Meet Maltese folklore’s scariest creatures: Is-Sarangu

Is-Sarangu, known in English as The Sack Man was known to kidnap children and sell them as slaves in the underworld.

In the lead up to Halloween, we have dipped into Stephan D. Mifsud’s The Maltese Bestiary to discover some of the most frightening characters from Maltese folklore.

In this article, we take a look at is-Sarangu, a terrifying figure used by generations of parents to keep their children indoors.

Name in Maltese: Is-Sarangu aka Tal-Ixkora

Name in English: The Sack Man (In Spain, he is called ‘El hombre del saco’.)

First mentioned: The word ‘Sarangu’ probably derives from old Sicilian ‘Saracuni’ meaning a tall, thin and dry miser, with the word also being related to ‘Saracen’, the Middle Ages’ term for Muslims. It was probably first used as the nickname of a vagabond in order to scare children into staying indoors. In medieval times, corsairs of North African origin would have indeed captured Maltese youngfolk for the slave trade.  

Description: Is-Sarangu is the name of the slave hunter of the netherworld. A tall, thin, and dark being who is sometimes seen climbing out of a valley, carrying a sack on his back. He prowls the dark streets and alleys of towns and villages, hunting down children that stay out late at night.

Most frightening qualities: The victims are grabbed, thrown into his sack, and taken to the netherworld where he sells them as slaves.

Find out more

Discover Maltese folklore’s scariest creatures and supernatural entities, as well as magical plants, ancient gods, and legendary beings in Stephan D. Mifsud’s The Maltese Bestiary. This 137-page, hardbound book was published by Merlin Publishers in 2014 and remains one of the definitive works on the subjects. 

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