Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Indigenous Stories > Atacameño > The devils`tale

Out in the country, far from a small town about half the size of Toconce, a small group of farmers lived beside their fields. There was no church nearby that they could attend.

One Sunday morning, three young men from the area were walking toward the town when they came around a bend in the road and encountered two strangers.

One of the young men asked:
—What time is mass?

And one of the strangers answered:
—In the afternoon.

So the young men returned home.

A few hours later the young men set off again, but when they reached the same bend in the road, they met the same two strangers, who told them that mass would start even later. Two of the young men went home, but the youngest quietly slipped past the strangers and went into town, where he arrived at the church just in time for mass. After mass, he took a stroll around town, and did not arrive home until late. When he arrived, however, he found his two friends torn to pieces. Terrified, he grabbed a bag of toasted flour and a pouch of coca leaves and fled through a desolate, rugged land with no trail in sight.

As the sun was setting, he finds a cave. In he goes, sits down, and falls asleep before he knows it. During the night, he dreams that he has woken up to find himself sleeping on a cot, with a woman in the same room. He tells the woman he is afraid that the two strangers will find him, and the woman tells him to hide behind her if they come.

A while later the men arrive and begin to dance outside the house. They then enter the house and ask what there is to eat. The woman serves them a meal of lizards, and while they are eating they tell her that they attacked two young men earlier that day and were wearing their scalps as ponytails.

When they had finished eating, one of the men asks the woman if there is anything else to eat, so she fixes them an ulpada using the young man’s toasted flour, and gives them coca leaves to chew on.

When they finish eating, once again they ask for more, but the woman says she has nothing else. They ask her who it is that is hiding behind her. She tells them it is her son, and that thanks to him they have eaten. Upon hearing this, the men, who were the two devils, leave.

The woman tells the young man that he should look at the place where the devils danced before going to the cave, and he falls back asleep on the cot.

When he wakes up the next morning, the young man finds himself back in the cave. He gets up and looks at the spot where the devils had danced in his dream, and finds knife. He picks up the knife and leaves tha cave.

For three days, without stopping, he walks, until he is far away from the cave. He comes to a house standing off by itself, and there he spies some shepherds, who give him food.

The shepherds tell him that there are two devils on the loose, eating the animals and the shepherdesses. The young man tells them he has a large knife, so the shepherds ask him to kill the devils and they promise to give him half of their land and livestock if he does so. The young man agrees. As proof, however, he must bring the shepherds the devils’ horns.

The shepherds direct the young man to a very large tree, and he goes over and climbs it. The three devils soon arrive, each bringing a cow, which they proceed to roast and then eat. Later, they stretch out under the tree to sleep on a bed of boughs.

The young man drops a few leaves on the face of one of the devils. He wakes up, and blames the others for disturbing him. They argue for a while, then go back to sleep. The young man then throws a twig at another devil, and he also wakes up angry at his companions. They argue, and then fall back asleep. The young man now throws a stick at the third devil, who wakes up, and a brawl ensues among them all. The young man takes advantage of the situation—the devils are now tired, wounded and distracted—and climbs down out of the tree and kills all three. He cuts off their horns and takes them back to the shepherds. The shepherds keep their promise and give him half their land and livestock.

Note: The woman in the story is Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), and that is why, when someone uses or eats something, they first must give a little to the Earth—Pacha Mama—so that it will continue to reproduce and multiply, and so the food, wine, coca leaves, and all other things do not run out. That is what everyone does, especially the old folks.

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