Don’t Sass the Bonsum


In J.B.S. Haldane’s My Friend Mr Leakey, the title character makes a reference to a creature from the folklore of Ghana and Togo: “And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to conjure up a devil before dinner, because tomorrow I’ve got to deal with a sasabonsum who’s being a nuisance in Ashanti, and I may want some help. Oh, don’t you know what a sasabonsum is? I wish people learned unnatural history like they used to.” The magician goes on to describe the creature in a way that’s pretty accurate to what I’ve found online, but since I don’t want the majority of this post to be taken up with a quotation, I’m going to write about it in my own words rather than Mr. Leakey’s. The sasabonsum might or might not be the same thing as the asanbosam, although sometimes there are differences. It’s basically a vampire with curved feet and iron claws and teeth. The feet have three toes each, and are used to cling to the branches of trees, particularly cotton trees. Their long, bent legs will hang down, and they’ll capture anyone who brushes against these legs.

Picture by Lizzy-John
Their bodies are skinny and covered in spots and their eyes bloodshot. It’s also sometimes said to have wings like a bat, which can stretch out to a wingspan of up to twenty feet, and a horn in the top of its head. While some sources say that the sasbonsum bites off its victim’s head, others say it starts with the thumb, which is a good way to get blood if you don’t want to kill someone right away. The fact remains that, if you encounter one of these creatures in Ghana, then YOU’RE a Ghana. This page reports that at least one sasabonsum is married to the Srahman, a sort of wood-nymph for cotton trees who teaches forest and herb lore to humans. That must be an interesting relationship.

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