Among the glories of the Bronx River valley are the surviving patches of its native forests along the Bronx River Gorge in the Botanical Garden, and the Garth Woods upstream at Scarsdale. In these places the walker may well imagine that time has stood still, but if you get lost, don’t worry – just keep an eye out for the Little People.
Legends of the native Algonquin told of three-foot tall people, the Mesingw Wemahtekensis in the Unami language of our area, who haunted the woods. Generally benign sorts, they were especially kind to tearful children they found lost in the woods, but if you treated them with respect they’d help you out too. Evan T. Pritchard, in his book, Native New Yorkers, describes them as dressed all in leather, and, apart from their short stature, were noticeable for their rabbit-like mouths and butterfly wings on their backs. They’d most likely be seen in the very early morning or at twilight, and tended to be more active in the spring and fall. Lost or not, it was a good thing to encounter them: those who did often were granted great strength and power.
So if you’ve forgotten your map and compass, or the battery on your GPS has gone out, don’t panic: look for the Little People.
Stephen Paul DeVillo