Genealogy of dwarfs

That thesis can be additionally confirmed by the fact that the dwarf figure has been very popular in the regions inhabited by Western Slavic Peoples (Czech Republic – skritek dwarf, Slovakia, Mazurie, Pomerania, Greater Poland, Silesia, Lusatia – kraśniaki, krośnięta and other types of dwarfs). The interesting fact is that these areas have originally remained under major German influence.Primordial Slavic-speaking territories weren’t accustomed to the dwarf figure at the time. However, it is possible that it was existing as a sort of hybrid that consisted of Slavic beliefs mixed with German influences.

Ethnographers intend to root the dwarf figure in folk tales and demonology which were traditionally dominated by beliefs in spiritual characters who had accompanied people since ages. Generally speaking, dwarfs are perceived as the guardian ghosts that help humans and multiply their goods. Generally – because there are some exceptions from the mellow character of that kind of guardian spirit.According to some witnesses, those spirits were born out of themselves, sometimes they personified the souls of dead people and children who died prematurely or they were simply perceived as guardian angels.  Some descriptions can be found in the book ‘Polska demonologia ludowa’ (Polish Folk Demonology) by L.J. Pełka:‘Those ghosts were born out of souls of murderers or people who hadn’t confessed before death’‘Those were the souls of people who were hurt by their families before death’The most detailed description of guardian spirits’ origins is to be found in the hereby book, namely ‘Polska demonologia ludowa’:‘The analysis of gathered folk tales indicates the multiplicity of versions concerning the origins of guardian demons. It is believed that they come from particular human souls (murderers, repentant sinners, hanged persons, frauds, those who died without confession or without the baptism, but also good people who were hurt during their lifetimes) or due to God’s activity or devil powers. The minor beliefs concerned opinion that these creature can be grown by human beings from black hen’s egg or they breed autonomously in rock crevices.

It is well advised to enlist here the hypothesis of Jerzy Cieślikowski from the book ‘Baśń Konopnicka’ (Konopnicka Tale) in order to complete the knowledge about the origins of dwarfs and similar to them guardian spirits. According to Cieślikowski, the dwarfs have two origin ‘pre-groups’: mythical Pygmies (often called Lilliputians due to their height) and Roman lares and penates – guardian gods of hearth and home.The oldest source to trace information about Pygmies is ‘Iliad’: ‘(…) Pygmies were believed to live in Middle Africa and they were the children of Mother Earth together with Anteus with whom they were acquainted. When exhausted Anteus was sleeping, their small friends traveled with him safely. Undoubtedly this picture precedes the story of Gulliver in the land of Lilliputs (…)’.

Summing up, the dwarf figure in Polish national folk beliefs was formed by many diverse factors. Well, there is one thing that can’t be omitted. The expansive character of the christianization processes on Slavic territories was strongly connected with fighting down the folk, ‘pagan’ beliefs – in other words the primordial traditional religious beliefs. That led to ameliorating the position of dwarfs and moving them to the sphere of harmless traditions or even fairytales. ‘ Primordial religious beliefs and the traditional rituals connected with them, eliminated by Christianity from the daily social life, found their protection in local folk cultures as a result of traditions’ inertia. (…) As a consequence of that, many Christian motives sank into folk culture. That phenomenon gave the reason to building up specific Slavic- Christian demonological beliefs together with particular practices and half- magic, half-religious rituals which accompanied them.’In the end, let’s have a look at the encyclical of Pope Innocent III entitled ‘Summis desiderantium’ written in 1484. ‘Many male and female persons forget about their souls’ salvation and Christian religion. They communicate with demons which leads to destruction and crime due to witchcraft, magic and other disgraceful witchcraft offences. As a result of that the newborn children and animals die, vegetables and fruits in gardens become rotten, demons hurt people and animals taking away the power of reproducing as well from males and females or interrupting husbands and wives in their marriage duties. In the end, they disgracefully offend the Christian beliefs.’

1 I. Malcher, Postać krasnoludka w polskiej demonologii ludowej, Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze, Wrocław 1999, pages 29–30

2 S. Urbańczyk, Dawni Słowianie. Wiara i kult, Wrocław 1991, p. 134

3 Archiwum Katedry Etnografii i Etnologii Wydziału Humanistycznego Uniwersytetu im. Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej w Lublinie (in): L. J. Pełka, Polska demonologia ludowa, Warszawa 1987, p. 136

4 Ibidem

5 Ibidem, p. 137

6 J. Cieślikowski, Baśń Konopnickiej, Zeszyty literackie, Wrocław, p. 116

7 Ibidem, p. 115

8 L.J. Pełka, Polska demonologia ludowa, p. 12–13

9 Ibidem, p. 13

All texts and pictures included in his article have been taken from the former version of this website and belong to the ‘Wanilia’ Advertising Agency.