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Fuzzy-Wuzzy is a poem by the English author and poet Rudyard Kipling, published in 1892 as part of Barrack Room Ballads. It describes the respect of the ordinary British soldier for the bravery of the Hadendoa warriors who fought the British army in the Sudan.
"Fuzzy-Wuzzy" was the term used by British colonial soldiers for the 19th-century Beja warriors supporting the Sudanese Mahdi in the Mahdist War. The term Fuzzy Wuzzy is purely of English origin and is not connected with Arabic. The Beja are not Arabic speakers: their language, Tu Bedawi, is of Cushitic origin and is related to Somali and Afar.
The Beja people were one of several broad multi-tribal groupings supporting the Mahdi, and were divided into three tribes, Haddendowa, Amarar and Bishariyyin. All of these are semi-nomadic and inhabit the Sudan's Red Sea Hills. The Beja provided a large number of warriors to the Mahdist forces. They were armed mainly with swords, shields, spears and throwing sticks. Few ever used firearms as the Beja despised them as dishonourable and still do.
Kipling's poem Fuzzy-Wuzzy praises the Beja for their martial prowess, because "for all the odds agin' you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square." This refers to the Battle of Tamai, fought in the Red Sea Hills on 13 March, 1884, when the Beja broke a British Infantry square, due to an impromptu charge by the Black Watch which left a gap in the line. Kipling's narrator, an infantry soldier, speaks in admiring terms of the "Fuzzy-Wuzzies", praising their bravery which, although insufficient to defeat the British, did at least enable them to boast of having "broken the square"—an achievement which few other British foes could claim. The poem takes a satirical look at the British soldiers of the time who perceived themselves as invincible.
In the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Caractacus' father refers to the "Fuzzy-Wuzzys" when speaking of his time in the army. Additionally, in the BBC situation comedy Dad's Army, Lance Corporal Jack Jones (Clive Dunn) continually refers to the Fuzzy-Wuzzies in his reminiscences about his days fighting in the Sudan under General Kitchener.
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