Monday, August 31, 2009

hobyah hobyah hobyah (bark bark bark!)

When I was a small and impressionable child, my librarian mother often told me the story of the Hobyahs.

"Hobyah hobyah hobyah - tear down the hempstalks! Eat up the old man and the old woman! Carry off the little girl."

If you know this story - the original, not any bowdlerized versions - you know that little dog Turpie keeps scaring off the Hobyahs, despite the fact that his incessant barking so annoys the old man that he cuts off first his tail, then each of his four legs, and finally his head. And then of course the Hobyahs eat up the old man and his wife and carry off the little girl - who is saved by yet a different dog and his owner, rather a la Little Red Riding Hood.

A small and yappy dog named Teddy lives next door to us, and recently he has barked so often and so annoyingly that I have found myself telling my husband, "That little dog Teddy barks so that I can neither sleep nor slumber, and if I live 'til morning, I'm going to cut off little dog Teddy's head."

This despite the fact that 1. I consider myself an animal fan, being the proud companion of a passel of hens and a tangle of rats and one scrofulous hamster 2. it's not Teddy but his human who deserves my ire and 3. little dog Turpie remains a shining example of selfless, courageous heroism to me.

Strangely, I once saved Teddy's life, sort of/maybe. I was once at home when a terrible screaming came from outside - Teddy had run into the street and been hit by a car. Teddy's owner was too distraught to think straight, so I grabbed a towel, scooped his ominously still and bleeding body off the street, pushed him into her arms, and drove them both to the emergency vet. And what do you know - it turned out Teddy had merely been tapped by the car, had bitten his tongue (hence the blood), and then had apparently fainted. He was fine.

"Why did you save him? WHY??" my husband has moaned to me many times, as Teddy yaps his way through the solemn bits of a Netflix movie or startles us awake at 3 am.

"Well, think what might get us if it weren't for Teddy, " I answer. "The Hobyahs might be out there right now, waiting to tear down our hemp stalks."

But I still can't help sympathizing with the old man, just the tiniest little bit.


  1. This is a brilliant gem of a story. Extraordinary writing!

  2. Thank you! Are you sure you're not being swayed by the illustrations? I must admit that as I re-read this post just now, my mood was just a bit sour - I am exhausted from a night of insomnia caused by Teddy and a new hoarse-voiced canine companion (oh horrors).

  3. I'm standing by my previous comment, and it has nothing to do with the illustrations!

  4. Another testament to the lasting power of story.

  5. I knew this story from the Magic Mirror video (in which the dog got tied up rather than chopped up). My daughter, now 17, recently commented that my greyhound looked like a Hobyah, creeping.
    , creeping, creeping and i had to agree although I had forgotten it until then.

  6. I watched the movie Celia long, long ago and recently I thought about a story to "make mood" before summer camp night game, so I tried to find anything about that children's story. Searching was little hard, because I haven't remember neither the name of the movie, neither the name of the story, just bits, so I searched for hobiahs, hobias, hobiars etc. before I somehow found it.
    I read some versions, most of them (as you say) bowdlerized (I had to find out what that term means) and found the original one absolutely fit to the purpose.
    Some children were so scared, but they all enjoed the story and made me read it once more! And they don't even know english well, the story is not translated into Czech. Nice to see thirteen years old macho, who during the day have only contemption for everything, eyes full of primal fear of creep creep creeping in the night!
    I tried to find something more about how the hobyahs look like before I found out that everyone has his/her own hobyahs, that imagination makes them so creepy...
    While searching for it, I found this page and it makes me really happy, your story is so heart-warming :) Yeah, everyone has some Teddy the dog, that one wants to be silent and is willing to "cut his head off", but when tough time comes, is nice that your humanity prevails.
    You made my day better, thank you!
    Z. Ć vajda, Czech Republic.

  7. This story was in the Victorian Education Department's second grade reader in the 1940s.
    I was in that class at Newport State School in 1947. I can't remember much from 1947, but I can remember The Hobyahs. They must have made a deep impression
    on this 7 year old!
    G. Miles Nambour Qld.