The Ebu Gogo are a group of human-like creatures that appear in the mythology of Flores, Indonesia. In the Nage language of central Flores, ebu means 'grandmother' and gogo means 'he who eats anything'. A colloquial English equivalent might be something like "Granny Glutton."
The Nage people of Flores describe the Ebu Gogo as having been able walkers and fast runners around 1.5m tall. They reportedly had wide and flat noses, broad faces with large mouths and hairy bodies. The females also had "long, pendulous breasts." They were said to have murmured in what was assumed to be their own language and could reportedly repeat what was said to them in a parrot-like fashion.
Appearance in Nage folklore
The Nage people believe that the Ebu Gogo were alive at the time of the arrival of Portuguese trading ships in the 17th century, and some hold that they survived as recently as the 20th century, but are now no longer seen. The Ebu Gogo are believed to have been hunted to extinction by the human inhabitants of Flores. They believe that the extermination, which culminated around seven generations ago, was undertaken because the Ebu Gogo stole food from human dwellings, and kidnapped children.
An article in New Scientist (Vol. 186, No. 2504) gives the following account of folklore on Flores surrounding the Ebu Gogo: The Nage people of central Flores tell how, in the 18th century, villagers disposed of the Ebu Gogo by tricking them into accepting gifts of palm fiber to make clothes. When the Ebu Gogo took the fiber into their cave, the villagers threw in a firebrand to set it alight. The story goes that all the occupants were killed, except perhaps for one pair, who fled into the deepest forest, and whose descendants may be living there still.
There are also legends about the Ebu Gogo kidnapping human children, hoping to learn from them how to cook. The children always easily outwit the Ebu Gogo in the tales.
Speculated connection to Homo floresiensis
The discovery of the remains of a meter-tall hominid on Flores Homo floresiensis, alive at least as recently as 13,000 years ago, has inspired more literal interpretations of the Ebu Gogo stories. Anthropologist Gregory Forth, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta, Canada has stated that "wildman" myths are prevalent in Southeast Asia and has investigated their linguistic and ritual roots, speculating that H. floresiensis may be evidence that the folktales of Ebu Gogo and similar creatures such as the Orang Pendek on Sumatra may be rooted in fact.
- Forth, Gregory L. Beneath the volcano: religion, cosmology and spirit classification among the Nage of eastern Indonesia, 1998, ISBN 90-6718-120-X
- Forth, Gregory. Images of the Wildman in Southeast Asia: An Anthropological Perspective, Taylor and Francis:2009
- Nature/Scientific American article: The Littlest Human
- Interviews with local inhabitants, featured in the 'Australia' episode of The Incredible Human Journey
- National Geographic News article on H. floresiensis
- Roberts, Richard (28 October 2004). "Villagers speak of the small, hairy Ebu Gogo". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-10-11.