My last entry referred to the war between the cranes and the Pygmies. We don’t know quite who the Pygmies were and whether the Greeks knew about the African pygmies of today. My guess, speaking as someone who knows nothing and has got no facts to back him up, is that there may have been remnant dwarf populations existing in various places who have now become extinct or merged in with the surrounding population such as the “hobbits” found in Flores. The word Pygmies comes from the Greek πυγμή meaning either fist or a unit of length from the elbow to the knuckles. I think Homer would have be thinking of fist and the origin of the word was Fistlings but later writers may have been thinking of the unit of length.
The following is one account of the origin of the enmity between the cranes and the Pygmies from Antoninus Liberalis a 2nd century writer whom I had never heard of until investigating this topic.
Among the men called Pygmies, there was born a child by the name of Oinoe. You couldn’t fault her for her looks but as for character she was without any graces and very proud. She had no regard for Artemis or Hera. She married one of the citizens, Nicodemus a moderate and respectable man and gave birth to a child Mopsus. And all the Pygmies out of good will brought her lots of presents for the birth. Hera however blamed Oinoe for not honouring her. She turned her into a crane and dragged out her neck so it was long and made her a high flying bird and she instigated war between her and the Pygmies. But Oinoe because of her longing for her child Mopsus continued to fly around the house and wouldn’t leave. The Pygmies all armed themselves and chased her away. Because of this even now there is war between the the cranes and the Pygmies.
The original Greek can be found in Google books here. It was quite difficult to find this author online.