The legend of the Pukwudgie explained

These days, kids know Pukwudgie as the name of a house from Ilvermorny, the American version of Hogwarts, in the Harry Potter series. The Pukwudgie is one of many mythical creatures referenced in the books. But what exactly is a Pukwudgie?

The term, also spelled "Puk-Wudjie" originated in the Wampanoag tribe in the United States, according to the Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythologies. They are small, troll-like creatures able to appear and disappear at will and shape-shift into animals. They can also influence people's minds and create fire and poison arrows.

The Pukwudgies supposedly look like large-faced elves, standing no more than three feet tall with enlarged ears, fingers, and noses. The Encyclopedia of Fairies says their skin is grey and smooth.

According to The Line Up, legend has it that Pukwudgies lived in harmony with humans, but when the Wampanoag devoted all their attention to Maushop, a land deity that created Cape Cod, Pukwudgies became jealous and mischievous, so Maushop exiled them. As revenge, the Pukwudgies killed either Maushop or his sons.

In Wampanoag legend, Pukwudgies were a lot like leprechauns. They could trick someone, steal a child, or lure people deep into the woods or off of cliffs. It's even rumored Pukwudgies could possess the spirits of long-dead ancestors. Most sightings of these creepy beings occur around New England — police in the city of Freetown, Massachusetts went so far as to put up signs warning of Pukwudgie crossings.

You can be sorted into Pukwudgie House

One of the most famous mentions of the Pukwudgie comes in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic Song of Hiawatha. In one of the chapters of the poem, Wadsworth retells the story of Pukwudgies' infamous jealousy and mentions a plot by the creatures to murder the legendary figure, Kwasind.

But it wasn't until Pukwudgies entered Harry Potter lore that people around the world wanted to know more about the little creatures. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling chose Pukwudgie as one of the house names for the school, naming each house for a Native American creature of legend.

Wizarding World, the official Harry Potter site, says Pukwudgie House favors healers and represents the heart of wizards. In Rowling's telling of the founding of Ilvermorny, a Pukwudgie protected co-founder Isolt Sayre from death. As such, Pukwudgies remain in Ilvermony, and work to secure and maintain the school.

Pukwudgies have rightly fascinated us for centuries, and continue to do so. Just don't get too fascinated and let them lead you off of a cliff.