We may receive a commission for purchases made by using the affiliate/partner links in this post at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to support our podcast!

What are Pukwudgies? These fae folk appear in legends from multiple tribes stretching all the way from Massachusetts to Indiana, and remain an intriguing and mysterious part of the cultures in those lands today.

So what exactly is a Pukwudgie and do people still see them today? We break it down for you in our bonus episode, which you can listen to below.

Are Pukwudgies real?

You might call pukwudgies cryptids, faeries, or mythological creatures. It is uncertain whether or not ancient Native Americans believed pukwudgies were real or merely mythical. Yet more than one person has reported seeing a real one in the natural world, so it might be reasonable to wonder: are pukwudgie real?

Where do Pukwudgies come from?

Tales of Pukwudgies appear in Lenape and Wampanoag folklore, and date back at least 9,000 years, marking them as some of the oldest mythical creatures in North America. The mythical origins of Pukwudgies lie in a creation story told by the Wampanoag Tribe and some other northeast Algonquian tribes. These little creatures are believed to have originated in Hockomock Swamp in Massachusetts. This area has had a reputation of being home to spirits for millenia, and it’s no coincidence it’s located in Massachusetts’ notorious Bridgewater Triangle.

Where do they live now?

You may encounter pukwudgies across what is now New England. From Massachusetts down to Ohio and Indiana, and up into parts of Canada. There’s a good reason for why these creatures are so widespread: they were thrown there.

Pukwudgies in Native American Folklore

According to oral history of some tribes, the pukwudgies originally tried to live in harmony with Native Americans; even help them. The humans didn’t understand or appreciate the help, and the Pukwudgies eventually decided that the humans were ungrateful and not worth helping. The formerly friendly Pukwudgies felt especially spurned by the appreciation humans had for the creation giant of Cape Cod, Maushop. So they started being little pains-in-the-ass: stealing food, throwing sand in peoples eyes, those sorts of nasty tricks.

Humans in the area complained to Maushop’s wife, Granny Squannit, who relayed their gripes back to the giant himself. Maushop then asked the humans to gather up all the pukwudgies they could find in the woods and bring them to him. The humans obliged, and Maushop collected and flung the captured pukwudgies across what is now southern New England, into the Great Lakes Region. Perhaps this is how Pukwudgies ended up all the way in Indiana.

In one version of the pukwudgie mythology, the little creatures returned with a vengeance. After being so abused, the tricksters turned deadly. Now instead of pranks, the pukwudgie began kidnapping children, luring people to their deaths, and burning villages. Maushop sent his children to eradicate them again. The pukwudgies lured them into deep grass and shot them with magic arrows, killing all five sons. In some versions, they may have even killed Maushop, or Maushop’s wife.

What does a pukwudgie do?

This little wild man creature hides out in the woods and causes serious trouble for the humans who annoy it.

What are the powers of pukwudgies?

Pukwudgies may have the ability to become invisible, appear and disappear, and perhaps even to shapeshift.

Are Pukwudgies dangerous?

Although they are only small creatures, legend says pukwidgies are very dangerous animals. If you encounter a pukwudgie, leave it be. Pukwudgies are still bitter about past grievances with humans, and can cause all sorts of problems if you bother them.

If you leave them alone, at worst they’ll mess with you a little (they are tricksters, after all). But piss them off, and you could be facing serious or fatal injury, as they may have magical abilities, poison arrows, and have been known to kidnap people and lure people to their deaths.

What does a Pukwudgie look like?

Those who have seen pukwudgies describe them as a small humanoid creature, appearing half troll, half human. They are knee-height (or about two to three feet tall). They have large ears and noses, so they may be mistaken for dwarves or duwende when first spotted. They may also have smooth gray skin, resembling stones.

What really makes pukwudgies unique is the sheath of porcupine spines that runs from the top of their heads all the way down their backs. In fact, when you see one from behind, you may mistake it for a porcupine that walks upright…until it turns around and gives you the stink eye.

Pukwudgie pictures

As far as we know, there are no authenticated real pukwudgie photos. Pukwudgie art and literature is based on the oral stories passed down through generations within Native American cultures. Since we couldn’t include a real pukwudgie photo, Becky sketched this image based on the eyewitness description our recent guest gave.

What is a pukwudgie? Becky drew one.
What is a pukwudgie? Becky Kilimnik drew this pukwudgie picture from the description our guest gave.

Pukwudgie etymology

“Pukwudgie” translates approximately to “little person of the wilds.” The Wampanoag word pukwudgie may have descended from the Ojibwe prefix bagwaji- (“wild”). The Wampanoag people, who are indigenous to parts of present-day Massachusetts and Rhode Island, speak a dialect of the Algonquian language family. The exact linguistic roots within the Wampanoag language are not well-documented in mainstream etymological sources. If you know more about the etymology, please let us know so we can share it here!

Pukwudgie pronunciation guide

The pronunciation of “pukwudgie” is typically pronounced “puck-wuh-jee,” or in formal diacritics can be represented as /ˈpʌkˌwʌdʒiː/.

How to spell pukwudgie

“Pukwudgie” is the most common spelling for the mean little people of the Wampanoags mythology. You may also see spellings like “Puckwudgie,” “Puk-Wudjie,” or “Puk-Wudgie”, though they are less common.

How to draw a pukwudgie

What does a pukwudgie look like? Becky created this process drawing video so you can see (and draw) a pukwudgie for yourself!

Pukwudgies in popular culture

  • The CW show Legacies, spin off to The Vampire Diaries, features both a character with pukwudgie powers and a pukwudgie cryptid itself. You can see the later in this clip, although the image may be a bit more Muppety than what pukwudgies look like usually.
  • In the Harry potter series, Pukwudgie House is one of the four houses at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is the North American counterpart to Hogwarts.
  • Mounds State Park in Indiana hosts a pukwudgie-themed nighttime nature hike.
  • In a 2017 April Fool’s Day prank, newbedfordguide.com wrote about how there were so many sightings in the Freetown State Forest near Freetown, Massachusetts, that the police would be installing a Pukwudgie crossing sign during the mythical creatures’ mating season.
  • There is a film in pre-production at the time of this writing (March 2024) called The Ledge, Curse of the Pukwudgie.

Listen to the episode for more details!