Shining the light on ‘little people’


Dr Curtis Roman

Dr Curtis Roman

A Charles Darwin University researcher will tackle the perception of “little people” being ugly vexatious tricksters in a public seminar this week.

Dr Curtis Roman will share his findings at “Indigenous beliefs about little people in Darwin” on Friday 20 July, from 12.30pm, building Blue 2.1.51 on Casuarina campus.

A range of Indigenous people shared their stories and experiences during Dr Roman’s research highlighting a consistency in beliefs and portrayal of little people.

He said little people appeared as small, strong and hairy with a strong smell.

“No matter where they saw them, the appearance and behaviour of little people was strikingly similar,” he said.

Dr Roman dismissed the idea that all little people were evil tricksters – and male.

“There’s a notion that little people are men, but little women have been spotted as mermaids living in spring water in caves.”

Dr Roman said whether little people were good or bad often depended on where they were sighted.

“Some little people are good. It can depend upon the individual’s cultural ties to the land. The little people are guardians or protectors of the land,” he said.

“One man had problems with little people after he caught too many fish from a creek that wasn’t part of his traditional land.”

Dr Roman was the first Indigenous and Larrakia man to gain a PhD from CDU.

“This helped me greatly,” he said. “Most people I spoke to felt more comfortable because I was familiar with their experiences and beliefs. It is part of who I am.”

Dr Roman said he did not set out to prove the veracity of little people.

“My research was more to collate the stories and examine the consistencies in descriptions and beliefs,” he said.

“Due to cultural sensitivities and research parameters, I did not pursue the stories about the mermaids although I plan to do so in the future.”

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