January 11, 2009

Attacked by Magical Little People?

The Boston Phoenix has an article about local crypozoologists, people who study mysterious creatures like Bigfoot, the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster.

New Enlgand has plenty of monsters lurking around, including the Lake Champlain monster and the Dover Demon. The various Algonquin tribes also have a tradition of troll-like little people who like to cause trouble.

The Web site Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads has an article about these creatures in southern Massachusetts, calling them pukwudgies, and warning of their evil powers. On YouTube, you can see a short video of someone apparently being attacked (or possessed?) by a pukwudgie.



According to anthropologist William Simmons book Spirits of the New England Tribes, the first account of these little people in southern New England was recorded in 1903 by Frank Speck. A Mohegan woman named Fidelia Fielding talked about the muhkeahweesug, little forest-dwelling men who beg at houses for food, and invisibly steal things if you refuse to give them what they want. In general, they were friendly to humans. Many stories of similar creatures were recorded in northern New England in the 19th century.

In the early 20th century, Thomas Weston used the Ojibwa word pukwudgie instead of muhkeaweesug to describe local little people in his book History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts. In 1934, Clarence Wixon (Chief Red Shell, historian of the Nauset Wampanoag tribe) also borrowed the word pukwudgie to name the little people. It seems as though pukwudgie is slowly replacing muhkeaweesug, maybe because it is easier to pronounce.

I can understand how the muhkeaweesug became pukwudgies, but not how they changed from relatively friendly spirits to malevolent monsters. Maybe they're unhappy at being videoed? Maybe the investigators are categorizing them according to a good/evil dichotomy that doesn't exist in the original folklore?

If you want to see a more positive view of the muhkeaweesug, the Mohegan tribe has clips from a nice video based on a legend (available on their Web site ).

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