Paradox Chronicle

America’s Lost Race of Little People: The Pukwudgees

Native American Little People Myths: The Pukwudgees

The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas had many names for little people within their lore and legends, but one name is starting to find utterance again, the Pukwudgees or Pukwudgies. These mythical little people are lured to be 2-3ft tall, human like monsters, known for magical abilities and mischievous acts. What is it about these mythical creatures that is so captivating that it pulls itself out from ancient legend again? Or our the many reported sightings across Massachusetts and other places more fact than fiction?

Pukwudgees are finding their way slowly into modern pop culture even in unknown forms, like the movie the “Blair Witch Project”, which clearly holds kinship to little people lore. Many books have been written on Native American little people lore, and in more recent the subject is starting to be viewed from a cyptological aspect (cryptozoology), with books like “Monsters of Massachusetts” (displayed further below), and many dedicated online pages.

Do these lured American Hobbits hold a kinship to the Hobbit Race of Flores (Indonesian Island)? The Indonesian Hobbit Race has been proven to live at least as recent as 11,000bc, and stood the size of a 3 year old child. Are these hobbits a sub-race or offshoot of the famed 3,000,000+ year old famed Lucy Skeleton, given them a Three Million year head start on the Modern Human to spread around the globe and deep within it?

The Iranian Dwarf Mummy pictured displayed on the top of this little people article is from Makhunik: the City of the Dwarf, Iran. Makhunik was part of the Ancient Persian Empire, where Dwarfs are pronounced to have lived 5,000 years ago from Iranian assumed approved archeologists.

The fallowing paper is written on Little People Myths, and goes over varying aspects, like the Pukwudgees battles with Gaints, myths from across the globe, linking little people lore to fairy lore, Mesoamerican dwarf legends, legends of Under Ground Kingdoms were time slows down, Orbs, and much more, a Must Read.

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American Little People Myths: A Myth of American Origin

Native Americans have many myths and legends, and little people myths accompany them. But little people myths are a perplexing concept, because of the other myths akin to them from far flung regions across the planet.  Little people myths can be found in almost all the areas of the world as leprechauns in Ireland to the pygmies of Homer’s “Iliad”, and the America’s are no exception.1 Myths of little people are wide spread throughout Native American folklore, from Mesoamerica to North America, and with some myths from South America also.2 Native Americans have many names for these little people or dwarfs, almost every tribe that has dwarf myths have a different name for them, and some tribes have several names for them. These little people, dwarfs, or fairies have many cultural roles in Native American culture from causing sickness to helping people.3  Little people legends play an important cultural role in native societies by which they help explain the world around them, but these myths are wide spread and speculation of their European origins can be denounced.

This paper will try to prove that Native American little people myths are derived from the Americas, and were not transmitted to the Americas by European colonists who also had nearly similar legends from the old world. The following five paragraphs will give brief insight into the subjects and themes that this paper will go over and present, so that the reader may be appraised to the concepts presented before diving into them more extensively. The following five paragraphs will represent five different themes and subjects that will be addressed in depth later in this paper. The themes and subjects are Native American Myths of little people, cultural significance of little myths to Native Americans, Similar myths of dwarfs and fairies in the old world, a comparison of Native American little people myths and old world myths, and the existence of these myths that predate old world influence.

In modern English we call the subject of these Native American myths little people or dwarfs and fairies, but the Native Americans had a slew of their own names for this phenomenon. The Mohegan’s called these little people Muhkeahweesug and the Ojibwa called them Pukwudgees.4The Cherokee called these little people Yunwi Djunsti, and had four different types of little people all living in different enviroments.5 The Iroquois people had many names for these little people with almost each tribe having a distinct name for this mythical phenomenon.6 But almost all myths and sources come to one general conclusion that these so called little people were actually little, generally ranging from two to three feet in height. Also almost all the little people myths relate to their ability for invisibility or the ability to disappear by pointing at someone, and other mystical qualities.

Little people myths played a cultural role in Native American society by explaining a reason for certain events that happened. Little people were attributed by the Cherokee as a cause of death and sickness, and could haunt a person making a cow’s milk run dry, on top of other mischievousacts.7 Some attribute little people as helping lost people get home particularly children.8 But other attribute little people as leading people astray in the woods.9 Little people sometimes played roles in native stories like “The Legend of the Mashpee Maiden” were a Pukwudgees chief helped convince a great trout to do something that resulted in the creation of a brook.10

Little people myths are not just an American concept most parts of the world have their own version of little people myths. From England to Japan little people myths exist, but the old world traditions generally refers to them as dwarfs, fairies, elves, and pygmies which actually exist in Africa.11 Most old world myths say that these mystical creature live underground, and are generally attributed to having magical attributes.12 These dwarfs, fairies and elves could also include leprechauns, goblins, gremlins, and a plethora of other mythical creatures into their ranks of possible old world descriptions of little people.

