About a life devoted to the love for Folklore, Mythology, Legends and.....Art

Sunday, September 12, 2010

De Bullebak - A Dutch Folktale

I know I said last time I would draw one of the legends I collected during my trip in France, but for some reason I just could not get to it yet.

However an image of another legend, I grew up with as a kid, haunted me for days, till I at last put it down on paper. It is the story of the Bullebak. A Dutch water spirit used by parents to frighten children and keep them away from the water. Something of which we have a lot here.

Now the word bullebak is hard to translate literally, but in means as much as bully and refers to someone or something which harasses another person because he likes to do so. This word is used in general but also refers to a terrifying water spirit. Its description is quite diverse and parents have become very creative with it as well through time.

One of these descriptions is that of a creature living in the water with the head of a bull. Others say that the creature has never been seen but has the habit of luring children with shiny little stars to the waterside and then grab them. Many of these descriptions also include a big fish.

I however grew up with the story that the Bullebak was a gigantic bullfrog. When it caught you it would drown you and eat you up whole. I can't even recall how many times my grandmother warned me for the Bullebak, but it must have been often. Even now at the age of 25 I still can recall the images I had in my mind as a kid when listening to these stories.

Well, that is the story of the Bullebak I grew up with! (And for those who are interested, prints will soon be for sale at my shop.)


  1. Oh, Isabella! I think this is one of your most beautiful illustrations yet! Everything about it is just perfect. And as always, I love the story.

  2. you are doing your ancestors a great service preserving this. I have some dutch ancestry[ as im south african and the dutch settled there]

    when I looked at my dna on 23andme, how shocked i was to see all the blocks that matched to dutch people.Esp. on the X chromosome - really this is the chromosome of many many mothers all collected together, and how dutch my x chromosome was, and my mothers at all the same spots.Never have I know anything of these old dutch ladies sitting still on my genome but here you are returning it to me.