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What is a Toyol or Tuyul?

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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 b…