There are many similarities to little people myths of the Americas and dwarf, fairies and elven myths of the old world. All these myths attribute these little people or dwarfs and fairies as being small and having mystical abilities. Both old world and new world myths attribute the ability of being able to disappear right in front of a person’s eyes.13  Old world myths say that these dwarfs and fairies lived under ground, but some Native American myths also say the same thing by describing trips to these little people’s underworld kingdoms.14

New world and old world myths about little people or fairies, dwarfs, and pygmies are nearly similar in their descriptions and depictions, but the new world has traditions of these myths that predate the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. As early as 1000 B.C. in Central America the Olmec’s represented dwarfs in their art work.15

The Americas have a multitude of little people myths and the natives have many different names for them, but most of these myths are similar in nature to each other. These myths follow similar motifs like the small stature of these proposed beings, the ability to disappear or be invisible, living in mountain caves or underground, mischievous acts, and magical powers. These myths also range from North America to South America.

These little people myths first appear in Mesoamerica as early as 1000B.C. in Olmec art work.16 In Central America the Yucatecs believe that during the beginning of the world, dwarfs with magical powers populated it, and the Oxchucs believe that foot tall black dwarfs lived at the bases of four columns that held up the flat world.17

In South America myths of little people exist, but are not as well documented as North American little people myths. Myths of the Shiru and the Didi account for little people legends by being short and covered with hair, the Shiru are from the Northern Andes, and the Didi are from forests in the Guianas.18 In south Guyana mischievous little people are also present, being called by natives Kanaimas and have never been seen, but are attributed as real people.19

Little people myths in North American are well documented with many stories and descriptions from Native American tribes. These little people live in many different places according to many different tribes. A Cherokee Moses Owl from Bird town paraphrased in an article Cherokee-Iroquois Little People stated that “There are four kinds of these little people; one kind lives in the rock cliffs, another sort lives in the ‘laurel patches’ (rhododendron thickets), another lives in the ‘broom sage’, and a fourth variety lives in the open. They are of varying temperament and it is said that those who live in the open and in the ‘broom sage’ are very mean, while those in the rock cliffs are good natured and inclined to be helpful.”20 The Chappaquiddick say that if a person walks alone in the Chappaquiddick moors, that person might come across the little man, and he will point towards the sea, and when that person looks towhere he points, he will be gone by the time that person looks back at him.21Some stories say that little people live deep underground in underground kingdoms, and a story about an Indian woman from Martha’s Vineyard  attest to that by saying that the Indian woman was led deep underground by a little black man, and when she was finally allowed to leave it took her days to go back up the stairs.22

Little people myths are a part of native cultures; they help explain why some things happen, and play parts in their cultural stories. The Cherokee had many beliefs regarding the little people, many of which help explain events and gave power to religious ideas. The Cherokee believe that little people can cause the death of old people and children. They also believe that little people can haunt a child, which can cause a child to not eat or sleep leading to sickness.23The Cherokee believe that conjurors can see little people, sometimes control them, and had the ability to cure afflictions caused by them.24 Conjurors could send little people to guard things like treasures and gold mines.25

Little people also play a significant role in Iroquois culture to the point where the Dark Dance Feast is done in honor of these little people and other spirits, because little people have the power to make people ill.26 The Iroquois believe that little people can ruin hunting for a hunter who has offended them by scaring away the game.27 But a story about an Iroquois hunter states that they can also give great luck to a hunter.28

Many Indian tribes of New England believed in a giant and some called him Maushop. This giant was responsible for turning beings into animals and men, teaching fire to the Indians, teaching them how to make cloths, protecting them for a giant bird, and creating parts of the landscape.29In those times little people or Pukwudgees plagued the lands with evil magic more powerful than Maushop’s or Indian medicine men. The Pukwudgees did horrible things to the Indians like having Tei-Pai-Wankas or the Will-o-the-wisps led Indians astray in the woods to have them killed, pushed people off high cliffs, turned into furious cats that would fight to the death with Indians, but sometimes they would help the Indians for only one reason to let Maushop know that their magic was stronger than his. Eventually Maushop tried of the Pukwudgees evil deeds towards the Indians and set out to get rid of them, but he was so big he could not see them hiding in the grasses. So Maushop sent his five sons to find the Pukwudgees, but the Pukwudgees defeated Maushop’s sons and killed them.30

The story of Maushop and the Pukwudgees is a powerful story that helps explain many bad events that could take place in Native American societies. The story could account for people getting lost in the woods and never coming back, falling off cliffs or jumping off cliffs to commit suicide, getting attacked by animals like mountain lions, lynxes, bobcats, and other animals, and good fortunes that befell the natives in account for little people magic. It also could account for a struggle between good and evil, which could have important social and religious meaning.

