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Bronze statue of Koro-pok-guru on Mizuki Shigeru Road, Skaiminato, Tottori.

Koro-pok-guru, also written koropokkuru, korobokkuru, or koropokkur, are a race of small people in Ainu folklore (Japan).


Etymology

The name is traditionally analysed as a tripartite compound of kor or koro (butterbur plant), pok (under, below), and kur or kuru (man, husband, person) and interpreted to mean people below the leaves of the butterbur plant in the Ainu language.


Appearance

The koro-pok-guru were short of stature, agile, and skilled at fishing. They lived in pits with roofs made from butterbur leaves. In some stories a whole family was said to be able to fit underneath one burdock leaf, with one such leaf measuring about 4 feet across. The size reported for the Koropokkuru, however, actually varies from tradition to tradition, and they were said to be anywhere from 2 or 3 feet in height all the way down to only mere inches in height.

In addition to their small size, the Koropokkuru were said to be rather rough and primitive looking, with large heads, prominent brows, and short, squashed noses. They were sometimes said to have reddish skinned faces. Most commonly Koropokkuru are described as being rather hairy and odiferous.


Stories

Long ago, the koro-pok-guru were on good terms with the Ainu, and would send them deer, fish, and other game and exchange goods with them. The little people hated to be seen, however, so they would stealthily make their deliveries under cover of night.

One day, a young Ainu man decided he wanted to see a koro-pok-guru for himself, so he waited in ambush by the window where their gifts were usually left. When a koro-pok-guru came to place something there, the young man grabbed it by the hand and dragged it inside. It turned out to be a beautiful koro-pok-guru woman, who was so enraged at the young man's rudeness that her people have not been seen since. Their pits, pottery, and stone implements, the Ainu believe, still remain scattered about the landscape.


Theories

It has been suggested that this myth points to an actual neolithic people who existed separately from the Ainu in Hokkaido, and may even have been examples of Homo floresiensis, the so-called "hobbit" hominid. Evidence cited for this has included pit dwellings which differ from Ainu dwellings, who have always lived in thatched houses. These pits have often been found to contain stone implements not typical of the Ainu, as well as mysterious tools that seem too small to be comfortable or efficient for normal human-sized hands.

Peoples whose average height is less than 150cm (4 feet 11 inches) are called pygmies. Pygmies can be found in Africa, the Malay Peninsula, the Andaman Islands, New Guinea, and the Philippines. Many of these far flung pygmy groups share similar characteristics such as certain physical traits and social customs, which seems to suggest that they were perhaps more common in the past and may have shared a common ancestry.


Art/Fiction

  • Korobokuru appear as a playable race in the Dungeons & Dragons: Oriental Adventures rulebook, but do not appear in the base setting of Rokugan. They are described as short, insular, animist humanoids dwelling in remote and wild regions of the world.
  • In the manga Shaman King the koropokkur ("minutians" in the English version) are depicted as a race of tiny spirit creatures which are influential to the background of the teenage Ainu shaman Horohoro. A particular koropokkur-- named Kororo (Corey, in English) accompianies Horohoro as his guardian spirit.
  • In the video game Okami, a tiny people known as "poncles" (from Ainu pon-kur "small person") live underground in the small city of Ponctan (from Ainu pon-kotan "small village"). The city is located in the territory of a tribe known as the "Oina" (a reference to the Ainu people). The territory is "Kamui", which is the Ainu word for god. Issun (named for the Japanese fairy tale character One-inch boy), who travels with the protagonist throughout the game, is one of these poncles.
  • The Natsume video game Harvest Moon DS is called Bokujou Monogatari: Colobocle Station in Japan. Like other games in the Harvest Moon series, it features tiny people who help out around the farm (called "harvest sprites" in the English version).
  • The Squareenix video game Seiken Densetsu 3 has a race of really small creatures called "Korobockles"