America Has Its Own Leprechaun And It's Way, Way Darker Than You'd Think

We've all heard tales of leprechauns before. You know, those little paranormal men in Ireland who play tricks and have a pot of gold? Well, the United States has its own version of the leprechaun, and it's actually pretty terrifying. The Pukwudgie myth comes originally from Wampanoag legends, and tells of a small troll-like being that can set fire to things, shoot poison arrows, and lure unsuspecting people to their doom.

You're probably wondering, what are Pukwudgies? Of all the mythological creatures in Massachusetts, the Pukwudgie may be one of the oldest. Native American lore tells that they are small, intelligent, and covered in spines like a porcupine; however, they can walk and talk like a human, and have nothing but malice in their hearts towards all mankind.

While facts about Pukwudgies vary from area to area, one thing stays the same: these guys are not to be trifled with. So, satisfy your curiosity here, rather than going out in search of these murderous ancient cryptids.


  • Pukwudgies Originate With Native American Lore

    Pukwudgies Originate With Native American Lore
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    The Pukwudgie is actually an ancient Native American cryptid, and the legends about them span several tribes. Their name roughly translates to "person of the wilderness." They have been spoken of in the Ojibwe, Algonquin, Abenaki, Wampanoag, and Mohican tribes, though they are most well known for their affiliation with the Wampanoag near and around Massachusetts.

    Depending on which tribe you ask, the Pukwudgie has a different personality or different abilities. For example, the Algonquin talk about them similarly to gnomes or fairies, whereas the Ojibwe talk about them as mischievous but not genuinely harmful, and just wanting to have a bit of fun. However, with the Wampanoag and other New England tribes, Pukwudgies are absolutely dangerous. They still may play little tricks here and there for fun, but they'd just as soon steal a pie off a windowsill as push someone off of a cliff.

  • They Used To Be Super Friendly

    The legend goes that Pukwudgies weren't always so mean and nasty. Instead, they first started out by trying to be kind to us. It all began with Maushop, a creation giant who created most of the land the Wampanoag lived on. He loved the people, and the people loved him. Pukwudgies saw all of this affection passed between the giant and humanity, and started to feel a little left out. They began trying to do nice things for people, helping them out in any way they thought would be kind. Unfortunately, every time they tried to offer aid, it usually backfired, resulting in destruction and chaos.

    Although they were well-meaning, they were becoming a nuisance. The people asked Maushop for help, and he collected as many Pukwudgies as he could, then threw them away, all over New England. For some, this killed them, but a few others became angry and vengeful, and returned to get retribution again Maushop and the Wampanoag people. Maushop stepped away from the tribe, and in his absence the Pukwudgies began to kill, burn, and kidnap people from the tribe. When Maushop sent his sons to deal with it, the Pukwudgies killed them as well. Some legends even say that the Pukwudgies killed Maushop himself, and now they continue to thrive in hiding, all throughout the area.

  • They May Actually Kill People

    Without anyone to stop them, the Pukwudgies have continued to be harmful, destructive, and even murderous. They still wish vengeance on humanity for their mistreatment after being so "nice," and they take it out on whoever messes with them, or just whoever they encounter. Throughout the centuries, they have been known to kidnap children and attack their victims viciously if crossed. They have been said to blind their victims with sand to the face, and may use other trickery to even push people off of cliffs.

    If appeased with small gifts and shown respect, they may choose to leave you alone, but this is not always certain. Instead, they may choose to play minor tricks, like causing you to forget things or confusing you so that you get lost. They may even attack your entire family, laughing evilly all the while.

  • They Look More Animal Than Human

    So, what exactly do these creatures look like? Unlike their Irish cousins, the leprechauns, they look more like animals than like little men. They are said to have smooth grey skin that helps them blend into the forest, spines down their backs, and enlarged fingers, ears, and noses. They are bipedal for the most part, and can move quite quickly given their size. Unlike leprechauns, who are are said to vary in size from mere inches to three feet, depending on what myth you follow, Pukwudgies tend to be a pretty standard size. They are only between two and three feet tall, listed as about knee-high in many Native American myths. But this diminutive size does not stop them from working in groups, as well as on their own, to trick and harm humans.

  • They Can Turn Into Massive Porcupines

    They Can Turn Into Massive Porcupines
    Photo: AliFNZ / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    They do not always look humanoid, however. Sometimes, Pukwudgies prefer to take on other shapes, as they are apparently adept at shapeshifting. In particular, they enjoy taking the shape of a huge walking porcupine - what appears to be the usual creature from the back, but humanoid from the front. It walks on its hind legs, and can use its spines for both defense and attack. If the Pukwidgie does not want to become a porcupine, it has been known to take other shapes as well. It can become a full sized cougar, or another dangerous animal, and when in this shape it may either frighten or attack any unsuspecting victims. It may also just stare at you in the shape of another beast, and psychically will you to do yourself harm.

  • They Can Create Fire At Will

    Of course, the Pukwudgie has many other magical powers that it can utilize to do damage to humans and their property. One such power is the ability to conjure up fire at will. Back in the old days of Native American legends, the Pukwudgie created fire in order to burn down the homes of those ungrateful people who had not appreciated their "good" deeds. They did serious harm to many villages that way. Nowadays, they may also create fire out of thin air at will, in order to frighten people or set their own arrows ablaze. This power may also be used to burn houses, or even start wildfires in the areas in which they live.