There are many old world myths of little people or dwarfs, elves, sprites, pixies, goblins, fairies, and so on. These myths range from all over the old world encompassing just about every place in the world from Europe, Asia, India, Africa, the islands of Melanesia, and small stature is common among their traits.31 Fairies from British and Celtic lore were fabled to have the ability to disappear and appear while a person was viewing them.32 Fairies had the ability to cause death and disease though the fairy stroke.33 Fairies lived underground, and in their fairy land time moved much slower than in the normal world.34 There are a near countless amount of little people lure and stories from the old world, but this papers purpose is not to engage deeply in them just show that there is other myths akin to the Native American’s little people myths.

There are many similarities in the myths, legends, and folklore of little people from all over the world. Many legends pertain to underground dwellings, small stature, mystical abilities, invisibility, disease, death, and in general mischievous and evil acts. But there are no similarities greater than the story about “The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes”.35

There are many different variants to the stories about pygmies and cranes; some with cranes eating pygmies to pygmies battling cranes, to men helping the pygmies battle the cranes, these stories range from Greece, the Middle East, China, and North America.36 One such of these tales is an Arab story of pygmies and cranes, and that story tells of a man named Rumiyah and his journey to an island of dwarfs. During a voyage Rumiyah encountered a storm that landed him on an island inhabited by dwarfs that were three feet tall. Most of the dwarfs only had one eye due to their enemy the cranes, and this man Rumiyah helped the dwarfs defeat the cranes in battle with his club.37

The Native American’s also have similar versions of the stories about pygmies and cranes. A Cherokee version tells of how a group of Cherokee traveled south, and came a crossed a group of little people no taller than their knees. These little people could not fight due to their small size, and lived in utter fear of birds that kill many of them. The little people knew that the birds would attack soon, because of a strong wind and feathers that accompanied it. So the Cherokee showed them how to make clubs from sticks, and where to strike the birds to kill them. The birds came and the little people killed many of them, till the rest of the flock flew away. The Cherokee parted company with the little people, but later they heard that the little people were all killed by cranes, that were too tall for the little people to attack. There are other stories of little people and cranes from North American and the Comox and Nass people tell of a voyage across water to an island were little people lived that battled cranes. In both of their stories they killed the cranes for the little people, and traveled across the water on sea lions and seals made of wood.38

The stories about little people and cranes do not follow the standard Native American motifs about little people, and seem a lot more similar to old world stories about pygmies and cranes. But in 1520 Native Americans from South Carolina told the Spaniards a variant of the pygmies and cranes stories just twenty eight years after Columbus discovered the Americas.39It is hard to imagine that just within one generation of the discovery of the Americas, that the Native Americans would have heard about this story, and turned it into their own without the Spaniards being the wiser, that this story was derived from them.

Many different scholars over the years have proposed that Native American’s little people myths were a concept introduced to the Americas by European colonists, but Central American dates of dwarfs being represented in art work states otherwise.  Alex Scobie says in the article “The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes in Chinese, Arab, and North American Indian Sources” that “It is quite certain that dwarfs played an important part in the mythology and art of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Central American as long ago as c.1000 B.C. The so-called ‘Olmecs’ who produced one of the earliest known advanced civilizations in the area of Southern Veracruz and Western Tabasco were evidently fascinated by dwarfs who are frequently represented in their art for example, the ‘potbellied dwarfs’ which appear in the role of Atlantean figures on monument 2 at Potrero Nuevo”.40 On the San Lorenzo monument 18 dwarfs are also depicted, and almost all of the interpretations of the Potrero Nuevo monuments 2 are that dwarfs are depicted in the art work.41

In conclusion even though there are little people myths from almost all the places across the world, little people myths devolved independently in the Americas. The art work of dwarfs from three thousand years ago in Central America is the best proponent to this claim. But the wide array of native myths pertaining to little people that have been socially, culturally, and religiously present in so many different tribes can also attest to the origin of these stories as Native American. The first documented claim of these stories from the Americas came just twenty eight years after the discovery of the new world, but the first evidence of dwarfs in mythology in the Americas predates European arrival by thousands of years. The foundation of civilization is given to the fertile crescent for the advent of agriculture, which spread and created civilization across the old world. But Central American also developed agriculture independently from the rest of the world, so is it, so hard to believe that the Americas also independently created something as simple as a fairy tale.

