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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mythological Species of Humanoid # 34 - Duende - Native American Fairy?

Duende are Latin and South American fairies. I mistook that description as Native American when I began my research. But duende are part of the Spanish heritage of Latin America not Native American part. Though there were probably echos of a similar creature among Native Americans that provided fertile ground for the expansion of the myth among Spanish and Portuguese speaking people in Latin and South America.

The word duende comes from the Portuguese word “dono” which means “owner.” This comes from the Latin word “domus” which means “house.” Sounds like a house dwelling brownie type again. But not necessarily.

In Portugal, these are small creatures with big hats. They walk through the forests whistling a mystical song. They like to lure boys and girls into the forest to get lost.

Though in Latin America, they are sometimes called Tata Duende and lacking thumbs, they help those lost in the forest to find their way home.

Apparently this is the forest cousin of the brownie. Though many use the word for the brownie form too.

Surprisingly, duende are also found frequently among Filipinos. [Not exactly neighbors, I wonder how they got there? Or did they come from there? Mythology can be so hard to trace.] There they live in rocks, caves, old trees, dark and unvisited places in a house or in an ant hill. There are two types: white and black. The white ones are good. The black ones are evil and play tricks on kids.

In Mexico and the American South West [places with less or no forests], they are gnome-like and live inside walls, especially walls of the bedrooms of young children. Sometimes they try to trim the toenails of unkempt children. This accounts for the frequent loss of toes. They also steal kid's things and hide nearby. Sometimes they will barter with mothers for young children to take and eat. They are also known to just steal the children outright.
They are compared to
Japanese yokai
Irish clurichauns, leprechauns and fir darrig
Danish and Norwegian Nisse
French lutin and nain rouge
Swedish tomte
Welsh twlwyth teg
Manx fendodyree and mooinjer veggey

Duende in Art

More recently this word, duende, has come to signify an artistic expression of charm and magnetism. Federico Garcia Lorca used this word to characterize certain works of art, music and dance that are inspired by the duende, they have soul or magic. Christopher Maurer interpreted Lorca's vision of duende as having four elements:
  1. irrationality
  2. earthiness
  3. heightened awareness of death
  4. dash of the diabolical
Apparently the Duende as an Earth spirit can help an artist see the limitations of human intelligence. It has the black, dark power of the Earth that climbs up through the souls of your feet to your throat to perhaps produce a Dionysian scream of raw and fresh intensity. It is found most often in live performances, where the performer keeps the power and magic fresh.

Unlike the muse, which is likened to an angel and imparts grace and charm, the duende must be battled skillfully on the rim of the well in hand to hand combat to receive its “blessing.” This is art that is understood spontaneously and that corkscrews into the audience to dilate the mind's eye to unendurable intensity.

Picture of the Week:
I can't claim this is Duende, but the bleeding heart in the middle of the struggle between life and darkness comes close for me.
1. Do you feel like your creative efforts could be called Duende?
2. Do you feel your creative energy is more inspired by an angelic muse or by a earthbound fae creature?

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