Monday, April 29, 2019

Y is for Yellow Mombin and Cannibals (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

The yellow mombin (Spondias mombin), also known as the jobo fruit, is native to the tropical areas of the Americas. Our story for today comes from the Cariña people of Venezuela.

Be warned, this one gets dark.

The story begins with a woman pregnant with twins from the Moon. Heavily pregnant, she sets out to the Moon's house to give birth. On the way, however, her unborn babies keep demanding various things, so she has to leave the path to pick flowers and fruit that they want. Eventually whey demand fruit from a tree. She climbs up, falls down, and becomes angry at the twins, who, in turn, become offended at their mother. Soon she reaches a fork in the road: One side leads to the Moon, the other to the land of man-eating monsters. She forgot which way to go, and the twins refuse to tell, so she takes the wrong turn.

The mother ends up in the house of an old woman, Ataluyma. The woman pretends to be friendly and gives her shelter for the night... but then she eats the mother, and keeps the twins as her own children. The boys grow up, become great hunters, and never learn that Ataluyma is not their grandmother. As they get older, however, they notice that she does strange things (for example, uses a toad to cook food). Eventually one day, out on the hunt, a large bird tells them the story of their mother. The twins make a plan to take revenge on Ataluyma.

The next day, they ask their "grandmother" to come out to the fields and call the crops. Suspecting nothing, she complies, climbing the platform in the middle of the fields, and summoning rice, corn, maize, melons, bananas, etc. As she is doing this, the twins set fire to the platform, and she burns to death. The fields magically bear crops the very next day.

The story goes on. A few years later one of the brothers encounters a mysterious woman while hunting. She is also a cannibal, and while the brothers are spying on her, she discovers them, and chases them through the woods. The twins climb a tree, but she summons strong winds to knock them into a lake. As they fall, one of the twins turns into a jobo fruit, and another into a frog with red marks. The woman puts them both in her basket; the fruit to eat at home, and the frog as a pet for her daughter. However, as she walks, the fruit rolls around in the empty basket on her back, and keeps bumping against her tailbone, so she eventually takes it out and eats it.

Caruto fruit
(Genipa americana)
From this point on, the story follows the one remaining brother. He convinces the cannibals to let him turn back into a human, and he will hunt for them. He even marries the daughter and they have a child. Eventually, however, hunting for meat becomes too hard, so he cuts up a ceiba tree, throws the pieces into a lake, and they all turn into piranhas. He also throws in a radish, which becomes a caiman. He then tricks the mother into going in the lake, and the piranhas eat her. When the daughter goes to search for her, the hunter escapes - but she eventually catches up, calling after him to stop and pick some caruto fruit for their child. When he climbs a tree, she cuts his leg, and leaves him for dead. She eventually turns into a prickly pear cactus (holding up her baby to the sky), and his skeleton is carried to the sky by a vulture.

(You can find the story in Spanish in this book.)

Were you familiar with any of these fruits before?
What kind of plant or animal would you turn into to escape a monster?


  1. w-o-w! you weren't kidding. that was a dark one. but i don't know how i would react to having a bird tell me about the cannibal i call grandmother. would you necessarily believe this bird? wow.

    Joy at The Joyous Living

  2. You weren't kidding when you said it was dark! Great though. I'd turn into a stinky Durian - no monster would want to get anywhere near it!

  3. Not a feel good tale - a polar opposite to the vanilla one.

  4. Very dark! I've heard of the prickly pear before, but not the others. I think I'll turn into a Rottweiler to escape -- they're fast and can protect themselves.

    Ronel visiting with the A-Z Challenge music and writing: So Much Fun to Listen to