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Why Prep?

The Little People
From all around the world (in their lore and legend)

Clipart from Clipart Library.

by Leon of Leon's Planet

(Please note:  This is a work in progress)

Map made by Leon of Leon's Planet Dot Com.
Permission to copy granted, but please give credit where credit is due.  And please link back to this site.


Foreword / Nomenclature

Growing up, I thought that gnomes came from the North, like Alaska and Scandinavia.  Imagine my surprise that the word "gnome" is actually from the Greek language meaning "Earth-dweller" or "Earth-wanderer" (geo + nomad = g-nome).  And, it fits, since most (if not all) of the legends worldwide say that these creatures live underground caverns and caves.  Hence, I will use the word "Gnome" in the general sense of all little people that live underground.

Source:  Online Etymology Dictionary.



Probably the most famous little person is the leprechaun.  But, did you know that almost every culture around the world has legends of the little people?  Known by different names, are they talking about the same species, with many different subspecies?  Or are talking about many different species of little people?  As I did research for this page, I was amazed by the myriad of stories that I found all around the world.  I'd like to share my findings with you.  Please note, that this page was not created to be the encyclopedia of all gnomes in every culture, but I did my best to include as many as I could find.  Links are provided, not only as my sources; but also for you, the reader to do more research, if you like.  Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress, and I'll add more information as I get it.

Table of Contents

African Gnomes Asian Gnomes
Austro-nesian Gnomes European Gnomes
North American Gnomes South American Gnomes
Notes from the Author Gnomes in the Arts

For Halloween:

For Christmas:
       Santa's Elves!


Little People by Continent & Culture



Culture Name (N) & Demeanor (D) & Height (H) Other Information Sources & Miscl. Info.
East Africa N:  Agogwe
D:  Rarely seen (prefer to stay hidden from humans); respected as a humanoid life.
H:  4ft.
Not much is known.  Two sightings by Western men have been recorded, and both recorded that the adults were about 4 feet tall.  Natives forbade the shooting of the little people, so they must be respected by the East-African people. Wikipedia.
Madagascar N:  Vazimba

D:  Unknown; there are no records of sightings in recent memory; only lore that they were the first inhabitants of the island.

H:  Unknown, but the Bantu average 5'6'' tall and the Vazimba were significantly shorter than that.

They are the first inhabitants of Madagascar and are believed to have migrated there from Borneo, Indonesia (must be related to the Indonesian Ebu Gogo).  They did some farming (such as cultivating banana trees); but did not engage in animal husbandry or metallurgy.  They apparently settled in the highlands near rivers and lakes, until they were forced out by or absorbed by Bantu-African settlers.
NOTE:  Bantu men average 5'6" tall and Borneo men (in 19th century) averaged 5' tall.  The average height of men in Madagascar today is 5'4" tall.

I think what we've got here is not a "little people" but rather a pygmy race.  The Vazimba were probably a pygmy race of humans.  By definition a pygmy race of humans can have an average height of no more than 5'.  And, if you average in the height of the women, the Borneo people of the 19th-century studies averaged 4'9".

Genetic studies reveal that the peoples of modern-day Madagascar are varying degrees of a mix of African (Bantu) and South-east Asian (Borneo).

Wikipedia (Vazimba).
Wikipedia (Malagasy).

HAL-Open Science.

Senegal N:  Yumboes
D:  Other than stealing corn from the humans, they were not a threat.
H:  2 feet.
Yumboes were white with silver hair standing about 2 feet tall.  They have been called "spirits", but they did very physical things, like eat corn and fish. Wikipedia.
West Africa N:  Aziza
D:  Nice
H:  Unknown, but they were small enough to live in an anthill or in the trunk of a tree.
The Aziza were hairy little hominids that lived in anthills and in the silk-cotton trees.  Some have called them "fairies," but they don't have wings, but then again, neither did the original fairies of lore.  So, could they be fairies?  Who knows? Wikipedia (Aziza).

Wikipedia (West African Religion).



Culture Name (N) & Demeanor (D) & Height (H) Other Information Sources & Miscl. Info.
China (mainland) N: Wang-Liang

D:  Evil

H:  3ft.

There were there evil entities (often translated as "demons" but these so-called "demons" did very physical things).

(1)  Wang-liang:  Described as the height of a 3-year-old child, dark-skinned, red-eyed,  long pointy ears, and a beautiful head of lush black hair.

(2)  Wang-xiang: not described but said to be a creature of the waters.

(3)  Fang-liang:  not described but said to live in the Earth, and feeding on the bodies of dead-and-buried humans.

