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The Tokoloshe is a Melon Head / Melonhead / Catskill Gnome?

Tokoloshes Could be Melon Heads / Melonheads


Melon Heads / melonheads are said to be little people with disproportionately large heads ,and they feature in the folklore of the American states of Connecticut, Ohio and Michigan. Stories about them are varied and sometimes conflicting, mainly because they speculate about their origins. The author of the website ghostsafari.com, in the article New York State Ghosts and Legends and other writings, made the connection between melon heads and Catskill gnomes. The Catskill gnomes are dwarfish creatures of Mahican (Mohican - yes, as in James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans) legend. It is said that Henry Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon were entertained by the gnomes while exploring the Catskill Mountains. Like melon heads, Catskill gnomes have heads swollen out of proportion to their bodies. As a result of drinking the gnomes' liquor, some of Hudson's crew took on the form of the gnomes themselves but fortunately, the transformation wore off. In Washington Irving's famous story, the eponymous Rip van Winkle also enjoys the hospitality of the gnomes and falls into a sleep for twenty years.

The similarity of melon heads to Catskill gnomes seems obvious with hindsight. However, the coincidence extends to the tokoloshe (also spelled tikoloshe or tokolosh), a being feared by many people in Southern Africa. The historian Eric Rosenthal found the following description in an old issue of The Bloemfontein Friend:

"Mr. Tokoloshe is an imp from Hades barely thirty inches in height; he has a head the size of a large pumpkin, a whiff of a nose, small snake-like eyes, hands like the claws of a vulture, with the hairy nether limbs and feet of a goat."

I have never heard or read of the goat feet in other descriptions and suspect that it was added during re-telling by Christians, and the Bloemfontein Friend article does mention the Devil. Similarly, I think that a head like a pumpkin or melon in shape, and large in proportion to the body, is more consistent with other descriptions.

tokoloshe  (c) DJT
Tokoloshe, melon head or Catskill gnome?

Still, the resemblance of tokoloshes to American melon heads is striking and leads me to believe that the tokoloshe of South African folklore may be closely related to them and to the Catskill gnomes.

An article on the website vanhunks.com, Van Hunks on the Tokoloshe, draws attention to the similarity of the tokoloshe and the brownie, a domestic fairy of European legend. In England's Lake District and elsewhere in Cumbria, brownies are called dobbies and they feature in the Harry Potter movies.

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