Folklore is any of the beliefs, customs, and traditions that people pass on from generation to generation. Much folklore consists of fairy tales, folk tales, legends, myths, nursery rhymes, proverbs, riddles and superstitions.

Folklore is as old as humanity. Written records left by the earliest peoples include examples of folklore. As soon as a people develop a writing system, they begin to record folk stories. However, folklore does not have to be written down. Much folklore is passed orally from person to person. Even today, many peoples do not have a written language, but they have folk songs, legends, myths, and other kinds of folklore.

My Beautiful Belize embraces the many cultures that make up our community and we recognize the importance of preserving our heritage. Unfortunately, as generations age, some of this is lost. Through the Lizard Tales column our readers will enjoy some of this colorful folklore while in turn we will be preserving these tales for future generations.

Do you or someone you know have a story, myth, superstition that has been passed on from generation to generation? If you would like to share your story please contact us!

The Male Sisimite

Let me tell you about the Sisimite. I haven’t seen it but I sure have heard a lot about it. It looks like a gorilla, big and very hairy. I remember one time when four men went out into the bush. It was right here [in Belize] along the Guatemalan border. They knew it was a dangerous place, so they took plenty of guns. On the first night they made camp and went to sleep. Sometime between midnight and one o’clock they were awakened by a rustling sound in the bush. What they saw looked like a man covered with hair from head to foot. It was the guardian of the forest, the one they call the Sisimite. Without saying a word (they say it cannot speak), it went straight to one of the men, grabbed him and tore him to pieces. What a horrible animal! The other three grabbed their shotguns and shot the creature, but it didn’t hurt him because his hair was so thick that the bullets couldn’t penetrate it.

Then, one of the men got an idea. He exclaimed, “The only thing that will work against this animal is fire!” So they found some dried palm leaves, made a pile with them, and set them on fire. When the Sisimite saw the fire, he took off running with the dead man firmly in his grip.

The three survivors went to town to file a report with the authorities. The chief of police asked them, “Well, what happened?”

One of the men answered, “It was a horrible animal, the one they call Sisimite. It killed our friend and took his body into the forest.”

So, they gathered up a large group of men to hunt it down. The trail of blood was easy to follow. It led them to a rocky area, and they saw where the Sisimite had entered the cave. The townspeople were so afraid that no one dared to go in after it. Instead, they threw several sticks of dynamite into the cave. The explosion was so strong that the entire hillside crumbled. They never found the dead man’s body or that of the Sisimite, but from the force of the explosion, they were certain that it must have died. So you see, this creature really does exist.

From the Hagerty collection. Narrated by a 54-year-old man from Benque Viejo Town, Cayo District, 1978.

Lizard Tales

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About the Author: Tamara Sniffin

I’m a sucker for a fuzzy face, a feathered face, a face with fins or even one with scales! I am in love with the creatures and the flora that are synonymous with Belize and every opportunity I have to learn more about them and explore their wild habitats I am there! I’m the happiest when I’m snorkeling the reef and swimming with turtles, however my passion is not just limited to critters! Laced throughout this compact jungle gem of a country live the Kriol, Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo and Spanish people, and experiencing each culture, especially their celebrations is one of my favorite pastimes.

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