India N:  Guhyaka

D:  Good

H:  Unknown

Guhyaka is a shapeshifter.  They are half horse, half bird (Pegasus?) in the sky and then look like a gnome when on land. Wikipedia.
Japan - Ainu N:  Korpokkur

D:  Shy

H:  Unknown

Kor (Butterbur plant) + Pok (Under) + Kur (Person) = People that live under the Butterbur Plant.  The Korpokkur lived in pits, with roofs made of Butterbur leaves (photo of Butterbur below).

The story is that the Ainu had a gift-exchange thing set up that allowed the Korpokkur to not be seen.  The Ainu would leave gifts out during the day, and the Korpokkur would come at night, take the gifts, and leave gifts in exchange.

But, one day an Ainu man decided that he wanted to see a Korpokkur, so he waited by the window of his hut, and when he saw the Korpokkur come, he ambushed it, grabbed it by the hand and drug it into his hut, where he could see it better by the light of the fire.  It turned out to be a beautiful Korpokkur woman.  But, she was enraged by the Ainu's rudeness, and since that day, the Ainu have not received any gifts from the Korpokkur, nor have they seen one.


Butterbur Plant

Japan - Okinawa N:  Kijimuna

D:  Trickster

H:  3ft.

The kijimuna are said to look about the height of a 3 or 4 year-old, and have red hair (all over their bodies).  They live in Banyan trees. Wikipedia.
Korea N:  Dokkaebi

D:  Mischievous

H:  Unknown

The Dokkaebi are small humanoid creatures that are mischievous and play tricks on humans.  Also, they have supernatural powers.  The only description is:  "fearsome". Source:  Me;
   I lived in Korea for 10 years and that's how I learned of the Dokkaebi.
Southern Russia N:  Polevik
D:  Evil
H:  Unknown
The Polevik have green hair (some say grass for hair) on their heads.  They are evil, because it is said that they kill people who fall asleep in field (especially ones who fall asleep drunk). Wikipedia.
Sri Lanka N:  Nittaewo

D:  Evil

H:  3-4ft.

Nittaewo is a word so old that no one knows exactly what it means, but may mean "one with long, sharp nails" (and they are described as having long, sharp nails.  They are covered in a reddish-brown colored hair and are said to be very strong.

Much of what we know about the Nittaewo comes from the Vedda people (the indigenous people of Sri Lanka), who had an average height of 5 feet.  And, the Vedda said that the Nittaewo were much smaller than they.  The Nittaewo were enemies of the Vedda, but less advanced.  The only way that a Nittaewo could kill a Vedda was if the Nittaewo caught the Vedda asleep.

Taiwan N:  Psa Ta'ai

D:  Nice, with a few Naughty ones

H:  3ft.

According to the local native population of Taiwan, they lived peacefully next to the Psa Ta'ai for a long time, until some of the Psa Ta'ai men made unwanted advances toward some of the human women.  After that, the Psa Ta'ai were chased into a tree by a cliff, and the humans cut it down killing all of the Psa Ta'ai, except two males.

They were a short, dark-skinned people.

Since then, the humans have performed the dance of a Psa Ta'ai to appease the spirits of the dead every year during the Psa Ta'ai Festrival.




Culture Name (N) & Demeanor (D) & Height (H) Other Information Sources & Miscl. Info.
Australian Aborigines
(Noongar Tribe)
N:  Woodarjee

D:  Mischievous, and sometimes violent

H:  1ft.


The Woodarjee look just like the aborigines, but are only about a foot tall.

There is an interesting story about a sighting on the link provided to the right.

It seems that there is something otherworldly about these creatures, for any injuries incurred to you will disappear as soon as the woodarjee disappears.

Sasquatch Chronicles.
Australian Aborigines
(Noongar Tribe)
N:  Bulyit
D:  Evil
H:  2ft.
The Bulyit is a small (2ft-high) hairy man, that comes out after dark, and will carry children off in the night.  That's why children are not allowed to be out after dark. Noongar Culture.


Australian Aborigines
(Tiwi Tribe)
N:  Walatha-Walatha
D:  Good
H:  2ft
In the North, they are called the Walatha-Walatha.  Their natural appearance is that of small hairy person, with a pungent smell; but they can shapeshift.  If you are a good person, they can act as your guardian angels. CDU-Australia.
Indonesia, Flores N:  Ebu Gogo

D:  Not nice.

H:  5ft.

Ebu Gogo = Ebu (Grandparent) + Gogo (Omnivore).

The Nage (the people who now occupy Flores) were enemies to the Ebu Gogo, and the Nage may have exterminated the Ebu Gogo, because the Ebu Gogo would steal the Nage children and try to cook/eat them.

But, If they were 5ft tall, they would qualify as a pygmy human, and not one of the little people.

