This collection of folklore offers a rich and lively panorama of Mayan mythic heritage. Here are everyday tales of village life; legends of witches, shamans, spiritualists, tricksters, and devils; fables of naguales, or persons who can change into animal forms; ribald stories of love and life; cautionary tales of strange and menacing neighbors and of the danger lurking within the human heart. These legends narrate origin and creation stories, explain the natural world, and reinforce cultural beliefs and values such as honesty, industriousness, sharing, fairness, and cleverness. Whether tragic or comic, fantastic or earthy, whimsical or profound, these tales capture the mystery, fragility, and power of the Mayan world.
About the Author
James D. Sexton is Regents' Professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University and is the author of many articles and books on cultural change in Guatemala's highland communities.
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The Hill of Chua Kapoj
This hill is located in the southeastern part of our town. Chua Kapoj, or Xe Kapoj, it is called in the Tzutuhil language. It is not known exactly in what year it happened, but they say it is true because almost all the people know and tell this story, which they have learned from their ancestors.
In the past, two or three centuries ago, there was the obligation of each Joseno inhabitant to participate in the dances of the deer, lebal [Tzutuhil name of a dance],4 monkeys, the conquest, and the Moors. They say that the alcalde, or mayor, made the dances obligatory, that each citizen had to be a dancer, and that in each fiesta of the town the dances were presented.
The day for rehearsal was Easter Saturday, a day after Good Friday. The mayor ordered that each family provide a dancer for the dance of the conquest. The inhabitants said yes. All were obliged because there were few townspeople. Even the poorest families had to provide a dancer.
In this kind of dance there were two boys and two girls of 15 years of age who represented the great Quiche king. Well, they looked for the two young people, but one of the poorest parents didn't want his daughter to dance. Since it was mandatory, however, he had to say yes so that he would not spend time in jail.
The father counted each rehearsal with more pain because he didn't have money to rent the traje [suit] for the dance. They say that this man was the poorest of the Josenos. His work was to fetch water for the people and to chop wood, but only once in a while did he sell some reales [money] worth of firewood. With these jobs he only earned money for food for his wife and child, but never was this man able to save any reales. He planned to save for the renting of the suit for his daughter, but he never was able.
Each day the fiesta drew closer. Half the month of June passed, and everyone went to Totonicapan and Santa Cruz del Quiche to rent a suit for the dance, and everyone traveled according to their means. The only one who didn't go was the father of the girl because he couldn't obtain the money.
When the rest of the dancers returned, they exploded bombas [fireworks shot from mortars] in the place called Chua Cruz, a place very respected by the Tzutuhiles, which in those times, they still took care of as a sacred place. When the father of the girl heard the sound of the bombas, he began to cry bitterly and cursed life. Each day he grew weaker from sadness, but he could do nothing to get money. The day before the beginning of the dance the father decided to flee the town so that he would not have to spend the fiesta in jail. In the early morning he made a costumbre [ritual] asking the dios del mundo [god of the world, or earth] to help them because it was certain that they found themselves in a precarious situation.
After doing the costumbre, the man said good-bye to his woman and daughter, who before he left gave him a few tortillas and salt for his food. He left his house very early so that no one would see him fleeing from the great imprisonment that awaited him. He left his house crying, and when he arrived in the place called Chua Cruz, he began to cry again, feeling shame and a lot of worry because he had left his woman and daughter who would suffer the drastic action of the alcalde.
After crying in Chua Cruz, he continued until he reached Cerro Cristalin, and there he began to cry again, despising himself for having been born so disgraceful, cursing his parents because they had been born so unfortunate and poor. When he quit crying, he began to eat a tortilla with salt. This he was doing when suddenly a young boy about twenty years of age arrived. He said: "Where are you going and what are you looking for? Do you feel a little sad?"
The man said: "I don't know where I'm going. I don't have any address. I'm fleeing from my house." The man told him all his feelings and about his poverty.
"Why are you sad? Don't you know that the fiesta of your town is very soon and you can return," the boy told him.
The man answered the young muchacho, "I am feeling sad, really sad. I have left my wife and my daughter. I'm fleeing sad, and my wife and daughter will spend the fiesta in jail. I don't have money, I'm very poor. My work is to carry water to the people, to split firewood, and to sell some reales worth of firewood, and with this I earn the food for my wife and daughter. The mayor obliged my daughter to dance in the fiesta, and pity that when everyone went to get his traje, I didn't go because I didn't have money to rent the suit. Tomorrow begins the dance, and my daughter cannot dance. I'm sure that my daughter and wife will be put in jail because the alcalde is very wicked."
