If anyone else has been as obsessed with HBO’s “The Outsider,” as I am, you know a little bit about the legend of “El Cuco.” The show is based off the Stephen King book of the same name, and we know King’s love for supernatural creatures. Though the show has long ended (I highly recommend if you haven’t) I decided it was time to dive in.
El Cuco (also known as Coca, Cuca, Cucuy, and Cucuí) is a mythical dragon and/or ghost monster, which can be traced back to Spain, similar to, or even the inspiration for, the boogeyman in the USA; the legend of El Cuco was used as a warning to children, to go to sleep and not wander the streets at night, for fear of El Cuco coming to stuff you in his sack and take you away. In all interpretations, there is no distinct form that El Cuco has; it is said he is more felt than seen, and can take on many different appearances and shapes, from a faceless monster to the a sliver of being, sliding through the crack in your door.
According to Ancient Origins, the legend originated in Portugal and Spanish Galicia, where it is called Coco and appears as a monster with a pumpkin head. In Medieval times in the same area, it became a female dragon, which used to be featured in different celebrations, like the Festa da Coca, in which the dragon fights with Saint George on Holy Thursday, also known as the celebration of Corpus Christi, to determine the outcome of crops in the year to come.
In Mexico, the Cuco became something different. It became an amorphous creature, able to take shape of different terrifying forms of dangerous animals. Legends say the Cuco have red eyes, with the ability to hide anywhere, even behind the curtains. This version hunts for children who misbehave, with the naughtiest children being hunted by the hungriest and scariest him- El Cucuy. It was said a child who meets el Cucuy never returns home.
Stephen King’s version takes on a different twist: El Cuco’s true from is described as being a body of worms that can take a person’s DNA and transform into him. He is the most similar to Mexico’s interpretation of El Cuco, simply because he eats children. However, King expands that into what he really feeds on is sadness.