There's something about being in a forest that fills one with an otherworldly feeling, some people with a sense of wonder and others, with fear. For many local hunters of the past, it was the fear of Papa Bois.
Papa Bois is the 'Keeper of the forest' so to speak. He is the protector of the forest and all the animals that resides within. Some even believe that he is the father of all the animals that live there. He is also married to Mama D'Leau and is said to usually be kind.
Papa Bois by Laura Ferreira
With the ability to change his form (usually into a stag), he will observe hunters unnoticed. If he finds the hunters actions unacceptable, he (in the form of a stag) will lead them deep into the forest, return to his original form and vanish, leaving the hunters lost. Sometimes after giving the hunters a stern warning against wrong doings or forcing them to wed Mama D'Leau. Papa Bois does not tolerate senseless killing or reckless destruction of the forest and will punish such hunters by casting a spell that turns them into wild hogs.
Additionally, he warns animals of approaching hunters, frees them from snares and treats wounded animals at his dwelling in the forest. Otherwise, he will simply approach hunters for a nice and friendly chat. If he does this, it is advised to be polite by greeting him with "Bonjour vieux Papa." ("Good day old father.") and do not stare at his feet.
Papa Bois is commonly described as an old man, dressed in raggedy clothes/trousers, with a bamboo horn (used to warn animals) hanging from his belt. Despite his apparent old age, he is extremely strong and muscular, able to run faster than a deer and covered with donkey-like hair. Two horns on his forehead and a beard with leaves growing out of it. His left leg ends in a hoof, similar to La Diablesse. However, some descriptions state that both legs end in hooves, like a Minotaur.
Finding the origins of Papa Bois is extremely difficult as it appears that it's place of origin is unknown and conflicting as of now. However, it is a popular folklore in St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago but is heard of throughout the Caribbean and Americas. It is most likely of African origin with French influence, as in some cases he is described as a short, old man of African descent and the name 'Papa Bois' is French Patois for "Father wood" or "Father of the forest". Some folks even believe that Papa Bois could possibly be the son of Mother Nature herself.
For similar or related legends, I found that Grenadian folklore also speak of Papa Bois but it is represented as a huge Opossum. Another similar folklore is that of Mami Wata (known as Mama D'Leau locally). Just instead of protecting the forest, Mami Wata is the protector of rivers.
*I will go more in depth on Mami Wata / Mama D'leau in another post.*
Other than that, I haven't found much in way of similar legends. If you know of any similar legends, please share down in the comments.
During my research I came across a news article about a 72 year old man nicknamed Papa Bois, who lived in the Mayaro forest. His real name was Sylvester Binda and he lived in the forest for over 40 years, grew his own crops for food and looked after the forest in which he resided. Add that to the list of odd news you never thought could be real.