So, up until now, I’ve had the thumbling tale “Boy-Man” listed as Hopi. This was incorrect. Here’s why. I found the story in a couple of different places, but it was only listed as Native American. That’s kind of a huge area where it’s impossible to place the story, so I looked for some details. Near the end, there’s a reference to “the Ko-ko, who gets all his light from the moon.” Yes! Culture-specific detail! I made a search and found out that ko’ko is the Hopi word for the burrowing owl, and Kokopelli is a fertility and lunar deity of Southwest America. Story placed!
Except that didn’t jibe with the rest of the story, which is set at a lodge on the shore of a lake, which is frozen during winter. That does not say American Southwest to me. It kind of needled at me, and recently I was looking back over it and decided to search again. I couldn’t just search the name of the tale. That didn’t help very much the first few times, which is why I started searching for Koko.
There’s an odd moment in both version that I found where the main character says, “Me-zush-ke-zin-ance!” This apparently means “rig up something with a moccasin and a piece of string and throw it to me.” So I threw that into the search bar and got two Google Books results. One cited the tale as an Ojibwe story. The other said it was Sioux, and placed it at Spearfish Creek in the Black Hills, which is apparently a real place in South Dakota. Both of those tribes are based in the Upper Midwest. The new versions that I found do not seem to include the section with the reference to Koko.
This time, I’m not going to be so quick to declare this one solved, but I consider this a huge leap in progress.
This website is based on my research into folklore. Home to the Thumbling Project, collecting different versions of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina from around the world.