Legends and Monsters of West Africa

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

This week, once again we will feature an addition to the Legends + Monsters series, this time focusing on tales from West Africa. There will be fairies from the forests of Nigeria, and a firefly vampire from Togo and Ghana.

The Adze

Togo and Ghana

This vampire originates from the folklore of the Ewe people of Togo and Ghana. In the wild, an Adze is said to be in the form of a firefly. This seemingly innocent insect then sneaks through keyholes, or under doors into people’s houses. Once inside, it selects its victim. Though it prefers to prey upon the innocent, and children, the Adze isn’t very picky. It chooses hastily, sucks the victim’s blood. Those bitten are said to fall sick soon after. But the Adze doesn’t stick around to see. It sneaks back out and flies away, into the darkness of the night. 

If captured, an Adze will take the form of a human, and from this form it can possess people. This curse would negatively affect the victim’s family, or people the victim was jealous of. Some say there is no cure for this possession, but others claim vigorous prayer, or perhaps a certain complex ritual, might expel the Adze. 

A firefly, or an Adze in disguise?

If the ritual is successful or the prayers answered, the Adze will leave the person, and take the form of a hunchbacked, not-quite-human creature. This monster has jet-black skin, and long talons. Now, to truly save the victim, the Adze must be killed while it is in this hideous form. 

Today, some claim this legend would have arisen to explain the mysterious maladies caused by mosquitoes, and other unseen insects. However, the Adze remains very real to many of the Ewe. 



The Aziza

Nigeria and Benin

The Aziza are a species of benevolent fairy said to dwell in anthills and cotton silk trees deep in the forests of Nigeria and Benin. These tiny humanoid creatures give good magic and fortune to those who respect and honor them. It is also said that they gave practical and spiritual knowledge (maybe even the gift of fire) to humanity.

Forests of Nigeria

These ancient and powerful beings were created by Olodumare, a supreme deity of the Yoruba faith. The Aziza were intended to serve as guardians of the forest. To accomplish this, they have powers of healing, elemental control, teleportation, and communication with plants and forest animals. According to some, they also have the ability to shapeshift, so they can move easily through the forest. They are also very strong and tough, although they may appear delicate and fragile. They have smooth, hairless skin that shimmers in the sunlight, and they are far smaller than humans. 

The Aziza continue today to be honored in music, dance, and art, and are often invoked in important ceremonies and rituals, such as rituals and funerals. 

Voices of French: Haitian Creole

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


Map of Haiti

Haiti: The Western half of the island Hispaniola and the Francophone center of the Caribbean. Haitian Creole, spoken in this nation, is a captivating French dialect. The dialect holds a prominent place in the linguistic landscape of Haiti. As an official language of the country, Creole is an essential means of communication for the Haitian people. Furthermore, the dialect is shaped by historical, cultural, and linguistic influences; it uses unique expressions and idioms that truly make it stand out against other French dialects.

Creole emerged as a distinct language during the nation’s history as a French colony. West African languages, primarily from the Kwa and Bantu language families, fused to become Creole. Meanwhile, French and other European influences also helped shape the foundations of this dialect. Today, Haitian Creole stands as a symbol of resilience, reflecting the rich heritage and diverse heritage of the Haitian people.


As a dialect, Creole possesses its own set of structural and linguistic characteristics that differentiate it from standard French. The rhythm and pronunciation of Haitian Creole are distinct. It possesses a melodic quality that dances through the spoken words. The use of tone and intonation plays a vital role in conveying meaning and emotions, giving life to the language. Additionally, Haitian Creole incorporates a simplified grammar system. This makes it more accessible to a wider range of speakers.

In a written context, Haitian Creole often uses short-hand and phonetic spelling. For example, “Oui” can often be seen as “Wi.” Similarly, “Bonsoir” can be written “Bonswa.” This phonetic spelling stems from the use of French as a colonial language, where the inhabitants were generally simply subjected to verbal French. Often, they were left without a written equivalent. 

Another fascinating aspect of Haitian Creole is its extensive vocabulary. The lexicon showcases the intermingling of various languages. While French serves as the foundation, Haitian Creole is also enriched by African languages, Taino influences, Spanish, English, and even Portuguese. This linguistic convergence allows for a diverse range of expressions and idiomatic phrases that are truly unique. Throughout dozens of phrases in Haitian Creole, the impact of several languages is abundantly clear. 

One of the most unique characteristics of Haitian Creole is that the articles and possessive adjectives are placed after nouns. For example, “the car” translates to “machin la.” With verbs, Haitian Creole uses marker words to denote the tense of a verb. This contrasts with standard French, which changes the verb itself. The word “te,” for example would indicate that the verb is in the past tense, while the word “pral(e)” indicates the future. With the verb “chanter” (to sing), this would mean that “Pierre te chante” is equivalent to Pierre sang, while “Pierre pral chante” would translate to Pierre will sing.

Cultural Impact

Haitian Creole is not only a means of everyday communication. It also serves as a vessel for storytelling, music, and literature. From vibrant folktales and proverbs to the rhythmic beats of Haitian music, the language thrives in artistic expressions. Haitian Creole resonates with the experiences, aspirations, and resilience of the Haitian people. It captures the essence of their identity and cultural heritage.

Bélo, Haitian Composer

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition and appreciation for the importance of Haitian Creole as a symbol of national identity and cultural heritage. Efforts have been made to promote its use in education, literature, and media. Reinforcing the value of this distinct dialect within the broader linguistic landscape of Haiti has also been a priority.

Furthermore, regional variations and local dialects within Haitian Creole add depth and complexity to the language. Variety in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammatical structures can be observed between regions. These variations contribute to the “linguistic tapestry” of Haiti and reflect the cultural diversity present within the country.

The Language of a Vibrant Culture

Haitian Creole is a testament to the power of language as a vehicle for self-expression, cultural preservation, and identity formation. Its fusion of diverse influences, regional variations, and rich vocabulary make it an enchanting and vibrant dialect. As we celebrate the diversity of French dialects worldwide, let us embrace the beauty and significance of Haitian Creole, honoring its place as an integral part of the Haitian cultural mosaic.