What is a Pukwudgie?

Little wild man of the woods that vanishes.

Pukwudgies are mythical creatures from Native American folklore, particularly among the Wampanoag and Algonquian-speaking tribes of the northeastern United States, including the regions of New England and the Great Lakes. These creatures are known for their mischievous and sometimes malevolent behavior.

Puckwudgie is translated by Henry Schoolcraft as “little wild man of the woods that vanishes.” Schoolcraft (1793-1864) was an American geographer, geologist, and ethnologist who made significant contributions to the understanding of Native American cultures and the exploration of the American frontier during the 19th century. He is best known for his extensive travels and research in the Great Lakes region, where he documented the customs, languages, and history of various Native American tribes.

The mythical origins of Pukwudgies come from a Wampanoag[1] story, that says these little creatures originated in Hockomock Swamp in Massachusetts. This area has had a reputation for being home to spirits for millennia, and it’s no coincidence it’s located in Massachusetts’ notorious Bridgewater Triangle.

Schoolcraft’s work played a crucial role in preserving Native American folklore and legends, including those of the Ojibwa[2] people, which contributed to the popularization of Native American myths in American literature.

Pukwudgies are typically described as small humanoid beings, standing about 2 to 3 feet tall. They have a human-like appearance but are often depicted with exaggerated facial features like large, bulbous noses and ears. They are known for their glowing, yellow eyes and are believed to possess a range of supernatural abilities. Some of these abilities include shape-shifting, invisibility, and the power to create fire at will. They are also said to be skilled archers and are known to shoot people with poison arrows.

Different regions have different views on Pukwudgies. Great Lake tribes believe they are mischievous but harmless. Northeast Algonquian tribes believe they will become violent if they are disrespected, but are fine if they are left alone.

Pukwudgies are known for their trickster nature. They are known to play pranks on humans, such as leading them astray in the woods or stealing their belongings. While they are generally mischievous, they can also be dangerous and vengeful if provoked. There are various legends and stories associated with Pukwudgies in Native American folklore.

One common theme is that they are considered guardians of the forest and are protective of the natural world. However, they can turn hostile if humans disrespect nature or encroach upon their territory. The origin of the Pukwudgie legend is somewhat unclear. Some believe that the concept of Pukwudgies may have been influenced by European folklore, while others argue that they have deep roots in Native American oral traditions.

Among the Native American tribes of the northeastern United States, the Wampanoag people have some of the most well-documented stories and legends about Pukwudgies. In Wampanoag folklore, Pukwudgies are often seen as both protective and potentially dangerous entities. Pukwudgies have made their way into modern culture, particularly in the context of folklore and supernatural stories. They have appeared in various books, movies, and television shows, often portrayed as mystical and enigmatic creatures.

They bear some similarities to other mythical beings in different cultures, such as leprechauns in Irish folklore or gremlins in European folklore. Like these creatures, Pukwudgies are known for their unpredictable and sometimes malicious behavior.

The Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, mentions Pukwudgies. It was published in 1855. [Exerpt]

“Far and wide among the nations
Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;
No man dared to strive with Kwasind,
No man could compete with Kwasind.
But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,
They the envious Little People,
They the fairies and the pygmies,
Plotted and conspired against him.”

Puckwudgies also appear in the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling. The creature now acts as a symbol and house at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Even though their appearance is off-putting, Pukwudgies have a sweet, floral scent.

  1. The Wampanoag are a Native American people who historically inhabited the region of present-day southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the United States. They are best known for their interactions with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in 1620, which culminated in the First Thanksgiving feast. The Wampanoag were a confederation of several tribes, with the Pokanoket being one of the most prominent. They were skilled fishermen, hunters, and farmers, relying on agriculture, fishing, and gathering for their sustenance. The Wampanoag had a rich cultural and spiritual heritage, with a strong oral tradition, and they played a crucial role in early colonial history. However, their population faced a significant decline due to diseases brought by European settlers and conflict, resulting in a challenging history of survival and cultural preservation. [Back]
  2. The Ojibwa, also known as the Ojibwe or Chippewa, are a prominent Indigenous people of North America, primarily residing in the Great Lakes region, which spans parts of present-day Canada and the United States. With a rich cultural heritage, the Ojibwa are known for their traditional Anishinaabe language, Anishinaabe cosmology, and vibrant artistic traditions, including intricate beadwork and birch bark canoe crafting. Historically, they were skilled hunters, gatherers, and traders, with a focus on fur trading during the colonial period. The Ojibwa played a significant role in the fur trade, helping to establish early relationships between Indigenous communities and European settlers. Today, many Ojibwa communities continue to maintain their cultural practices and sovereignty, while also engaging in various modern economic and social endeavors. [Back]

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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