Wiley and the Hairy Man is a spooky story for kids about a young boy named Wiley who defeats a hairy creature that lives in the swamp near his home. It is based on an old African-American folktale collected in Alabama, but the story probably came from Africa originally.
There was a young boy named Wiley who lived with his mama in a ramshackle hut, deep in the swamp. Wiley’s father disappeared years ago and, whenever he asked his mama what had happened, she told him that the Hairy Man had got him.
“So, you steer clear of the Hairy Man,” she warned. “Or else he’ll put you in his sack and I’ll never see you again.”
Wiley listened to his mama. She knew all about the swamp and the terrible creatures that lived in its murky waters. Wiley’s mama told him to be careful whenever he was in the swamp and to never trust a stranger.
“If you go into the swamp, take your hound dogs,” his mama warned. “The Hairy Man is scared of dogs.”
One day, Wiley went into the swamp to cut some poles for the hen roost. While he was working, his dogs ran off after a wild pig. He listened as their yelps and howls faded into the distance. Then Wiley was alone.
Suddenly, he heard something moving in the undergrowth. Looking up, he saw a Hairy Man coming through the trees. He had wild, bulging eyes and was carrying a large sack over his shoulder. He was naked and his body was completely covered in coarse hair. His toes were curled and looked like the hooves of a cow.
Wiley dropped his axe and climbed a tree. The Hairy Man stopped and stared at Wiley. His mouth widened into a grin, revealing crooked, yellow teeth.
“Why are you up in that tree?” the Hairy Man asked. He drooled as he spoke.
“My mama told me to stay away from you,” Wiley replied. “What do you have in that sack?”
“Nothing yet,” said the Hairy Man. “But I’m fixing to get me something real soon.”
With that, he picked up Wiley’s axe and began to chop at the base of the tree. Wiley yelled for his mama to come help him, but she was too far away to hear his cries. The Hairy Man just chopped faster and the tree began to wobble and shake.
Then Wiley hollered as loud as he could, “Here, dogs!”
His hounds came running through the trees, yelping and growling. The Hairy Man took one look at the snarling dogs and tossed the axe away. He took off running through the swamp, fleeeing in terror.
As soon as the Hairy Man was gone, Wiley climbed down from the tree and went back home as fast as his legs would carry him. He told his mother about his encounter with the Hairy Man.
Wiley’s mama said, “You know how to get rid of that Hairy Man? Next time you see him, tell him you heard he doesn’t know any magic. Then ask him to change himself into something big. Then ask him to change into something little. When he does, grab him and put him in his sack. Then throw it into the river.”
The next time Wiley had to go into the swamp, he tied his dogs up at home. When Wiley saw that Hairy Man, he said, “Hello, Hairy Man.”
Then he asked the Hairy Man to change himself into a giraffe, an alligator, and a possum. When the Hairy Man changed into a possum, Wiley grabbed him, put him in the sack, and threw him into the river.
Then on the way home, Wiley saw . . . THE HAIRY MAN! Wiley climbed a tree – fast! “Hah! I changed myself into the wind and blew my way out of the sack,” said the Hairy Man. “Come down here. I’m hungry!”
“Can you make things disappear, like the rope around my pants?” Wiley asked.
“I can make all the rope in the county DISAPPEAR!” growled the Hairy Man, and that is exactly what he did.
Wiley hollered, “Here, dogs!” The rope that held the dogs back home disappeared, and the dogs chased the Hairy Man away. When Wiley returned home, his mama said, “You tricked the Hairy Man twice. If we can do it one more time, we’ll be rid of him forever.” Wiley’s mama sat down and closed her eyes to think. Wiley’s mama had conjure magic, too!
For protection, Wiley crossed a broom and an axe over the window. Then he built a fire in the fireplace. His mama asked for a piglet from the pen. She put it in Wiley’s bed under a quilt, and Wiley hid in the loft.
The dogs suddenly started to chase some wild animals, and then Wiley heard the Hairy Man on the roof. The hot chimney kept him outside, but at the front door the Hairy Man hollered, “Wiley’s mama, if you don’t give me your baby, I’ll destroy everything you own!”
“I’ll give the baby to you, if you promise never to come back,” Wiley’s mama offered. The Hairy Man promised, and Wiley’s mama opened the door, pointing to Wiley’s bed. The Hairy Man rushed in and discovered a piglet under the quilt. “This is a baby pig!” he roared.
Wiley’s mama declared, “I never said which baby I’d give you.” A very angry Hairy Man grabbed the piglet and ran off into the swamp. Wiley and his mama danced for joy!
And they never saw the Hairy Man again.