THEY are everywhere in north Australia, and nowhere. They are real and unreal; mythical and historical. They are depicted in the rock art, they are in the stories, they are in the minds of men and women from Cape York and the Top End right across to Broome on the distant Indian Ocean’s shore — the Little People. They have a hundred local names — Rai, Janjarri, Mimih — yet the picture we have of them is strikingly consistent. We know they are slight, elusive, magical, mischievous. We are told that they are always nearby, listening, hovering, poised just beyond the edge of our field of vision: they are the necessary companion beings to complete and populate the vast, empty-seeming country of the remote north. Of course we hear about them most often in old, remembered song-cycles: they serve as the puzzling trickster-heroes of many a wildly ramifying Aboriginal narrative. But are those stories simply tales, legends — or do they point to a time now gone when there were diminutive people spread through the lush rainforests and up and down the coastlines of the north? Were the Little People real? Are they still?