Then the young boy told him: "Don't cry anymore. It is I, the King and Lord of the Hills. Mine is all the gold and silver. I am powerful over everything, the visible and invisible. I have a lot of costumes for dancing. I'm the owner of all the invisible department stores. Mine are all the animals of the earth: the lions, jaguars, monkeys, and deer. I have a lot of game inside the hill. The pacas and the armadillos serve me as chairs and benches when I want to sit down. When an animal commits a fault, or when they do not respect me, my latigos [whips] are the snakes, hitting them. My policemen are the wolves, my alguaciles [runners] are the coyotes. When chickens do something wrong, they are for eating. I just order the coyotes to go to the town to steal and bring a number of chickens from the people. I have a lot of helpers to take care of the animals when I go on visits. Poor man, don't be sad. I'll give you what you need, but first I will warn you. Don't tell anyone about these things that you are seeing and hearing because if you do, you will suffer and die."
Only this the man heard. In a blink of an eye he was in an incomparable place, seeing much wealth in a spacious place but a place where one couldn't see the sun or the moon. One couldn't see the illumination, but it wasn't dark. The owner opened many doors, and they arrived where there were suits for the dance of the conquest. He said, "Look for a traje for your daughter to wear so that she can dance. The trajes began to talk and offered themselves as the finest trajes.
But a man very different from the dueno [owner] spoke with the poor man, "Senor, if you take a traje, you must look for an older suit because if you take a new suit your daughter will die and come to this hill." Obeying, the poor man began to look foran old suit.
The dueno of the hill, however, told the poor man he could take a new suit but to take care not to tell anyone. "If you tell anyone, your daughter will come here for sure. These things only you and I will know."
This is the way it was when the poor man entered inside and then left the hill. In a blink of an eye the father of the girl returned to the place where he was when he met the dueno of the hill.
It seemed that the man had been there only an hour, but he had been there a day and a night. He went back very happy because he had a suit.
When he arrived home, the dance had already started. His wife was in jail and his daughter was hiding because of the shame that she had not been able to go to dance. The man ran to the house of the alcalde to ask for the liberty of his wife. His daughter was ready to dance, and the mayor set his wife free. Thus they arrived at two in the afternoon and visited their daughter. The wife admired the traje because it was incomparable.
Table of Contents
|FOLKTALES AND DANCE DRAMAS||1|
|The Hill of Chua Kapoj||3|
|The Story of the Red Brujo (Witch) of the Hill||9|
|The Story of the Daughter of a King Who Was Carried away by a Poor Person||11|
|The Man Who Changed into a God||17|
|The Story of the Rabbit and His Uncle Coyote: A Tzutuhil Story||24|
|The Story of the Man (Devil) Who Was Put Inside a Tecomate||38|
|Story of Sebastiana||43|
|The Story of the Mouse and the Man||47|
|Story of the Priest When He was Invited to a Birthday Party||48|
|The Story of the Poder (Power, Ability) of Persons When They Are Born||52|
|Story of the Dance of the Deer||58|
|Story of the Lazybonesand the Perfect Intendant||84|
|Story of the Gods of Corn||90|
|Story of the Dance of the Conquest||97|
|The Three Hombres Who Went to Look for Pacayas||115|
|The Woman Who Loved Many Hombres and Died from Drinking a Lot of Water and a Piece of Sausage that She Had Eaten||121|
|The Woman Characotel||127|
|The Characoteles Who Meet Every Twenty Days in the House of the True Jefe||132|
|The Two Real Children of God: There Were only Two, The Grandfather and Grandmother||139|
|The Story of Mariano the Buzzard||147|
|Dance of the Mexicans||151|
|Dance of the Flying Monkey||153|
|The Four Indians of Samayac||158|
|The Two Lazy Men||163|
|The Padre Picaro||168|
|The Padre Who Wants the Wealth||176|
|The Woman and the Guardian||185|
|Story of Don Chebo||193|
|The Story of the Lazy Man Who Got to Be King of a Town||200|
|Story of Chema Tamales||206|
|Tale of Two Compadres||217|
|Story of the Enchanted Hill, Tun Abaj||221|
|The Story of the Hunter Compadre||225|
|The Goodnatured Father and His Little Horses of Gold||231|