Slapu Steals Children¹
The little girl’s grandmother warned her granddaughter not to stay out past night. “I’m going to cook food. You can stay at the beach for a while longer, but you must come home from the beach before nightfall,” she told her granddaughter. “If you don’t come in before nightfall, Slapu will come get you and eat you. She eats naughty children who don’t listen to their elders if they are out past nightfall.”
Slapu, from the Haunted Heronswood 2018 exhibit.
The little girl had heard this all before and was not at all afraid of her grandmother’s story of the great, hairy wild, child-eating woman. It was just a story. She was playing a game on the beach, throwing rocks from the shore as far as she could into the bay. The sky grew darker and darker until the sun dipped behind the tree-line completely. She heard her grandmother call for her, but she was having too much fun hoping from log to log on the beach, so she ignored her grandmother’s calls.
Suddenly, a great rumble and crash came from the tree-line. A wild, hairy woman with dirty claws and jagged teeth roared at the sight of the little girl and lunged for her. The girl screamed and fled the wild woman, but Slapu’s legs were long and carried her fast. She was quickly catching up to the little girl. The little girl ran as fast as she could down the shore until she saw a crabber pulling in his canoe for the day.
“Please, sir, please help me! Take me to that island and hide me. Slapu is after me. She will eat me if she finds me!” Now, the crabber was frightened but he could not sacrifice the girl, so he agreed to help her. He took her to the island and told her to duck behind a rock.
Slapu came to the shore just as the crabber pulled back in. She pointed a cracked and jagged fingernail at him, her wild yellow eyes stared down upon him. “You! Where have you taken that little girl? She is mine.”
The crabber denied helping her, but Slapu could smell her. She pointed to the island. “You will take me to that island in your canoe, or I will eat you instead.” The crabber was frightened for both he and the girl, but he was also smart. He allowed Slapu to get into his canoe, whispering to the crabs as he did so, “Crabs, help me save the girl, and you can go free.”
“What are you whispering?!” Slapu roared, but before the man could answer, the crabs went to work pinching Slapu, whose frantic movements upended she and the crabs into the water. The crabs dragged her down into the deep. She never again surfaced.
The little girl, from that day, wisely listened to her elder’s words.
¹ S’Klallam tale, based on Jonnie Cook and Mrs. Solomon stories from Gunther, Erna. Klallam Folk Tales . Vol. 1:4. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1925. 149-151. Also based on Fernandes, Roger. The Story of Slapoo . Lower Elwha Tribe, 2007.