Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Indigenous Stories > Atacameño > A tale of two brothers

There once were two brothers, a rich one and a poor one. The rich brother hated the poor brother, and the poor brother, tired of the treatment he received from his rich sibling, left home in search of work. But he had no food for the journey, so he went to his rich brother’s trash pile and gathered up the head of a rooster and some bits of bread.

After walking all day, the poor brother came across a cave at nightfall and decided to sleep there, covering himself with his ragged, threadbare poncho.

He wakes up suddenly at dawn and sees two men sitting at the entrance to the cave, covered from head to toe in golden armor. In the early hours of the morning, the men get up and dance, first removing the horns they wore on their heads. The young man picks up the horns and puts them on his own head. He feels terrified. All of a sudden, the rooster head begins to crow. The men stop their dance, remove the armor, and run away.

The young man waits for the sun to rise further before leaving the cave. And as he leaves, he looks at the armor and—surprised and elated!—he sees it is made of gold. So he takes the armor and returns to the city, where he sells it and the golden horns, becoming as rich as his brother.

When the rich brother sees that his poor brother has returned as wealthy as he is, he asks him how he has become so rich—did he come by it honestly or steal it? He presses him so much that his brother tells him everything.

Now, the rich brother was a very ambitious man, and he also wishes to go out to find a greater fortune. So, imitating his brother, he kills a rooster and gathers a bit of dry bread and sets out.

When he reaches the cave, he has the same experience as his brother before him. The rich brother sees two men talking, and at dawn they remove their horns and dance. The rich brother puts the horns on his head, but the cock does not crow, although he pushes and prods it. When the devils seem to be ending their dance, the man crows and flaps his wings like a rooster.

The devils run off, leaving everything behind. The man tries to remove the horns but cannot. Frightened, he runs back home, but the horns feel heavier and heavier on his head, so he decides to ask a wizard for help.

The wizard tells him to stand at the top of a cliff with an animal on his head, so that a condor will swoop down and steal it. When the condor attempts to take the prey, it will push against his head and knock the horns off. The man does what the wizard tells him, but with every attempt, the animals fall into a deep ravine and die. The man tries many times, and each time he has to buy a new animal. When the last animal falls into the ravine, the horns disappear, but so has the man’s fortune. He had lost everything.

The moral of the story: Those who try to obtain more than they have through evil means will lose everything.

Note: This story shows how dangerous it is “to desire more than God has given.” In other words, people should be content with what they have and increase their wealth through hard work only, because only God is able to grant special wishes. He who seeks more than he has through ambition “shall be punished by losing everything.”

Narrativa tradicional atacameña
Hábitat. Cultura. Corpus
(Traditional Atacameñan narrative
Habitat. Culture. Corpus)
Domingo Gómez Parra