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18. Dwarfs

A he-dwarf and a she-dwarf lived together. When the dwarf went to dig holes in a field, the she-dwarf brought him food. She lowered her basket and called him, “Midget, midget, come eat!”

When he heard her call him midget, the dwarf went after her to cut her to pieces. She ran. But he followed till he caught her and cut her to pieces. He buried the pieces in the earth, and a black gram (togari) plant sprouted there. The togari plant grew tall; its pods dried and rattled in the wind. One day, when the dwarf was walking that way, he heard the togari plant rattle its pods and say, “Midget, midget, gulak gulak!

So he cut the plant and gave it, leaf, pods, and all, to the buffalo. The buffalo ate it and mooed, “Midget, midget, booynkbooynk!

He killed the buffalo and gave its meat to the dog, which began to bark, “Midget, midget, owk owk!

In a fury, he cut up the dog and threw it in the river. The river said, as it flowed over the stones, “Midget, midget, dadak dadak!

So he took his long knife and went into the river to cut it to pieces and drowned in it. Thus the he-dwarf and the she-dwarf came to a bad end. But you are here and alive. Sleep now.


Gulak gulak, owk owk are onomatopoetic words that are supposed to imitate the sounds made by pods rattling, dogs barking, etc. English-speaking dogs go bow-wow and Kannada dogs go owk owk. [For one of the early inventories of such sounds, see Antti Aarne, Variantenverzeichnis der Finnischen Deutungen von Tierstimmen und Anderen Naturlauten (1912), Hamina: Suomalaisen Tiedakatemian Kustantama.]

Types and Motifs

AT 1211, The Peasant (Woman) Thinks the Cow Chewing Her Cud is Mimicking Her. Told in many languages—Finnish, Irish, Russian, Greek, Turkish, and in different regional languages of India—this tale of a dwarf's rage at being called insulting names has several Kannada variants: e.g., a man with thick lips is touchy about being called Tutiya (“Lippy” or “Lip-man”), hears the word in a dog's bark and kicks the dog to death. A plant grows in its burial place. He hears pods rattle and say, “ Tutiya, Tutiya! ” So he cuts them down and makes soup with them. The soup boils, making “ Tutiya, Tutiya ” noises. So he pours it into the river, which also calls him “ Tutiya, Tutiya, ” so he attacks it and finally drowns in the river. In another tale, a fool kicks goats and cows because he thinks they mimic him when they chew their cuds.


In this tale on the phenomenon of paranoid projection, it is significant that it begins with the dwarf's wife calling him a midget first. Then he hears it everywhere. He cannot bury or silence the word, the shaming voice—it comes alive, transferred from wife to plant to buffalo to dog to babbling river. It is originally a toddler tale. Toddlers are just beginning to make the distinction between self and nonself. The tale plays on the confusion between the two, between human, animal, and inanimate objects, and between human words and nonhuman cries and noises. Kids laugh a great deal at the fool for not making the distinction that's beginning to seem so obvious to them. Such tales also reinforce the distinction.

[NKTT, but it is a cumulative tale involving a chain with interdependent members (Motif Z 40).]

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