Los Duendes


The informant’s mother told her about her encounter with los duendes aka the gnomes when she was a young girl. Los duendes are a part of Latin American legend and have different variations across the countries. This specific encounter occurred in Costa Rica when the informant’s mother was young so presumably around late 70s or early 80s.


Informant: “The gnomes also known as los duendes come in groups to basically lore children, typically mischievous children, into the woods or the forest and would distract them for hours on end with games, music, dances until it got really late. Eventually, the children would want to go back home and the gnomes would not allow that. If the children tried to go home the gnomes were really aggressive like grabbing their hair, scratching their skin and not letting them leave and forcing them to keep having fun even after hours of doing late into the night. This is what happened to my mother and in order for her to leave and safely make it back home she had to turn her clothes inside out and leave while singing or whistling which was to imitate that you’re still playing the game but you’re actually departing and done playing. My mother was able to escape from them this way and when they found her apparently her hair was messed up and scratches were all over her and her toe nails were clipped.”


This memorate corresponds with a type of urban legend that exists within Latin America. I think this is a type of urban legend that was used to warn kids from talking to strangers or venturing into unknown territory like the woods by themselves. With many memorates such as this one contributing to the legend, belief only strengthens and then many people, adults and kids alike are very cautious about trying to get into any encounter with los duendes. And I think stories like these are passed down in families to warn that it can happen and to pass on certain lessons/instructions so that if someone else in the family encounters them then they know what to do. I think this urban legend could suggest that Latin Americans could be very cautious and worried about child safety and that you should be weary of things/people who seem too good to be true or overly nice.