Indonesia, Flores N:  Homo Floresiensis

D:  Unknown

H:  31/2ft.

Scientists in Flores, Indonesia found a skeleton of a 3ft-tall, fully grown adult hominid, that they named "Homo Floresiensis" after the place where it was found.

The skeleton is purported to be 50,000 years old.  Despite its age, this discovery lends credence to the existence of the little people.

It has been nicknamed the "Hobbit of Indonesia".





Culture Name (N) & Demeanor (D) & Height (H) Other Information Sources & Miscl. Info.
(Cornwall, Devon)
N:  Pixies

D:  Good

H:  Varies

Pixies are in general smaller than humans and are considered a completely different species than fairies.  They don't have any wings, but they have magical powers.  They tend to be poorly dressed.

They are said to reward good behavior from the humans and punish bad behavior.

(Cornwall, Devon)
N:  Knockers
D:  Mischievous
H:  2ft.
Knockers are a subterranean version of the Pixies (But Pixies are said to live in caves and underground caverns).  Miners are the only ones who've encountered these, and have attributed lost tools to the Knockers.  They are obviously called "Knockers" because the knocking sounds they make.

In Cornish miner lore, they knock on the walls to warn of impending collapse.

N:  Jetin
Not evil, but not good either.  The ones that steal human babies are obviously bad.
H:  11/2 ft.
Their name comes from their ability to "jet" big rocks (usually in defense).

They live in sea caves on the shores of the island of Guernsey located between Brittany and Normandy (France) and are akin to the French Lutin.

They are said to be changlings and sometimes kidnap human babies and put a changling in the baby's place.

Dutch N:  Kabouter
D:  Good
H:  Unknown
In Dutch lore, these small humanoids are said to be helpful to humans they like and naughty to humans that they don't like. Wikipedia.
French N:  Lutin
D:  Good
H:  Unknown
I couldn't find much information, but they are considered to be much the same as the Pixie, only better dressed. Wikipedia.
German N: Dwarves (Dwarfs)

D:  Greedy

H:  Unknown

We know about Dwarfs from Scandinavian Mythology, and most of that information comes from a collection of prose and poetry  written by a man (named Snorri) in Iceland during the 13th century.

BUT, linguists say that all the Scandinavian languages evolved from German, and therefore it is supposed that the Scandianvians must have come from Germany, having migrated North-westward from Germany.  If that is true, then we can suppose that their lore also stemmed from Germany.

The German legends tell of a supernatural race of short, but powerful beings, who really, really like treasure.  They were called Dwarfs.

German Klabauter
Same as the Dutch Kabouter.  
Greece N:  Pygmy
D:  ?
H:  ?
Described by Homer as a small people living in India and Ethiopia. Wikipedia.
Irish N:  Leprechaun
D:  Mischievous
H:  ?
We all know about Leprechauns, right?

They are the little people of Ireland.  One of my favorite movies is Darby O'Gill and the Little People (by Disney).  I highly recommend it, 'cause all the lore connected with the leprechauns is in there (and a lot more).  There's lots of Irish lore in that movie.  I love it!  In the movie, they were only about a foot tall.

Mediterranean Greek:

All variants were considered to be evil.

In Greek it is thought to mean "beautiful centaur"; (but that can't be right).  The word is probably "borrowed" into the Greek language.  In Turkish it is thought to mean "black bloodsucker" (which sounds about right).
They only come out in winter, at night, around the winter solstice time and cause all kinds of mischief.  Peak time is from Dec. 25 - Jan. 6.
Polish Krasnoludek -  (If you see a dash, it means I'm working on it). -
Scandinavia N:
Danish:  Nisse
Swedish:  Tomte
Finnish:  Tonttu
Norse:  Tufte

D:  Good, but easily offended...

H:  Unknown

Your typical garden gnomes are perfect likenesses of these Scandinavian little people.

They like to help with the farm work, in exchange for gifts (usually in the form of food).  Their favorite food is porridge with lots of butter on top.

When slighted, they will do nasty things to get revenge upon the farmer.

So, I was right!  These gnomes do come from Scandinavia!


Clipart from Clipart Library.

Scottish N:  Brownies
D:  Good; but easily offended.
H:  Unknown
The story of the Elves and the Shoemaker is the quintessential description of Brownies.

But, Brownies are easily offended and if they feel slighted in any way they will leave and never come back.

