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Alan are humanoid beings from the folklore of the Itneg people in the Philippines. They have wings that allow them flight, and their long fingers and toes point backwards. They often live in houses of gold near springs or streams, where they raise human children that they've created from menstrual waste.

While typically benevolent and helpful, alan are also known to be vengeful. They care very deeply for their children.

Appearance Edit

Alan appear mostly human, but they sport a pair of wings that allow them to fly. As they age their skin begins to wrinkle, and in one instance an old alan was described with skin as thick as a carabao hide[1]. They have long fingers and toes with long, sharp nails. Their hands and feet are backwards, with their fingers fastened at the wrist and their toes fastened at the heel. When they walk, their toes spread and they bend over double.

While not an explicitly all-female species, alan are always referred to as "mothers" or "girls" in folk tales, implying that they may only have one gender.[2]

Behaviour Edit

These beings are usually found living in golden or otherwise fine houses, full of riches such as pots and jars filled with beads and gold. They often live deep in the woods near springs, and they can be found hanging upside down from trees[1].

In general, they are friendly, helpful, and celebratory. They often perform tasks for humans or provide them with useful information. When idle, they are often found dancing for long periods of time.

Alan gather menstrual blood, miscarried fetuses, and reproductive waste using headaxes, often from water after a woman has gone to wash her hair. They place the blood in a dish that they have inherited from previous generations, then cover it. Soon after, a human child forms from the blood, and they then clothe the child and give them a name.

Humans created by alan have supernatural abilities, and are sometimes described winning battles with formidable opponents even as children. They will also often defeat evil spirits that have been troubling towns. Folk heroes often introduce themselves as the child of an alan in order to imply that they are more powerful than an average human.

Their reason for creating and adopting human children like this is usually because they have no children of their own, and so have no one to inherit their possessions. After reuniting their children with their birth family, the alan will bestow upon the family great riches. They will also give the family the golden house that they live in, which usually appears in the family's town the next day. The alan then flies away, and is usually not heard from again.[2]

Related myths Edit

Ilwīsan and Dondonyán Edit

Aponībolinayen went to the spring to wash her hair, and blood from her body washed away into the water. An alan, who was Inil-lagen, came to the spring and used her headaxe to scoop up the blood and returned to her house in Dagápan. She put the blood on a big plate which was nine times inherited, and she covered it.
Aponīgawanī went to the well and burned rice straw, which had been inherited nine times, and put it in a pot with water. After that she took the water and washed her hair, and she dove into the river, and blood from her body washed away into the water. An alan, who was Apiganan, came to the well and used her headaxe to scoop up the blood and put it inside of her belt. She went home to Bagonan, and she put the blood in a big dish which was nine times inherited, and she covered it.
"I am going to uncover my toy," said the alan Inil-lagen, but the boy in the dish cried "No do not uncover me, grandmother; I have no clout and belt." So she gave him a clout and a belt and uncovered him, and she gave him the name Ilwīsan of Dagápan.
"I am going to uncover my toy," said the alan Apinganan, but the boy in the dish cried "No do not uncover me, grandmother; I have no clout and belt." So she gave him a clout and a belt and uncovered him, and she gave him the name Dondonyán of Bagonan.
"I am going to fight," said Dondonyán, and he took his headaxe and went to get Ilwīsan, who took his headaxe and the two of them went. As they left town they struck their shields with a stick, and the sound of the beating was as great as if it were made by one hundred shields and one hundred sticks. The two boys arrived at the town of Gīambōlan of Kaboyboyan, who was a ten-headed giant and one of the tattoed alzados (Igorot people). They killed more than one hundred people, and then came to the house of Gīambōlan. "You little boys who come in my town, you are the first who ever came here," he said.
The boys replied, "Take your headaxe and spear Gīambōlan; although we are little boys we are not afraid of you, for we came here to fight with you. It is the last of your life now." "Gīambōlan, you first fight against us," said Ilwīsan. He used his power and said, "You headaxe and spear of Gīambōlan, if he throws you against us, do not strike us." And when Gīambōlan threw his headaxe and spear, the boys were unharmed. "Now we are next to throw our spears. You, our headaxes - when we strike and throw the spear you pierce the side of Gīambōlan," they said. Not long after, Gīambōlan was defeated. "You, my headaxe, cut off the heads of Gīambōlan at one blow," they said, and so the ten heads were cut off. And the boys commanded their headaxes to kill all the people in the town, and they told the heads of the people to return to the boys' homes; first the heads of Gīambōlan, then the heads of the people who lived with him.
“I will tramp on the town of Gīambōlan so it will be like the ocean,” they said, and then they trampled the town until it was like the ocean. They followed after the heads that were on their way to their homes, but after some time Ilwisan said, "I use my power so that we arrive at once in Dagápan," and so they arrived at once.
On their return, Dondonyán said to the alan, "You alan who look like me, we will go and see Ilwīsan and make him go into the house, for he has returned from fighting." And Ilwīsan said, "You send your people to go and invite our relatives, so that they will come to attend my big party, for I have returned from the fight." And so the alan gathered up the relatives of Ilwīsan, and they danced for two months, and after they danced they went to eat. The food was of thirty different kinds, and they were abashed in the golden house of Ilwīsan, which had many valuable jars in it, for the alan had given them to him.
After they had finished eating, the alan Kilagen told them that Ilwīsan was the son of Aponībolinayen, and Dondonyán was the son of Aponīgawanī. She said, "The reason that we made your son come to life was that we might have someone to give our things to, for we have no children to inherit them."
"If that is so we are going to change their names," said Aponībolinayen. "Ilwīsan will be Kanag Kabagbagowan."
"Dondonyán will be Dagoláyen, who is a rich man," said Aponīgawanī. "Now it is two months since we came here and we go home," they all said, and as soon as they agreed, the alan gave them valuable things. Aponītolau used his power and the golden houses that the alan gave them were pulled up, and Kanag's house went to Kadalayapan and Dagoláyen's house went to Natpangan. They lived well.

