Ten years ago I began my professional career with Peruvian tales. It was very nostalgic to return to them.
José María Arguedas, Francisco Izquierdo Ríos
This classic collection has gone through various editions since its first in 1947. It contains 65 tales, organized by genre and geography: Myths, legends, and folktales from the Coastal, Mountain, and Rainforest regions of Peru. It is the result of a national folklore collection campaign in the early 1900s when they mailed questionnaires out to all town and village teachers, who in turn had their students collect and record local stories, and submit them. The volume therefore is diverse, intriguing, and exciting; it has pretty much everything from indigenous myths to Catholic saints, from international folktale types to monster lore. The book comes with extensive notes on the local words, flora and fauna, and symbols embedded in the stories. It is a classic in its own field, and very much worth reading.
One of my favorite stories was that of The three bulls, in which the fertile pastures of a mountain were protected by three terrible bulls - one orange-red, one black, one white. People decided to hunt them down, and chased them separately until they disappeared; later they found gold mines where the red one had gone, silver where the white, and coal where the black.
Talking about mines, I loved the legends featuring the Mother of Salt, an old hag who protects rock salt mines (places, lakes, mountains, etc. in Peruvian lore have "mothers", guardian spirits - who are not always female, by the way, and not always human). In the stories she either begs for food, or cooks for a traveler - and then seasons it by sneezing generous amounts of snot on it. If people are disgusted, she gets offended, and moves the salt mines far away.
I also found the legend of two neighboring mountains, Huatuscalla és Ccaser, very intriguing. People were building a road across the former, carving and torturing it; the locals claim to have overheard the two peaks talking at night, Huatuscalla complaining about the damage. Eventually they agreed that it would transfer all its riches to its neighbor for safekeeping before the humans found them. Two doors appeared in the mountainsides, then a giant bridge; warriors in red carried all treasures over to Ccaser, and disappeared. Huatuscalla has been angry and volatile ever since.
|Huatuscalla (picture from here)|
My archaeologist heart especially liked the legend of Narihuala, which claimed that when the locals got news about the arrival of Pizarro, they got so scared they buried themselves alive with all their treasures - this is how legend explains rich ancient burials full of gold and silver.
remember this one (interpreted by Dean Winchester as "fish taco").
There were multiple legends about my favorite Peruvian "dragon", the llama-headed Amarú. In one story there were two of them, one white and one black, and their fights over a river caused floods and earthquakes (reminiscent of the two dragons of Merlin).
|Find more funny potoos here|
And of course there is no book without tricksters! This time it was carachupa, the armadillo (of course), who tricked Tiger by making him believe that the end of the world was near. I have seen this reading-from-a-leaf trick from the Mouse Deer in Indonesia before...
Where to next?