Article 4 - Origins
March 1, 2009
What is a littl' bit?
This might be kind of a mystery to some people. Yeah, the title calls them littl' bits, and within the show, they'll refer to themselves by the same name (instead of calling themselves humans or people), but there has to be some other, more official name, right?
Honestly, the concept of the littl' bits calling themselves littl' bits is kind of a far-fetched idea. Why would they consciously call themselves little? By their standards, they're perfectly normal-sized. They have presumably never met a normal-sized human, but you'd think that that would be the only way they come up with a name for themselves that indicates their small stature. Once or twice in the show, the narrator will call them pixies, which does pretty well describe them. I think people commonly think of pixies as winged creatures, but that's not always the case. I believe I once mentioned that the French call them lutins, which seems to refer to a really pixie-like creature.
The Japanese title calls them dwarves, but I'm going to attribute that to a translation conflict. My guess is that the Japanese word for dwarf can acceptably be used to refer to tiny people, as opposed to the English association with dwarves being about half the size of a normal human. The Spanish call them fanits, but I can't seem to find any definition of the word on the internet. I can only assume that this word was made up by the translators of that version.
It's worth noting that several dubs of the show make references to Lilliput from Gulliver's Travels. For those unfamiliar with the book, Lilliput is a little island off the southwest coast of Sumatra, and it is characterized by the fact that everything on the island is tiny. The people are much smaller than normal, they have small animals, and trees don't grow very tall at all.
For all I know, these references are only made in a couple of theme songs. In Spanish, there's a line saying that Belfy & Lillibit lived in Liliput, and the Italian theme also mentions Lilliputians. Indeed, even the name Lillibit seems to take its origin from the word Lilliput. I know it's customary in English for people to sometimes use the word lilliputian to describe things that are very small, but I don't know if Italian-speakers have the same custom. At any rate, the Spanish theme specifically mentions Lilliput as a location. You'd think these songs should be reason enough to call the littl' bits Lilliputians, right? Well... There's just one thing that presents a problem for this theory.
In the story of Gulliver's Travels, everything in Lilliput is tiny. The people are about six inches tall, and everything on their island is proportional to them as it would be to normal-sized humans, even the other life forms there. This is contrasting to Belfy & Lillibit, where the people are the only small things around. Animals and plants and everything else are significantly larger than them. Whether they correspond with the six-inch size placed by Gulliver's Travels is hard to say, but they're definitely close (It's hard to say because their size is a bit variable compared to different animals. One episode has them riding birds roughly pigeon-sized, and they're about the size of the birds' heads, but another episode has Lillibit running from a spider about the same size as the birds, if not a bit bigger. This equates to either one really big spider, or slight inconsistency). In reality, if the show were about Lilliput, and normal-sized humans were never involved, you'd have no idea that it's about Lilliput unless the characters specifically say so, because everything would appear to be normal-sized.
So I guess the final word here is that there are several applicable names to this race of people. Pixies, used by the English narrator, fits well enough, but other names could be used as well and there wouldn't be much reason to raise fuss. You might call them gnomes, or perhaps elves (despite the lack of pointy ears) or even sprites and you'd still be pretty accurate.