Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Indigenous Stories > Kawashkar > The Son of the Canelo

el hijo del canelo

Among the Kawashkar, the Son of Canelo is a hero who appears in many stories.

Some say that a long time ago, on the western coast of Wellington Island and other places in Western Patagonia, there were monstrous man-eating animals. Giant guirabo birds, octopus, whales and mighty seagulls, enormous falcons, cormorants and crows devoured everything in their path. Some clans had no women left, because these monsters had eaten them all. In the end, only two men were left alive, as they had been out hunting when the people were slaughtered.

In those days, the only tree in the land was a single canelo, and they say that from one of its seeds a man was born. In the nighttime, as the two remaining men wept over the death of their wives and children, they heard an infant’s cry. They went to look, and found a child lying under the canelo tree. They picked the child up, but feared it would die as they had no mother’s milk to feed it and could only give it birds to eat. They also noticed something special about this tiny creature: In just a few days, the child had become a full-grown man. From that time on he became known as the Son of Canelo.

The Son of Canelo said that the tree was his mother and he did not want anyone to touch it, to cut it or remove its bark. None of the animals dared to damage the tree because its son was very big and very tall, and could turn into a child or an adult at will. They called him Alape (tall one), because of his great length.

The men who had found him would not allow him to leave the hut, fearing that the giant predators would devour him. But the more they warned him, the more determined he became to hunt them down. He even made a harpoon for this purpose. One day, the men saw the harpoon he had made, and the Son of Canelo pointed to one of those spawn that had devoured their people and told them: “That beast is what I want to kill.” And so he went down to the beach, confronted the animal and pierced it with his harpoon. He then returned to the hut and asked the men: “Where is the bird that was flitting around?” They told him that the bird would not show itself for fear that the monstrous animals would devour it. But he persisted: “Where does the monster live?” he said, and they answered: “In the sound.” And so the young man boarded a vessel and rowed near the monster and killed it. Thus did the Son of Canelo become the hero who exterminated all of the terrifying creatures.

One day another man appeared, and Alape took him under his wing. He instructed him to protect the canelo because, while it was a tree, it actually was his mother. And the man cared for it and kept the canelo clean while her son was away.

Once, while rubbing together two sticks, Alape discovered fire. His companion was very afraid and put out the fire, because he was not used to the heat. Alape made fire again several times more, but his companion always extinguished it. When night fell, however, they realized that the fire could give them light and keep them warm.

For a long time they believed they were alone in the world. Then one day they came across a man who wore no clothes and did not know how to make fire, so he ate everything raw and drank the blood of the animals he killed. This man had a wife and a single daughter, whom Alape sent for.

In the end, the Son of Canelo and the daughter of the man married and had a son, whom they named Rainbow.

Mitos de Chile
Diccionario de seres, magias y encantos
(Myths of Chile. Dictionary of beings, magic and spells)
Sonia Montecino Aguirre