The Child-Snatchers

The legend of the duendes as told by Daddoo:

“These came after the taotaomo’na, either brought with the Spanish, like the diseases that killed a lot of Chamorro people back then, or like a curse, something that followed them from their home and settled on the island along with the conquerors.

“The duendes are like tiny little children, but wicked and mischievous children, always playing pranks and causing problems.  At their best, they are tricksters, hiding under mushrooms and doing things like scaring pigs and startling cows.  At their worst…

“Well, I remember when I was a kid, whenever I would go out to play or run around, to a friend’s house or out with my brothers, my parents would say, ‘You come back here before dark, or the duendes will get you!’  The taotaomo’na would get you, too, we were told, and both were used sometimes like boogeymen: ‘You come in before dark, or the duendes will get you.’  ‘Don’t you be hanging out in the woods after sunset or a taotaomo’na will curse you.’

“But where the taotaomo’na used to be people and will only hurt you or curse you for disrespect or cowardice, the duendes have always only been duendes, and so they simply do what they do, and you cannot reason or negotiate or beg forgiveness from them.  They usually live in old trees in the woods, or in caves near the water, but they like to run around on the ground, hiding under mushrooms, waiting for children to be caught alone after the sun goes down.  Then they snatch them up, kidnap them… and the children are never heard from again.”

Behind the Legend…

The duendes are the closest thing the Chamorro have to the fairies and elves so common in European folklore.  Daddoo’s not wrong, either: the legend of the duendes was probably brought over with the Spanish, who believed in a mischievous house sprite called dueño de casa (“Possessor of the House”).  The Portuguese also believed in such a pixie, which they described as being a forest-dweller of small stature who wore big hats and whistled mystical songs to lure young children from their homes.

All sources of historical information are listed here:  Chamorrknow.  The above legend was recorded as it was told to me by my Daddoo.


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