It should be noted that the Yupa believe some of this race of pygmy Indians intermarried with them, and their abilities in warfare are legendary. Anthropologist Johannes Wilbert, who worked among the Yupa, wrote that according to the Yupa, "the white man is easy to kill because he can't see us with his blue eyes, but the Pipintu move quickly and sometimes we can't see them."25
The story is an interesting one in that a true race of pygmies exists with characteristics attributed to other "little people" around the world. The mythic Pipintu also live in a parallel world to our own, on the other side of a rock barrier inside a large cave used to bury the dead.
The Fairies were also a common theme in Polynesian mythology. Among the Maori the Fairy are described as fair-skinned with light or reddish hair; they eat only raw, uncooked food, never age, are fond of dancing and music (but dislike singing after dark), and traverse between our world and the spirit world through a magical fountain. The Fairy of Hawaii, it is said, are "so small and industrious (that) any task undertaken must be finished in a single night."26 All of the characteristics noted for the Polynesian Fairy are commonly recorded throughout the world in other folklore accounts.
22. Berrnal, Ignacio. The Olmec World. Berkeley: University of California Press 1969, 100.
24. Wilbert, Johannes. Yupa Folktales. Latin American Studies Volume 24. Los Angeles: Latin American Center, University of California 1974, 87.
26. Andersen, Johannes C. Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company: Publishers 1969, 137.
Not only the Fairy but also "water cannibals" live at the bottom of rivers, springs and lakes. Some American Indian tribes called them "River Mermaids," spirits who lure unsuspecting individuals to the water's edge and then pull them down to their deaths. The Northern California Yana called these spirits hat-en-na or "water grizzlies" and described them as creatures with white and black spots. Cherokee mythology places this creature at the bottom of deep rivers where they await the chance to sneak out to find someone, preferably a child, asleep. They then "shoot him with their invisible arrows and carry the dead body down under water to feast upon it."27 Like the elves, they leave a changeling or "shade" in the individual's place, which acts like a human but withers and dies within seven days.
According to Schoolcraft, the Fairy of the Algonquin "comprise two classes, into which they are divided according as the location of their haunts is either on the land, or in the water. The favorite residence of their land fairies is the vicinity of promontories and water-falls, and in solemn groves. Besides furnishing a habitation for its appropriate class of fairies, the water is supposed to be the residence of an animal called nibau-auba, which has its counterpart, except as to sex, in the mermaid. The Indian word indicates a male."28
The next chapter will discuss these mysterious water beings.
28. Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of their Ancient Status. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1857, 662.
Was this article helpful?