I read this story in an illustrated short-story collection in the late 90s or early 2000s. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the book. It was about a yellow monster named "El Eano" (the spelling isn't exactly right but it was phonetically similar).

[Spoilers Below]

El Eano is a yellow colored monster who secretly hides in an old woman's path. The old woman is short-sighted and mistakes him for a baby and takes him home where he demands food and starts messing up her home. He gets bossier and bossier and keeps asking for more and more food until the other villagers near her have to bring over food to keep him fed. At some point the villagers realize he's a monster and not a baby and trick him into eating hot coals disguised as potatoes. He drinks water soon after eating the coals, causing him to explode as the water turns to steam inside him.

The name of the story would be appreciated, and the name of the collection of short stories would be even better. If it helps, another short story in that collection was "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship".


1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like "El Enano" a folktale collected by Charles J. Finger, first published in 1924.

El Enano ("The Dwarf") is described as:

a squat creature, yellow of skin and snag-toothed and his legs were crooked, his arms were crooked, and his face was crooked. There were times when he went about on all fours and then he looked like a great spider, for he had scraggy whiskers that hung to the ground and looked like legs. At other times he had the mood to make himself very small like a little child, and then he was most horrible to see, for his skin was wrinkled and his whiskers hung about him like a ragged garment.

As the OP recalled, El Enano tricked an old woman into taking care of him and feeding him. The villagers eventually realise his monstrous nature, and are helped by a silver fox, who comes up with the plan to get rid of him by feeding him red-hot coals in the guise of potatoes.

“Out of the way,” cried El Enano, scooping up a double handful of hot coals, believing them to be potatoes. Red hot as they were he swallowed them and in another moment was rolling on the floor, howling with pain as the fire blazed in his stomach. Up he leaped again and dashed out of the house to fling himself by the side of the little river. The water was cool to his face and he drank deep, but the water in his stomach turned to steam, so that he swelled and swelled, and presently there was a loud explosion that shook the very hills, and El Enano burst into a thousand pieces.

It has been anthologised in Tales from Silver Lands, a collection of nineteen folk tales from South America, but I don't see any mention of the other story, "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship". This makes sense, as I believe that is a Russian folktale. It has also been published in "Strange Tales from Many Lands, but again there is no sign of "The Fool..." in that collection.

Tales from Silver Lands was a Newbery Winner in 1925, but the Goodreads reviews give a rather different impression. ;)

  • That is it! Thank you! I believe that collection had a variety of stories from different countries and cultures. Another one was about a letter Lincoln wrote to a young boy, yet another was about an anthropomorphised Frost. Jun 23, 2021 at 16:41
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    Tales from Silver Lands is an awesome book. I read it decades ago, and my memory of mamy if the stories was sufficiently vivid that I immediately knew what story the question was looking for.
    – Buzz
    Jun 23, 2021 at 19:47
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    Since people don't tend to write reviews when they are satisfied, I would not expect the Goodreads reviews to he particularly positive even if the book were actually good. Still, I doubt they're wrong in this case. Apparently the book extensively modified the stories to appeal to American audiences, distorting them in the process; employed exoticism and inaccurate cultural references; and, inevitably, failed to properly credit the people who actually contributed the folktales, among other problems. Kind of what one would expect from a book published in 1925, but that is hardly redeeming.
    – Adamant
    Jun 25, 2021 at 9:49

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