Pukwudgie The Trickster: Grey-Faced Humanoid Creature In Native American Beliefs

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - In Algonquian folklore, the Pukwudgies are magical little forest people. They are grey-faced humanoid creatures with large ears and only knee-high or smaller.


They can appear and disappear at will, create fires using magic, steal food and lure people to serious problems even death. They are tricksters that enjoy all possible mischievous actions.

The trickster’s name “Pukwudgie” (also spelled Puk-Wudjie) means "little wild man of the woods that vanishes" and stories about this creature have been known across the vast areas of the northeastern United States, the Great Lakes region, and southeastern Canada. The Pukwudgies are closely related to wooded areas of what are now the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The Wampanoag (Algonquian-speaking Native Americans) once lived in this region of the country.

Generally, according to Northeastern Native American folklore, the Pukwudgies were once friendly toward humans but with the passage of time, it changed and the Pukwudgies turned against humans, so it would be best to leave them alone and never annoy them.

Still, the nature of the Pukwudgies varies in the folklore of different tribes. In the Chippewa (Ojibwe) and other Great Lakes tribes, the Pukwudgie is considered mischievous but basically good-natured creatures that play rather harmless tricks on people.


In the Abenaki and other northeast Algonquian tribes, a Pukwudgie can be dangerous, but only to people who treat him badly and with disrespect.

In the Wampanoag and other tribes of southern New England, they are unpredictable and rather dangerous. It happens that their tricks make no harm and even help in a critical situation but beware of the Pukwudgies because they are very cunning and do not deserve to be fully trusted. In stories that vary from tribe to tribe, a Pukwudgie has magical abilities, which cannot be in any way controlled by humans.

The creature can shapeshift to a dangerous animal, disappear or turn invisible, confuse people or make them forget things. The Pukwudgie can even punish people simply by just staring at them.

The physical appearance and behavior of the Pukwudgies make them remotely related to the European gremlins. Every culture has its tales of tricksters—beings so clever they often outwitted even themselves and who were often seen as culture heroes.

Why were the Pukwudgies so disappointed with the Wampanoag people?

In many Wampanoag stories, the Pukwudgies were enemies of the culture hero Moshup (Maushop) and were even responsible for his death. Moshup was a giant who created Cape Cod, one of the most important regions of Native American life in the United States, with a history of Wampanoag stretching 12,000 years.

People respected and loved Moshup but the Pukwudgies were very jealous creatures. They did not like to be in the shadow of the great hero. According to a legend, they disliked the affection the Wampanoag had for Moshup.

puckwudgie creature

At one time, the Pukwudgies behaved so badly that Maushop had to step in to collect as many of them as he could and scatter them around New England. All of them survived and they tried to make their way back home and so it happened.

After the Pukwudgies returned, they took vengeance by kidnapping local children and killing the Wampanoag people. They tricked Maushop into a body of water trying to kill him. One version says they killed him and his sons.

Many say that the Pukwudgies do not belong to the past because they are still active to this day.

An Encyclopedia of American Folklore” by Christopher R. Fee/Jeffrey Webb, is full of myths and legends that have formed American culture since its earliest years of settlement.

It also mentions the Pukwudgies: “…Rumor has it that their nasty forest tricks continue to this day in wooded areas of Massachusetts where the Wampanoag once reigned. Much of their activity centers on the notorious “Bridgewater Triangle”, an area in the southeastern part of the state that includes the Fall River-Freetown State Forest.

People report seeing small gray trolls and being lured off the trail and into the deep woods by glowing orbs. Some report an overwhelming urge to jump off the edge of a one-hundred-foot cliff in the forest called “The Ledge”.

A series of suicide jumps there remind people of stories that report Pukwudgies pushing people off cliffs….”

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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