The Tale of the Pippsywoggins as told by Maureen Carlson


I've been asked by some curious souls to describe the Pippsywoggins, as it seems that they have taken a liking to me and have let me catch glimpses of them more than just a few times.  One of them, Gertrude Gretchen by name, has even made it a habit to stop by my studio during her early morning trips across my yard.  (I think she must be the local spokeswoggin.)

 I'm a bit hesitant to talk about the Pippsywoggins as I would hate to betray their secrets to those cynical folks who live among us.  But Wise heronr Woman told me that understandings are never arrived at through keeping secrets, so I shall trust time and truth to take care of the best interests of us all ‑ big and small.

 Pippsywoggins are wee folk, similar to elves, but not exactly elves, who dwell in places just on the edge of human civilization.  As soon as an area is surrounded by hard‑surfaced roads, such as blacktop, the Pippsywoggins move on.  ( My home and studio is now surrounded on three sides by such surfaces, so my link to these tiny beings may soon be broken.) 

 The reason they choose places with some human contact is that they have found it easier to survive if they glean from our dwellings.  For instance, the crawl space under my studio, which to me is only insulation space and an occasional home to woodchucks, is winter living space for a dozen Pippsywoggins.  They have dug a hole under a crack in the foundation where the heat from my oil stove seeps through.  By lining the hole with leaves and shreds from the yarn I discarded in the garbage, they can quite nicely survive even the bitterest of our Minnesota winters. 

 Then when spring comes they head back to their own homes for a much‑needed time of solitude.  Pippsywoggins enjoy the winters of togetherness and conversation and sharing of tasks.  But, without the summers of aloneness to listen to the thoughts within their own heads, they would go slowly mad.  At least that's what Gertrude Gretchen said.

 Pippsywoggins seem to be most abundant in those places frequented by butterflies.  I have not exactly figured out the connection.  Which comes first, the butterfly or the Pippsywoggin?  But Gertrude Gretchen has hinted that without the butterflies there would be no Pippsywoggins in a place.  It also seems that butterflies have something to do with the "moving on" of Pippsywoggins.  For just before a Pippsywoggin disappears from an area there can be seen numerous specimens of butterflies, often as many as 5 kinds in one patch of flowers.

 The age of Pippsywoggins (from now on PIPS for purposes of speed) is difficult to determine, as their way of counting time is different from ours.  When PIPS appear in a village they are already 5 inches tall, and they hardly seem to grow as years go on.  I have known Gertrude Gretchen for seven years now and she looks the same as the day we met. 

 She has the look about her of humans around the age of 13 ‑ energetic and exuberant, happy one moment and sad the next, brash and curious.  She's intelligent but not always sensible, which seems to get her into an extraordinary amount of trouble.  She tends to be stubborn to the point of foolishness, yet this very stubbornness gives her a charming aura of independence and capability that keeps me intrigued and delighted at each of our meetings.  The other PIPS whom I've been fortunate to meet all look about the same age ‑ not children but not exactly adults, either.

 On occasion I've met a PIP who has a sadder look on his face, one which tells me that he has experienced some of the woes which come to the brash and foolish -  as well as to the prudent and quiet.  Yet, curiously, these are the same PIPS whose voices I can pick out from the sounds of a chattering and giggling group as they are the ones who know how to throw back their heads and laugh a deep belly laugh.  The other PIPS only giggle. 

 The sound of a PIP belly laugh is like the rumble of a spring brook as it races over the submerged rocks and tumbles down a falls made of broken branches.  These same PIPS I've also seen with tear smudges on their cheeks.  Yet Gertrude Gretchen once told me proudly that PIPS never cry.  Soon after I've noticed these unusual, more pensive PIPS, they have disappeared, never to be seen by me again.

 The Pippsywoggins used to have descriptive names like Falling Down Berry and River Walking By.  But they have lived so long near human places that they have taken on the names that we use.  They often have two - and sometimes even three - first names, but never a last name.  I wonder why that is?

 There is much that I have yet to learn about the Pips, as it takes a great deal of time to build up trust between people when one is the size of a mouse and the other is at least 20 times as tall.  Yet, slowly, through the sharing of our stories, we are finding that Pips and Humans are not so different after all. 

 To read more about the Pips, go back to the , or the , then click on each of the pips to read their individual stories.

  2006 by Maureen Carlson
All designs and stories by Maureen  may not be reproduced in any way without expressed written permission.