) is creature which, in Philippine mythology
, imitates the form of a child. It usually takes the form of a newborn baby and cries like one in the jungle to attract unwary travelers. Once it is picked up by the victim, it reverts to its true form and attacks the victim. Aside from slashing victims, the tianak also delights in leading travelers astray, or in kidnapping children.
Appearance and characteristics
While various legends have slightly different versions of the "true" form of the tiyanak, the stories all agree on its ability to mimic an infant, with its ability to imitate an infant's cries the most powerful tool for luring victims into its trap. In some legends, the Tiyanak may take the form of a specific child.
In its true form, there are varying differences of the tiyanak:
- In one version, it retains the general shape of a baby but then forms sharp claws and fangs to attack its kind-hearted victim.
- In another, it shares certain similarities with dwarfs and is similarly associated with the earth. In this version, the "true" form of the tiyanak is that of a little old man with wrinkled skin, a long beard and mustache, a flat nose and eyes the size of peseta coins. The same story says that a tiyanak is relatively immobile because its right leg is much shorter than the other. This deformity forces it to move by leaping rather than walking, making it difficult to hunt or stalk victims, but its ability to mimic an infant's cry compensates for this disadvantage.
- In yet another story it is seen supernaturally flying through the forest (still in the form of a baby) and in a legend from the island of Mindoro it transforms into a black bird before flying away
- In another version from Pampanga, the tiyanak are described as small, nut-brown people who don't walk on the ground but rather float on air. They have large noses, wide mouths, large fierce eyes and sharp voices.
There are various theories on how tianaks came to being. The Mandaya
people of Mindanao
claims that the tianak is the spirit of a child whose mother died before giving birth. This caused it to be "born in the ground", thus gaining its current state. It should be noted that the Malay
supernatural creature called Pontianak
was a woman who died before giving birth. Another theory suggests that the tianak is formed from the soul of an infant which died before being baptized. A variant of this theory suggests that the tianak is an aborted fetus
that returned from death to seek revenge on those who deprived it of life. Finally, the tianak is simply an imp or a demon from the start.
Various countermeasures are used against the tianak. Those that were led astray by the creature's cries can break the enchantment by turning their clothes inside out. The tianak finds the method humorous enough to let go of the traveler and go back to the jungles. Loud noises such as a New Year's celebration is enough to drive the tianak away from the vicinity. Aswang
repellents like garlic and the rosary
can also drive the tianak away.
In popular culture
The tianak is the subject of many Philippine movies:
- Tianak (1953)
- Tiyanak (1988)
- Juan Tanga, super naman, at ang kambal na tiyanak (1990)
- Tiyanaks (2007)