Wiley and the Hairy Man

Wiley and the Hairy Man

Blog post by Karen
Monday, May 29, 2017

When life gets to be too much, make it magic! If there’s something you really want, but you’re scared to get it, could be that you're kind of like Wiley.

Wiley lives at the edge of a deep, dark swamp. His mama needs him to go into the swamp to gather wood, but not alone!  Something awful lives in there: the Hairy Man. The Hairy Man got Wiley’s papa, and if he gets the chance, he’ll get Wiley, too.

There's no way Wiley can win...is there?  Literature Live! was so eager to find out that they made the story into a puppet show: Wiley and the Hairy Man.

In the world of folklore and folktale, people in many parts of the world tell stories about monsters who catch children and stuff them in a sack, but we know Wiley and the Hairy Man is from Africa because only this kind of story of African origin features an ogre like the Hairy Man who chases a child into a tree and can be scared off by dogs. Fortunately, in all these stories, the hero (that's you, my friend!) comes out on top in the same way: you might not be big or physically strong, but there’s more to you than you think. Trick that Hairy Man three times, and he’ll leave you alone for good.

Here's a short, fun clip from Paul Mesner Puppets' version of this tale:

Molly Bang published a classic illustrated version of Wiley and the Hairy Man in 1976.  Her book is now out of print, but we have lots of great African and African-American folktales and other resources for kids and teens here at the Austin Public Library.  Check 'em out, and see what happens to Wiley in Literature Live!'s Wiley and the Hairy Man, June 5-July 27 at a branch near you.