Little Peop le of Central and South America.
Etymology: Spanish, "goblin" or "dwarf." From dueno de casa ("lord of the house"), referring to a Spanish household spirit. Used as early as 1653 for a bandit in Peru; since then, the term has expanded to include ghosts and other supernatural creatures.
Variant names: Alar (Cabécar/Chibchan), Dominguito (in Honduras), el Duendi, Duenos del monte ("mountain lords"), Dwendi, Mauh (Chorti/Mayan, "not good"), Pombero, el Sil-borcito (in Brazil, "little whistler"), el Som-brero'n ("big hat"), Tata (Mayan for "grandfather") duende.
Physicaldescription: Height, 1 foot 3 inches—4 feet 6 inches. Covered in thick brown or black hair. Red fur or hair (in Honduras, Peru, and Venezuela). Blond, gray, or red hair (in Panama). Flat, yellowish-brown, wrinkled face. Blue eyes (in Panama). Pointed ears (in Costa Rica). Large teeth. Long, white beard (in Guatemala). Heavy shoulders. Hair especially thick and coarse down the neck and back. Long arms. Chubby (in Colombia, Peru, and Argentina). Thick calves (in Belize). Chickenlike feet (in Argentina and Costa Rica). Reversed feet. Pointed heels. Female Duendes are rare.
Behavior: Mostly nocturnal. Inquisitive. Makes cries like a baby as well as loud roars and also chatters, squeaks, or cackles. Eats fruit, molasses, livestock, and fishes. Attacks dogs and carries them off. Plaits the manes of horses (in Colombia). Said to wear skins, rags, red or green clothes, and especially a big straw hat. Sometimes rescues humans lost in the forest. Folklore credits the Duende with a facility for language, making music, hypnotic powers, invisibility, and shape-shifting.
Tracks: Small and deep, with pointed heels.
Habitat: Caves, mines, mountainous forests, deep canyons and valleys, rivers, abandoned houses, plantations, vineyards.
Distribution: Throughout Central and South America.
Possible explanation: A fairy-tale creature with no objective reality, possibly a mix of European folktales and Indian trickster myths.
Sources: Alberto Uribe Holguín, La leyenda de los duendes (Bogotá, Colombia: Editorial Marconi, 1927); Aimé F. Tschiffely, Tschiffely's Ride: Ten Thousand Miles in the Saddle from Southern Cross to Pole Star (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1933), p. 182; Charles Wisdom, The Chortí Indians ofGuatemala (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), p. 408; Carlos López Narvaez, "Presentación folklórica del duende," Revista de Folklore (Bogotá) 2 (1947): 1—5; Ivan T. Sanderson, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (Philadelphia: Chilton, 1961), pp. 164-166; Virginia Rodriquez Rivera, "Los duendes en Mexico (el alux)," Folklore Americano 10, no. 10 (1962): 68-85; Nicholas M. Fintzelberg, "The Form,
Meaning, and Function of a Duende Legend in the Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador," Ph.D. diss., University of California, Davis, 1975; Luis Millones, "Las duendes del casma: Religion popular en un valle de la Costa Norte," Folklore Americano 23 (1975): 81-92; Alan Rabinowitz, Jaguar: Struggle and Triumph in the Jungles ofBelizee (New York: Arbor House, 1986); Meg Craig, Characters and Caricatures in Belizean Folklore (Belize City: Belize UNESCO Commission, 1991); Mark Sanborne, "An Investigation of the Duende and Sisimite of Belize: Hominoids or Myth?" Cryptozoology 11 (1992): 90-97; Mark Sanborne, "On the Trail of the Duende and Sisimite of Belize," Strange Magazine, no. 11 (Spring-Summer 1993): 10-13, 54-57; John E. Roth, American Elves (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1997), pp. 34-36, 54-62, 97-104, 156-160.
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