Partridge India Writing Tips| Latin American Folklore
Partridge India Writing Tips explores Latin American Folklore, that from the cultures and countries making up Central and South America. The intermixing of countless cultures, native and colonial has produced a varied array of folktales and figures.
The Armadillo’s Song
A legend from Bolivia goes, there once lived an armadillo that loved music above all things in the world. The armadillo, even weighed down by his shell, always went to pond to listen to the frogs sing their song. Hearing this, the armadillo wished he could sing like the frogs, not knowing the frogs mocked the armadillo, “Don’t be ridiculous, armadillos can’t sing.”
Every animal who heard the armadillo’s wish responded the same. Whether frogs, crickets, or canaries, all told the armadillo the same thing, “Don’t be ridiculous, armadillos can’t sing.” On his journeys following the songs of other animals, dragging along his heavy shell, the armadillo fell exhausted at the doorstep of a wizard.
Desperate, the armadillo approached the wizard to beg a favour. He asked the wizard to help him sing like the frogs and the crickets and the canaries. The wizard considered the armadillo’s wish and sincerity before saying, that while he could grant the armadillo’s wish it would cost the creature his life. Even if it meant death the armadillo wanted to sing, such he told the wizard. Though the wizard was reluctant to slay such a fine armadillo he carried out the wish. He killed the armadillo, and from his shell made a fine musical instrument, which the wizard gave to the best musician in town. As the musician played using the armadillo’s shell, the animals who once mocked the armadillo heard the beautiful music and exclaimed, “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”
From the Mapuche people of south-central Chile and south-western Argentina we have stories of the Wekufe. The word ‘wekufe’ (from the Mapudungun language spoken by the Mapuche) means ‘demon, outside being.’ Before, the word wekufe was used to refer to someone as deceptive and untrustworthy. It was only after the arrival of Catholic missionaries and their teachings that the Mapuche even heard the concept of evil, when wekufe became associated with demons and such.
According to the folklore the wekufe came from outside the world, normally incapable of troubling the lands of the Mapuche due to rules and natural laws. But after a mythical battle between the greater spirits of the Mapuche, the resulting breakdown of harmony and ancient rules allowed for the coming of the wekufe.
Interestingly, wekufe have a variety of roles within Mapuche folklore, ranging from tormentors to healers. The role a wekufe plays is dependent on the manner of being it interacts with, and its relationship with said being. Most commonly the wekufe is known for being a servant to a kalku, a Mapuche black magic user.
A kalku may command the wekufe to inflict a target person with disease or death, a task the wekufe is more than eager to carry out. At the will of a kalku, the wekufe may enslave the soul of the recently dead, which can be used to assault and torment others.
According to folklore, wekufe have also been said to serve the greater spirits. If a human has broken the rules or taboos as laid out by these greater spirits, a wekufe would be allowed to torment that human by the greater spirits.
Partridge India will return with part 2.
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By Ian Smith