Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Indigenous Stories > Mapuche > The son of the animals

The Mapuche people tell the story of a woman who was raped before her husband had returned home from war and who escaped into the forest to give birth to the child that resulted, but she was so afraid of the animals that she died. But the animals themselves took care of the boy after he was born, and he grew up learning their ways, until one day he decided to return to the land of humans. As he said his farewells, each animal gave him a gift—a feather, a scale, or a hair from its body—and an ant accompanied him on the journey. On the way, the boy kissed a drop of saliva that he had been given by the mosquito and was transformed into an insect. In this form he entered a cave inhabited by a man-eating monster, but once inside he became a human again, and killed the creature. He continued on his way and came to the sea, where a giant fish tried to swallow him. He kissed the feather of the seagull and mutated into that bird. He then perched on the body of the fish, turned back into a man and killed it. He made clothing out of its skin and continued on his way with the ant. Upon reaching a mountain, he came upon a black dwarf guarding the entrance to a cave inhabited by an evil Cherruve  that put to death all who came near.

The Cherruve appeared, spewing fire from its mouth, so the young man turned himself into a spider and crawled into its ear and ate its brain. He then turned back into a man and went to find the dwarf, and killed it as well. Inside the cave, he found a woman sleeping. Although he did not know what kind of creature she was, he felt very attracted to her, and so he turned himself into a swallow and flittered around her, waking her up, then turned into a man once more. The woman told him that she was a prisoner of the Cherruve and the young man then told her she had been freed. Transforming himself into a huemul (deer), he carried her down the mountain. On the way, they came upon a band of thieves, and the young man turned himself into a lion and took the silver the thieves had stolen. He turned back into a huemul, then became an enormous bird, and he carried the woman back to her homeland. The Son of the Animals gave the silver to her father, and he married the young woman.

Myths of Chile.
Dictionary of beings, magic and spells

Sonia Montecino Aguirre