Slavic Lore Karzelek -  
Spain N:  Duende
D:  Ranges from good to mishievous
H:  Unknown
Apparently, the word "Duende" is a general term for all little people.  There are many types, and each region has their own name for the creatures, which range from helpful to mischievous.  Check out the article on Wikipedia. Wikipedia.
Ukrainian Skarbnyk -  
Welsh Coblynau -  


North America

Culture Name (N) & Demeanor (D) & Height (H) Other Information Sources & Miscl. Info.
Alaska Sungcuk


The Sungcuk were very mischeivous, but the others (all words for the same beings) were very evil.  They would steal children, and the children are never seen again.

They are described as being about 4ft-tall and very, very strong.  These are real flesh-and-blood creatures.  There's nothing supernatural about them, except how fast they run.

Alaska Magazine.

Missing in Alaska.

Alaska Village to Village.

Native American
Tribes of the Mainland U.S.
N:  Pukwudgy (Pukwudgie)

D:  Good, Shy, maybe a mischievous

H:  ?


Just about every single Native American Tribe has legends of the little people.  It's mostly a keep-a-healthy-respect kind of thing.  You don't want to offend the little people.  And, children are warned not to wander around at night.

One of the most famous is the Pukwudgy, which are short hairy humanoids (probably half the size of a normal human).  According to a professional remote viewer (that I know), they are real creatures, who prefer to stay hidden from humans, and can be interdimensional.

Hawaii - Coming soon. - -


South America

Culture Name (N) & Demeanor (D) & Height (H) Other Information Sources & Miscl. Info.
Argentina - Brazil,
and Paraguay
N:  Pombero

D:  Harmless troublemaker

H:  ?

Pombero means "Lord of the Night", and are called thusly because they are primarily nocturnal by nature.  They are short and hairy, and prefer rural areas like forests and abandoned houses in the countryside (unlike the brownies, with prefer human habitations). Wikipedia.

Pic from Wikicommons.

Western South America N:  Muki

D:  Helpful

H:  2ft.

Short, with blonde hair (or white hair and beards for the older ones), and pale skin, these creatures are stout (brawny).  Their necks are so short that it looks like their heads are resting on their torso.

They are seen dressed like miners bearing mining equipment, and not surprisingly, they are usually seen only my human miners.

Many stories allege that these creatures can be very helpful to miners when they want to be.




Notes from the Author of this Page

You may have noticed that I didn't mention elves.  That's because the term elf seems to be convoluted and usurped by many to mean many different things.  Most elves were shorter than humans (and appear to be the same as gnomes), but the elves of Scandianvian lore appear to be personifications of Natural phenomena, just as the Aesir, and Vanir, the Dwarves, the Jotun, the Fates, and the sons of Muspelheim.  Learn more about Scandinavian lore on my special page dedicated entirely to that genre.  Here's a taste...


Gnomes in the Holidays!

For Halloween For Christmas (Yuletide)

Clipart from Clipart Library.

Clipart from Clipart Library.
Trolls! Santa's Little Helpers:
I did my research and I found that trolls are related to the Jotunn of Scandinavian Lore  (In fact, they are the same thing or trolls are a kind of Jotunn), And, although in the past the word "Jotunn" has been translated as giants, more modern research suggests that they weren't giants at all.  In fact, the word "Jotunn" is more likely meaning "Eater".  And, they were voracious eaters.  Nobody knows what the word "Troll" means, but the word "Troll" was used interchangeably with "Jotunn".

Further research led me to find out that there are many different kinds of trolls of varying sizes.  The kind that I'm talking about here are the little trolls.  Little trolls hide under bridges and try to catch little children who are alone at night.  So, don't go out alone at night!  Okay?!!!

In general trolls are voracious eaters, who will eat humans, if they can catch them.  Trolls are not as smart as humans and they move slower.  And, they die when they are exposed to sunlight.  So, they only come out at night.

Santa was born in Finland (all the Finns know this).  And, guess what?!  That's where the elves that wear red suits and red hats come from, too!

So, the movie "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" got it right!!!!  (I'm so excited about this!)

Santa Claus obviously recruited a group of Elves (Gnomes) to come with him to the North Pole to start up his workshop there.  If you look at a map, you will see that Finland is quite close to the North Pole.

And the winter warlock was probably a troll!

Source on Trolls.
Source on Jotunn.


Gnomes in the Arts

(Keep in mind, this is a work in progress)

I recently read this lovely little story (fictional, but fun!) on Kindle, entitled:

The Adventures of
Bumble Snug and Wispy Jim

by J.R. Lewis

Please check it out, if you have Kindle.

Bumble Snug is a gnome and Wispy Jim is a cat (whom Bumble rides).  And, they go on an adventure together.

My Review:
I loved the language.  I loved the plot.  And, I loved the rhyme.

The only thing I didn't like was that there are no pictures.

I am offering here and now to do the illustrations for the book.

Contact me.






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