Everything You Need to Know About Folklore (and Its Mythology)

Go into the origins of each episode of this HBO Asia series, and find out where they stand on our scare index.

Get to know Folklore, a new six-part horror anthology from HBO Asia. Directed by six of the continent’s up-and-coming directors, the unnerving series is an exploration of deep-seated superstitions that have permeated Asian cultures for generations.

Where to start? This breakdown will guide you — and tell you how much light you'll need to keep on.

Episode 1: “A Mother’s Love”

Directed by: Joko Anwar
Country of origin: Indonesia
What it’s about: A penniless mother and son take refuge in a mansion they’re caretaking, and discover abandoned children in the attic. Rescuing these children, however, antagonizes a menacing spirit known as Wewe Gombel, the children’s adoptive mother.
The lore: In Indonesian culture, the myth of Wewe Gombel — a ruthless spirit desperate to nurture — has been passed down through generations. More sinister interpretations of the superstition say Wewe will even kidnap her charges.
Fear factor: ?️?️?️?️

Episode 2: “Tatami”

Directed by: Takumi Saitoh
Country of origin: Japan
What it’s about: A man who writes about crime scenes for a living discovers a dark family secret when he returns home for his father’s funeral.
The lore: This episode features a zashiki-warashi, a ghost that haunts rooms in older homes, especially those covered with traditional Japanese tatami mats. These mischievous beings typically resemble young children and bring good fortune — if they are properly cared for. Some say these ghosts can be more sinister: If a zashiki-warashi decides to leave, hardship will befall the home.
Fear factor: ?️?️?️

Episode 3: “Nobody”

Directed by: Eric Khoo
Country of origin: Singapore
What it’s about: When two construction workers discover a young woman’s body, they choose to bury her on the site — igniting a series of vengeful events, perpetrated by the restless spirit of Pontianak.
The lore: The myth of Pontianak (also referred to as Matianak or Kuntilanak, among others) is described as a vampirical figure said to have died while pregnant (or during childbirth; the legend varies). Superstition has it that the Pontianak can take on many different forms and preys on primarily male victims. 
Fear factor: ?️?️?️

Episode 4: “Pob”

Country of origin: Thailand
Directed by: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
What it’s about: While covering a murder scene, a journalist encounters a cannibalistic ghost who admits to the crime. The journalist initially rejects the ghost’s request to print the story, but the two eventually strike a deal.
The lore: In Thai mythology, a pob is a murderous ghost that feasts on humans. Although a pob is usually a woman, the one in this episode takes the form of a man.
Fear factor: ?️?️

Episode 5: “Toyol” 

Directed by: Ho Yuhang
Country of origin: Malaysia
What it’s about: Desperate to save the crumbling economy of his nearly bankrupt fishing town, a member of Parliament seeks the help of a shaman. Thanks to her, the town is saved and her relationship with the Parliament member blossoms, but not without sacrifice.
The lore: Referenced in the lore of Malaysian, Chinese, Cambodian, and Filipino cultures, to name a few, Toyol is rumored to take the form of a possessed infant. These doomed, childlike creatures are often used to enhance good fortune in couples and newlyweds — if they’re able to successfully navigate the black magic involved.
Fear factor: ?️?️?️?️

Episode 6: “Mongdal

Directed by: Lee Sang-Woo
Country of origin: South Korea
What it’s about: A mother struggles to care for her psychopathic son, especially after he begins a potentially dangerous relationship that takes a tragic turn.
The lore: A mongdal is the ghost of a bachelor who only finds peace after marrying the ghost of a female virgin — meaning he’ll kill young women to speed up the process.
Fear factor: ?️?️?️?️