Some mythical creatures have their origin in tradition and tales from the distant past. However, each culture is associated with a multitude of interesting and odd creatures; many of these beings are humanoids. One of these legendary humanoids is the Tikbalang.
The Tikbalang (many different spellings are used – translates as ‘demon horse’) is a creature of Philippine folklore said to lurk in the mountains and forests of the Philippines. It is generally described as a tall, bony humanoid creature with disproportionately long limbs, to the point that its knees reach above its head when it squats down. It has the head and feet of an animal, most commonly a horse. It has been compared to the half-man, half-horse centaur from Greek mythology. It travels at night to rape female mortals who will then give birth to more Tikbalang. It is sometimes believed to be a transformation of an aborted fetus which has been sent to earth from limbo.
Tikbalangs are very playful with people, and they usually make a person imagine things that aren’t real. Sometimes a Tikbalang will drive a person crazy. Legends say that when rain falls while the sun is shining, a pair of Tikbalangs are being wed. Since horses only arrived in the Philippine archipelago during the Spanish invasion, there is a theory that the image of a half-horse, half-man creature was propagated by the conquistadors to keep the natives afraid of the night. There are stories claiming that the Tikbalang are actually half-bird, half-man creatures, much like the Japanese Tengu.
A traveler who finds himself lost and suspects that a Tikbalang is leading him astray may counteract it by wearing his shirt inside out. Another countermeasure is to verbally ask permission to pass by, or to avoid making too much noise while in the woods so as not to offend or disturb the Tikbalang.
Folklore says that one can tame a Tikbalang and compel it to be one’s servant by plucking three golden hairs from its mane. There are also stories where a Tikbalang asks its intended prey a riddle. Someone who manages to answer correctly will be rewarded with a pot of gold.
Other legends depict the Tikbalang as a monster of the night, with eyes that glow red. This version of the Tikbalang casts it as a fearsome creature, a real danger to people. It is believed that when it is angered – and it is easily angered – it stomps on people with its hooves until they die. In these tales, the Tikbalang is always accompanied by the stench of burning hair and smokes great big cigars.
It is said that delirious town folk who have stumbled their way into town after long absences tell of how an apparation resembling a Tikbalang pushed and slapped them, often knocking them over and not allowing them to right themselves; all the while shaking with nervous, childish giggling. People say that the cessation of resistance or protest will suddenly lead a victim to find themselves alone in the woods, plunged into darkness; the sun long set. The path home, recalled by the few who return after a disappearance, is hampered by a severe sense of disorientation and a forest that seems to curl in on itself repeatedly.