Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ebu Gogo

So, you know those "hobbits" they found over on the island of Flores, Indonesia? Turns out there's a better name for them: Ebu Gogo.

Yes, just like practically everyone, as far as I can tell, the folks who live on Flores tell tales of diminutive people running around in the woods. In England they're elves and fairies, in Germany goblins and dwarves, in Flores, we have Ebu Gogo.

Ebu Gogo is more of a traditional goblin than a dwarf--noted for stealing food, including human babies, and not being terribly intelligent or using language (though of course unfamiliar languages often sound like gibberish if you've never heard one before.) Humans supposedly got pissed off due to the baby-eating and decided to wipe out the Ebu Gobo some time ago, though it's not clear when, or if some survived in the jungles.

While the Flores "hobbit" matches Ebu Gogo pretty well, at least in terms of stature, I'm not exactly convinced by the argument that Ebu Gogo actually represents a 12,000 yr old folk memory of the little folks (assuming, also, that the Hobbits aren't just humans who happen to have had some kind of unfortunate condition.) We humans seem pretty bad at remembering crucial bits of information like "Vitamin C or die!" and the first time my husband attempted to tell the story of The Three Little Pigs, it became a garbled mess involving overly-pushy insurance salesmen.

It seems far more likely that the stories were either made up completely, or reflect more recent interactions with other people or creatures in the forest, like monkeys, feral children, or the short-statured humans (pygmies) who still live in the area. Likewise, stories of goblins, dwarves, hobbits, elves, etc., do not seem to reflect any ancient European folk memories (no tiny skeletons have been uncovered in European caves, despite plenty of effort expended in search of skeletons,) though they could have been inspired by interactions with regular humans who happen to be short.

Still, all that aside, it seems more appropriate to name the probable new hominin after the local creature, rather than a British one. (Though one might argue that this method does avoid confusion with/support for the 'folk memory' hypothesis.)

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