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In the mythological stories of the Baku, they eat the nightmares of those who call upon it, but if not satisfied they will eat the hopes and dreams of their summoners.

Since the visual portion of an anatomically correct Baku kind of already exist (basically a tapir with tusks), then how would the dream-eating aspect work?

How would this work realistically? I imagine it would have to do with lots of hormones affecting the person asleep, but why would this need to happen?

Some things that might help could be that they were domesticated and then used for a sort of therapy, and again the use of hormones/pheromones.
Here are the basic questions I'm trying to ask questions:

  • How would a Baku evolve (by selective breeding or naturally occurring)?
  • Why would it need to "feast" off of dreams/nightmares?
  • How would it "feast" of dreams (extra organs and such)?
  • And if this is even possible in our world, whether we could've done it in the past or the future.
  • Also if you want how would they become more accurate to the classic depictions of the Baku? (elephants trunk and tusks, tigers stripes, bear claws, etc.)

    Note: It doesn't need to feed off of dreams nightmares per se, but it does need to gain something from making dreams/nightmares to essentially disappear.

I do have a basic idea of how and why but I need more to work off of, to be more in-depth, or even an entirely different explanation not relating to anything I've said.

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    $\begingroup$ @ALambentEye "per se" is a Latin phrase and this is the correct spelling of it. There is no term "per say" in the English language. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Oct 7 '19 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ I'm sorry, I must have glanced over that! $\endgroup$ – A Lambent Eye Oct 7 '19 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ This is a fun question! Fuzzy animals and dream manipulation? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '19 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs wait, when you put it like this...children do like to sleep with their teddy bears (or fuzzy animal plushie of choice) to avoid bad dreams... $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Oct 7 '19 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ Teddy bears are actually shape shifting Baku... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '19 at 17:26
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Your Baku are instinctive therapy animals. Possibly a highly evolved/bred form of service dog.

Essentially they instinctively recognise (via smelling hormones, observing bodily micro expressions and listening to vocal stress patterns) when the person they are ‘attached’ to is under stress or having happy thoughts. This can either be in REM sleep or while the person is awake.

The Baku then engages in reinforcement and therapy. It comforts the person when they are having bad moments and performs simple, repetitive actions when they are having good moments. The bad memories or thoughts are then ‘smoothed’ by the presence of the Baku while the good moments are linked by sensation to a general feeling of well being.

After a few sessions the Baku learns to pre-empt the nightmares/stressors and begins to simultaneously comfort and use the simple action to recall more pleasant memories. This aids immensely both at night time (by replacing nightmares with better dreams) and also in the daytime by helping the subject better deal with stresses, thus reducing the incidence of nightmares in the first place.

Why does the Baku do this? It’s instinctive. It’s a bone deep drive that brings the Baku immense pleasure when it’s fulfilling its purpose. A Baku that can’t provide therapeutic nuzzles will be an unhappy Baku.

Which brings us to the downside. These creatures are (without even knowing it) master manipulators. Not only could a person become ‘addicted’ to the calming effects of the Baku but the Baku itself can learn to cause bad sleep. Not nightmares, just a disturbed sleep state where the Baku can exploit it’s drive to provide comfort by continuously almost rousing then re-settling the subject. This leads to the subject dreaming almost non-stop and waking up having had no deep, restful sleep. This is Not Good in the long term.

If no actual nightmares are there to be prevented the Baku will default to keeping people semi-conscious to provide self-gratification.

Plus: It’s quite simple to imagine a specifically bred therapy dog exhibiting the physical traits you’re after given how effectively we’ve altered the teeth, noses and hides of various dog breeds to date.

Basically: You’ve got a hyper-advanced golden retriever. Very clever, incredibly comforting, and smart enough to hijack it’s own reward response, ruining your sleep.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your answer better than mine! $\endgroup$ – Renan Oct 7 '19 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan: a combo of the two could be singularly effective. Therapy Baku with parasites that increase subject suggestibility could be a potent mixture. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '19 at 11:41
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Pets change the biochemistry of their owners. Thid is a fact. Petting an animal may temporarily increase some hormone levels relates to joy and love.

I'm serious. Here is some SCIENCE! to back it up:

Among the well-documented effects of HAI [Human-Animal Interactions] in humans of different ages, with and without special medical, or mental health conditions are benefits for: social attention, social behavior, interpersonal interactions, and mood; stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure; self-reported fear and anxiety; and mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular diseases. Limited evidence exists for positive effects of HAI on: reduction of stress-related parameters such as epinephrine and norepinephrine; improvement of immune system functioning and pain management; increased trustworthiness of and trust toward other persons; reduced aggression; enhanced empathy and improved learning. We propose that the activation of the oxytocin system plays a key role in the majority of these reported psychological and psychophysiological effects of HAI. Oxytocin and HAI effects largely overlap (...)

Cats are a special case. I feel confortable living with one because before she came into the house, any weird noises at 3AM could be the demons I often end up summoning from the dark dimensions whenever I am try to sing songs in foreign languages that I don't speak. Now I can go back to sleep feeling safe because I know it's just the cat knocking stuff off shelves.

Seriously though: cats harbor a parasite that only reproduces sexually inside them, but which they may pass on to any other mammal. Every cat owner has it in them. Some scientists believe these parasites can alter people's bebaviour, but there is little evidence. Do check the wikipedia entry for crazy cat-lady syndrome, though. I remember some papers on how infection by this parasite makes some mammals more tolerant to the smell of cat urine. I found one for rats, and this paper says (emphasis mine):

Latent toxoplasmosis, a lifelong infection with the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, has cumulative effects on the behaviour of hosts, including humans. The most impressive effect of toxoplasmosis is the "fatal attraction phenomenon," the conversion of innate fear of cat odour into attraction to cat odour in infected rodents. While most behavioural effects of toxoplasmosis were confirmed also in humans, (...)


So what is my long rambling about cats and their owners' behaviour about? It's just to point some hard evidence that frequent contact with specific species cause specific changes to humans' brains and/or hormone levels.

Suppose some species of tapir harbors a parasite which only reproduces inside them, but which may latch onto humans. This parasite may interfere with Rapid Eye Movement cycles during sleep, which is when dreams become more vivid and easier to remember. Or they may cause dreams to not happen at all due to some unknown mechanism.

People who have recurrent nightmares will want this tapir for a pet due to this effect. They might also become as common in hospital wings as dogs are becoming nowadays, though the tapir would be more noticeably associated with psychiatric patients.

The thing the tapir gets from usage of its "power" is the same thing every domesticated species got: shelter and food. The dream-eating tapir is now so dependent on humans for those that of you release them into the wild, they die. Either they can't find food, or they become it to some predator.

About the satisfy-the-creature-or-lose-your-hopes-and-dreams part: a healthy tapir will have healthy parasites. If the tapir is undernourished though the parasites will activate some genes which cause their effect on humans to be nasty. The human will have increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline, causing stress and restlessness.


As is usually the case, humanity would have started domestication of the dream-eating tapir well before science became a thing - so any attempt to explain the tapir's power will get you into the territory of myths and legends.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oooh.. Behaviour altering parasites. Good call! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '19 at 8:54

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