 Randy Ross

End Notes

1.Alex Scobie, “The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes in Chinese, Arab, and North American Indian Sources,” Folklore, Vol. 86, No. 2, 1975, PG. 122

  1. Ibid. PG. 129
  2. John Witthoft, WendellS. Hadlock, “Cherokee-IroquoisLittle People,” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 59, No. 234, PG. 414
  3. William Scranton Simmons, Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore, 1620-1984” University Press of New England, 1986, PG. 236 and 243.
  4. JohnWitthoft, WendellS. Hadlock, “Cherokee-IroquoisLittle People,” PG. 414

6.Ibid. PG. 419-420

7.Ibid. PG. 415

  1. Ibid.PG. 416
  2. Ibid. PG. 415
  3. William Scranton Simmons, Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore, 1620-1984,” PG. 243-244
  4. Canon J. A. Macculloch, “Were Fairies an Earlier Race of Men?” Folklore, Vol. 43, No. 4 PG.362-368
  5. Ibid. PG. 364
  6. William Scranton Simmons, Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore, 1620-1984,” PG. 238
  7. Ibid. PG. 239-241

15.Alex Scobie, “The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes in Chinese, Arab, and North American Indian Sources,” PG. 129

  1. Ibid. PG. 129
  2. Ibid. PG 130
  3. Bacil F. Kirtley, “Unknown Hominids and New World Legends,” Western Folklore, Vol. 23, No. 2, April 1964, PG. 81

19.Neil L Whitehead, “Dark shamans: kanaimà and the poetics of violent death,”Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002, PG. 80

20.John Witthoft, WendellS. Hadlock, “Cherokee-Iroquois Little People,” PG 414

21.William Scranton Simmons, Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore,1620-1984,” PG. 238

  1. Ibid. PG. 239-241
  2. John Witthoft, WendellS. Hadlock, “Cherokee-IroquoisLittle People,” PG 415
  3. Ibid.PG 414-415

25.Ibid. PG 414

26.Ibid. PG 420

27.Ibid. PG 420

28.Ibid. PG 421

29.William Scranton Simmons, Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore, 1620-1984,” PG. 172

  1. Ibid. PG. 216-219
  2. Canon J. A. Macculloch, “Were Fairies an Earlier Race of Men?” PG. 362-375
  3. William Scranton Simmons, Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore, 1620-1984,” PG. 238
  4. Canon J. A. Macculloch, “Were Fairies an Earlier Race of Men?” PG. 363
  5. Ibid. PG. 364
  6. Alex Scobie, “The Battle ofthe Pygmies and the Cranes in Chinese, Arab, and North American IndianSources,” PG. 122-132
  7. Ibid. PG. 122-132
  8. Ibid. PG. 125
  9. Ibid. PG. 125-127
  10. Canon J. A. Macculloch, “Were Fairies an Earlier Race of Men?” PG. 367
  11. Alex Scobie, “The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes in Chinese, Arab, and North American IndianSources,” PG. 129
  12. Susan Milbrath, “A Study of Olmec Sculptural Chronology,” Studies in pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology 23,Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, PG. 15

Bibliography

Kirtley, BacilF. “Unknown Hominids and New World Legends,” Western Folklore, Vol. 23, No. 2,April 1964, PG. 77-90, Web database, JSTOR.

Macculloch, Canon J. A. “Were Fairies an Earlier Race of Men?” Folklore, Vol.43, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1932), pp. 362-375, Web database, JSTOR.

Milbrath, Susan.“A Study of Olmec Sculptural Chronology,” Studies in pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology 23, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington DC,1979, PG. 15, Web, Database, http://books.google.com/

Scobie, Alex, “The Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes in Chinese, Arab,and North American Indian Sources,” Folklore, Vol. 86, No. 2 (Summer,1975), pp. 122-132, Web database, JSTOR.

Simmons, William Scranton. Spirit of the New England tribes: Indian history and folklore,1620-1984” University Press of New England, 1986. Web database, ACLS Humanities.

Witthoft, John.  Hadlock, Wendell S. Cherokee-Iroquois Little People,” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 59, No. 234 (Oct. – Dec., 1946), pp. 413-422

Web database, JSTOR.

Whitehead, Neil L. “Dark shamans: kanaimà and the poeticsof violent death,” Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002, Web database, ACLS Humanities, Pg. 80.