Folklore: El Silbon

Today marks the start of a new series!

Did you know that a lot of the best-loved horror stories originate from myths, with that in mind I thought it might be a worthwhile exercise to have a look at the original, the myth and see how some of the horror stories we know and love have been changed. Also, I want to look at myths which, to my knowledge anyway, haven’t yet been adapted for a modern audience.

Today’s myth is that of El Silbon, which translates into English as The Whistler.


Photo by Charles Parker on

Originating possibly in Venezuela, this story goes that a spoiled young boy asked his dad to bring him venison for dinner. The father went out to the woods to find a deer but took too long and the by became impatient. The boy went looking for his father who had been unsuccessful in his hunt. Enraged the spoiled child killed his father.

The boy then took his father’s body home, for his mother to cook, which she did, unknowing that this was her husband. However, upon eating the meat her son had brought the mother realised it was her husband. She was naturally angered by her son’s actions. In some versions of the story, she cursed her son, other versions say she called upon her father who set dogs on the boy, to be hunted for all eternity.

The curse turned the boy into El Silbon, a tall thin ghost that whistles, luring his victims with a disarming and pleasant song. The ghost carries a bag of bones which in some versions are his fathers and in others the bones of his victims. Apparently hearing the whistle close to you means your safe but at a distance then you are doomed.


Photo by Lisa on

This myth is not subtle, it clearly focuses on spoiled children and how they will be the downfall of both themselves and those they love. Don’t spoil your kids, is the very unsubtle lesson here.

Modern Equivalent

The whistler was adapted into a well-received movie in 2018. Directed by Gisberg Bermudez’s The Whistler: Origins, or El Silbon: Origines, features the prominent character of the whistler. But it does more than present a scary monster, it takes the concept of the whistler and uses it, alongside gender politics to relay a story of abuse, trauma, and revenge.
The Whistler tells two separate stories that take place in the same place but many years apart. One story tells the origins of Venezuelan legend El Silbon and the second story is about a young girl who may be possessed. This raises the question if the Whistler only preys on sinners why the little girl?

While there are some changes to the original folktale and some serious expansion, this film stays ultimately true to the spirit of the folktale and adapts it well for a modern audience.

I'd love to hear what you think, please comment below.

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