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The bogeyman: who exactly is he?

Considered a terrifying character from our childhood, the bogeyman echoes in our memory as the holidays approach. Adults used this sinister character to scare little
unruly children. He is considered the opposite of Saint Nicholas, a benevolent figure. But where exactly does this legend come from? Who is the bogeyman? Why is he so feared by children?

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The bogeyman: an essential figure at Christmas

Did you know that the bogeyman is a figure that is inseparable from the end of the year celebrations? Even if he is much less popular than Santa Claus, he still occupies a special place in our Advent calendar.
Indeed, for centuries, Father Fouettard has been an emblematic character of Advent in Western and Central Europe. This is particularly the case in Lorraine. According to the legend, he would spend each year on December 6 in the company of his companion Saint-Nicolas.

A character inseparable from Saint Nicholas

You may not have known it, but the bogeyman forms an inseparable duo with Saint Nicholas.
Saint-Nicolas would have been during his lifetime a bishop of Myre. Today, he is the patron saint of Lorraine and protector of children. The population even devotes to him a real cult in this region. According to the legend, he would be a smiling and generous character who would reward the good children by putting gifts in their Christmas stockings.
Father Fouettard is the opposite of Saint-Nicolas. He is the evil and diabolical version of Santa Claus. While his companion distributed the gifts, he was in charge of punishing the children who were not good.
That’s why children were so afraid of this character. According to the legend, he had a long black beard that could also be red. He wore big boots and a black coat. Other cultures even attribute to him a tail that would resemble that of the devil.

A servant of Saint Nicholas

According to the legend, three children were walking around, but got lost. They decided to ask for help at the first house they found. The owner was Pierre Lenoir, a butcher. He decided to kill the children with his butcher’s knife and chop them into small pieces. Afterwards, the sinister character prepared a little salt.
St. Nicholas would have been passing through the area and also knocked on his door. He already knew the fate of the children and decided to resurrect them. The butcher then confessed his crimes.
To punish Pierre Lenoir, Saint-Nicolas decided to take him with him on his donkey while he was distributing gifts. This is how he became the bogeyman, a servant who punishes disobedient children.
Where does the legend around this character come from?
The origin of the legend surrounding the bogeyman remains unclear. The versions change from one culture to another. However, this evil representation is still preserved in all countries.
Historians can still trace it back to the 16th century. The preceptors invented this figure to scare children during the occupation of Metz by Charles V. The goal of the preceptors was to find a subject to entertain the local population. However, years after the departure of the Spanish king’s troop, they continued to use it to encourage children to be good and diligent in class.
However, the origin story of the bogeyman is not the same in all countries. In Alsace alone, he is said to be the medieval knight Hans Von Trotha, a bloodthirsty being. This is why he is called Hans Trott in several regions of France.
In the Dutch and Flemish version, he is called Zwarte Piet. According to local legend, he is a servant of Saint Nicholas.

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