Ebu Gogo is a human-like creature (or race of creatures) which appears in the mythology of the people of the island of Flores, Indonesia, of similar form to the leprechaun or elf. These “little people” are said to be about three feet tall, covered in hair, pot-bellied and with ears that stick out. They are held to walk somewhat awkwardly and are often said to be “murmuring” in what is assumed to be their own language. It is also said by the islanders that the Ebu Gogo can repeat what is said to them in parrot-like fashion.
In one language of Central Flores, the name means “grandmother who eats anything” (or possibly “grandmother glutton”) from the words ebu “grandmother” and gogo “(s)he who eats anything”. The legends relating to the Ebu Gogo were traditionally, according to the journal Nature, attributed to monkeys which do not exist on Flores but were known on other islands from where current Flores population comes.
These legends are somewhat detailed and, like Hawaii's menehunes, Scandinavia's tomtar and dwarfs, they may represent a folk memory of the island's previous inhabitants who were supplanted by the current population. Or, they may represent a supernatural understanding of the islanders' deceased ancestors, along the lines of the Taotao Mona of Guam. However, no particular magical or mystical ability is attributed to the Ebu Gogo.
The people of Flores believe that the Ebu Gogo were alive at the time of the arrival of Portuguese trading ships over 400 years ago, and some hold that they survived as recently as 100 years ago but are now no longer seen. The discovery in 2003 on Flores of remains of a meter-tall hominid, Homo floresiensis, suggests a more literal interpretation of the Ebu Gogo stories. H. floresiensis survived at least until 13,000 years ago and probably survived longer. Scientists suspect it was extirpated by a volcanic eruption around 12,000 years ago, before the first evidence of Homo sapiens on Flores 11,000 years ago. However, the date of extinction of H. floresiensis is unknown. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman relates the tales of the Ebu Gogo to other “Proto-Pygmy” sightings from throughout south Asia. Within hominology, Coleman links these traditions to the survival of small, hairy hominoids, as noted in his book
The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (NY: Anomalist Books, 2006), coauthored with Patrick Huyghe. The book's cover is illustrated with a drawing of the Ebu Gogo. Archaeologists are planning further investigations of Flores, including caves where the Ebu Gogo are said to have lived recently, and thus may shed light on this question. An article in New Scientist (Vol. 186, No. 2504) gives the following account of folklore on Flores surrounding the ebu gogo:
The Nage people of central Flores tell how, some 300 years ago, villagers disposed of the ebu gogo by tricking them into accepting gifts of palm fibre to make clothes. When the ebu gogo took the fibre into their cave, the villagers threw in a firebrand to set it alight. The story goes that all the occupants were killed, except perhaps for one pair, who fled into the deepest forest, and whose descendants may be living there still. The article goes on to say that such tales are common in Indonesia, according to anthropologist Gregory Forth.
There are also legends about the ebu gogo kidnapping human children, hoping to learn from them how to cook. The children always easily outwit the ebu gogo in the tales. A children's story Ebu Gogo: Tales of Mini-Man has even been written which recounts the tale of how the Ebu Gogo may have interacted with the humans 18,000 years ago.
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