What is a Toyol or Tuyul?

A Toyol or Tuyul is a mythical spirit in the Malay mythology of South-East Asia (notably Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore). It is a small child spirit invoked by a bomoh (Malay witch doctor) from a dead human foetus using black magic. Bearing some similarities to leprechauns in Irish legends and the bad elves of English stories, toyols are commonly blamed for any missing or misplaced items. It is now possible to buy a toyol from such a bomoh.

Toyols are spirits who do the bidding of certain humans who control them. In this aspect they resemble the genies of Arabia, but toyols are more likely to be spirits of children (like still-born infants) rather than of men. Older toyols are more vicious than infant toyols, and have a greater tendency towards violence. A person who owns a toyol uses it mainly to steal things from other people, or to do mischief. According to a well-known superstition, if money or jewellery keeps disappearing mysteriously from your house, a toyol might be responsible. One way to ward off a toyol is to place some needles under your money, for toyols are afraid of being hurt by needles.

Some say that toyol has its origins from Mecca near the Kaaba (the belief refers to the Pre-Islamic Era where the Arabs used to kill their children and bury them all around Mecca. The Chinese (Cantonese) name for the toyol is guai zai (literally "ghost child"). The corresponding term in the Hokkien dialect is kwee kia with "kwee" meaning "ghost" and "kia" meaning "child".

There is a price for having your own toyol. You have to feed it with your blood at regular intervals. Chicken blood may suffice for some of the less fussy toyols. Some people claim that the toyol's appetite would increase as they perform more and more tasks, until the point where they may require fresh blood from an entire human adult to satisfy their craving. (Think of the bloodthirsty Venus Flytrap in Little Shop of Horrors: "Feed me, Seymour!") Sometimes toyols will accept money in place of blood.

In return, toyols do every bidding of their master, from petty mischief and creating inconvenience for enemies to robbery and even murder. Toyols require a "salary" equal to the task at hand, that is, if you require the toyol to turn the entire house upside down and kill the watchdog as well, then you will need to pay the toyol a certain sum of money as well as feed it with enough fresh blood to keep it happy. If toyols aren't kept happy, there is a chance that they will turn against their masters. Otherwise they are fiercely loyal and may even defend the master's honour without being told to.
 To get your own toyol, you will need to obtain a still-born foetus or the body of a dead child. The services of a bomoh (Malay witchdoctor) are required for the resurrection of the body, which will thereafter obey you. Some people keep their toyols in large clay jars. Toyols are transferable and sometimes roam freely about, so it might be possible to enslave a free toyol with the right black magic. 

Illustration of how a Toyol could disturb us.
Due to the fact that toyols have bodies that should be dead, they usually have skin with a greenish or bluish hue, and eyes that are red. It has small sharp teeth with which to feed, and might have long messy hair. People normally associate the appearance of a toyol with that of a small baby, frequently that of a newly born baby walking in nakedness with a big head, small hands, clouded eyes and usually greyed skin. More accurately, it resembles a goblin. It can be seen by the naked eye without the use of magic, though they are unlikely to be spotted casually. Toyols are not known to fly, but they are very good at hiding from humans. There are no known warning signs that a toyol is about, except that things go missing often. Toyols may also suck on the big toes of people who are sleeping, so sometimes small bite marks are also indications that a toyol was present.

To stop a toyol from disturbing you, you can either try to catch the toyol using mice traps or engage the services of a more powerful bomoh than the one who resurrected the toyol in the first place. Making peace with the neighbour whom you suspect the toyol belongs to is also a good move to make.


  1. What catch a spirit with a mouse trap? Really?

  2. I just want to let you know Sri Bendahara A Pangsapuri Bukit Saujana Johor Bahru people have been losing RM50 and gold chains to TOYOLS.I suspect there are some people here are keeping TOYOL to steal from others.

    1. I was told that this could be the work of an Indonesian women who is married to an Indian guy or an old man with beard who keeps talking to somebody behind him whenever he is walking.


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