Man and the Alan Edit

A man named Malīlipeng was walking along a trail in the woods when he heard alan in the trees. Fearing they may kill him, he laid down on his face and pretended to be dead. The alan began to wail and brought gold and beads to place on him in mourning, but he sprang to his feet and drove them off. The alan, taken aback, told him, "Give us the one bead which is nagaba, or we will burn your house." Malīlipeng refused, and when he returned to his house it was burned to the ground, but he still had the bead he had taken from the alan.

The Alan and the Hunters Edit

Two men went into the mountains to hunt wild pigs, and after some time they killed one, but had no fire to cook it with. One noticed smoke in the distance, and on reaching the source he found it was the house of an alan, which made him very afraid. Inside, the alan and her baby were fast asleep, but although he walked quietly the alan woke up. "Epogow (human), what do you want?"
"I would like some fire, for we have killed a wild pig." The alan gave him fire, and she went with him carrying a basket. After the pig was cooked, she cut it up with her long nails and handed the liver to the man, and told him to take it to her house to feed her baby. On the way to her house the man ate the liver, and on arrival was not sure what to do. Seeing a pot of boiling water on the fire, he threw the baby into it and went back.
"Did the baby eat well?" asked the alan.
"Very well," said the man, and so she put some meat into her basket and started home. When she left, the man told his companion what he had done, and they climbed a tree that stood near water so that they might hide.
When the alan found her baby dead in the hot water, she was angered and immediately started back to find the men. Seeing the reflection of the men in the water, she reached her hand in, but could not touch them. Finally, she looked up and saw them in the tall tree, and cried, "How did you get up there?"
"We climbed up feet first," the men replied, and so the alan caught hold of a vine and started up the tree, feet first. Before she could reach them, they cut the vine and she fell to the ground and died. The two men returned to the alan's house, where they found a jar full of beads and another of gold, and they went home rich.[2]

Anthropological information Edit

Alan bear a resemblance to large fruit bats which live in the Philippines, which may have been their original inspiration. However, even if this is the case, they have grown into an entirely separate cultural entity.

Alan are sometimes confused with the aran, a spirit from the nearby Isnag people, which has cannibalistic tendencies. This mistake has been repeated many times across external retellings, leading to a misconception that alan themselves are cannibalistic.[3]

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cole, Mabel Cook. Philippine Folk Tales, A. C. McClurg & Company (1916). Pg 60.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cole, Fay-Cooper. Traditions of the Tinguian: A Study in Philippine Folk-Lore (1915). Pg 15, 47, 64, 71-72, 74-75, 81, 84, 89, 124-129, 144-145, 161-162, 164-165, 185-189.
  3. Clark, Jordan. "ALAN, the deformed humanoid/avian Creature of the Philippines", The Aswang Project (2018).