half animal and half human. The lower half of his body is of a goat and the upper part of his body (his head, chest, and arms) is like a man’s except that he has two horns coming out of his forehead. It is said that he can run faster than any creature.

He can also metamorphosise which means that he can change the way that he looks but he always has a horn either on his belt or on a necklace around his neck. He uses this horn to warn the animals that humans are near. He also defends his forest by changing into other characters to scare or lure away humans who are damaging his forests. He is one of the only good characters in Caribbean folklore. Even his wife, Mama D’Lo is known to use her powers to harm others.

Stories about Papa Bois usually caution that if you meet Papa Bois, you must be very polite and never stare at his hooves.

He is married to Mama D’Lo.

Papa Bois appears in many Caribbean stories including The Talking Mango Tree by A H Benjamin, The Protectors’ Pledge by Danielle Y. C. McLean, and Greyborn Rising by Derry Sandy, all published by CaribbeanReads. For more, see this video by Caribbean historian, Gerard Besson.

Papa Bois by Daniel J. O'Brien

Depiction of Papa Bois by Daniel J. O’Brien for the Talking Mango Tree