Creature Compendium

Creature Compendium: Dwende / Nuno sa Punso

There are some creatures closer to home than others, and the dwende is one I’ve heard of all my life. In stories I’ve heard from friends and family who live in or have visited the Philippines, they’re usually harmless little things, but in some stories they’re irritating and can get nasty if you displease them.

Dwende / Nuno sa Punso (Tagalog)

Nuno sa Punso by SinkoSiete

The dwende and nuno may or may not be two different creatures. Physically, their description is the same: small bearded brown men, anywhere between three inches to 3 feet tall. They typically wear a loincloth, woven hat, and walk barefoot.

The nuno sa pusno (ancestor of the anthill), is said to live in termite mounds or anthills, in caves or under rocks. If you disturb the nuno’s home it may curse you. Symptoms of a curse: soreness, vomiting, swelling of the genitals (if you urinated on its home), swollen feet (if you kicked its home). The cure is usually an apology and an offering of food or drinks. When passing a termite mound you should say “tabi tabi po” to excuse yourself out of respect for the nuno.

Dwende, on the other hand are usually attached to a home or household, and may live in the back yard. They’re friendly to humans, if not a little bit mischievous. Leaving a bit of food out for them on the floor is usually one way to keep on their good side. The color that the dwende wear may also indicate its nature: white is kind, red gives protection, green plays with children (there is a similar theme in leprechaun folklore).

Belief in the dwende / nuno may have been brought to the Philippines by the Spanish conquistadors and fused with local animistic religious beliefs.

Further Reading:

Related Creatures: hobgoblin, kobold, brownie, gnome, duende (Spanish)

Region of Origin: Asia, Philippines

Don’t laugh, but I think there’s a dwende living in my apartment. I’ve seen it several times and I get a mini heart-attack every time I do. It seems to like me and I heard it once exclaim ‘that’s my girl!’. He’s reddish brown, 3 feet tall, with a pointy chin, straight black hair that falls to his chin, and brown clothes the same color as its skin.

Of course I could just be a bit crazy, but I’m a writer so that’s more than likely.

Have you ever experienced a myth/legend firsthand?


  1. I feel like there should be a category for monsters that are “usually harmless little things, but in some stories they’re irritating and can get nasty if you displease them.” Stick them in there with the European elf-demon-dragons the size and shape of chickens that used to hang out behind stoves.

    Going to rack my brain for any neat myths I’ve encountered in life. Most seem like generally unexplained weirdness, unless you know a particular legend of a phantom police transport.

    1. Hmm I remember your police transport story. I think that might fall under the realm of ‘ghost stories’

      Also, I’d never heard of the dragon chickens hehe, I’ll have to look that one up later.

  2. No, I can surely say I’ve never really encountered anything that might be described as mystical or mythical, not directly. Not strange beasties, no cryptozoological oddities, not unexplainable magic… Not more than the occassional coincidence or moment of inspiration.

    The Deunde/Nuno sa Punso sounds a lot like many prototypical European versions of Fae and fae-like creatures, at least in habit.

  3. Hehe, this made me smile b/c I remember the dwende in your story. 🙂

    When I was a girl I once “felt” a ghost — but I’m pretty sure that was just a wishful imagination.

  4. This is one I’ve heard from my parents, and I read about the duende in one of my Myths of the Philippines books.

    They remind me of the British sprite.

    There’s a variation in the Philippines where the little dude lives inside mushrooms. I remember my cousin screaming at me when I trampled on a bunch of white ones – apparently the good little ones live in the white mushrooms, while the evil critters live in the black ones.

  5. Interesting. I was researching some creatures from Hawaii that were very similar to this concept as well. The fact that similar creatures like this exist cross-culturally is very intriguing to me.

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