Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Indigenous Stories > Yámana > The story of the wild goose couple

In olden times, the only clothing a woman wore was her mas haka-na and loincloth, and she usually removed the latter inside the hut.
Once there was a mother who had a young son. Her husband had gone out to hunt, as he often did, and expected to be away for several days. The woman went about her daily work inside the dwelling as usual, not concerning herself with her appearance when she squatted down. But her young son watched her attentively, and caught a glimpse of her private parts. This amused him very much, and he began to think about them constantly, exclaiming time and again, “That, there, is what I like!”

When he kept repeating himself over and over, his mother decided to try and give him what he wanted. She brought him mussels and snails, sea urchins and crabs, fish and berries, offering them to him with affection. But the child refused all of them one by one, turning his head away and repeating, “That, there, is what I like!” pointing to his mother’s private parts. Still the mother did not understand what the child wanted. And so she brought him baskets and necklaces, feathered ornaments and beautiful stones, weapons and utensils, even little birds and a puppy. But the child acted repulsed and refused all of these gifts, pulling away and saying over and over again, “That, there, is what I like!”
The mother eventually became disconcerted and confused, and did not know what to do. She could not figure out what her little son really wanted, and could not understand why he kept exclaiming, “That, there, is what I like!” She had shown him and offered him everything she could imagine, and none of it was to his liking.

Finally, the mother had an idea…She began acting very tired, lay down and pretended to sleep, hoping her son would fall asleep too. The little boy remained completely still and also pretended to sleep. Not long after, the mother got up to look inside her baskets, and as she did so, she spoke to herself in an undertone, “I will go to the beach and collect mussels.” She grabbed a basket and left the hut. Not far from home she found some good-sized mussels, and bent down and began loading them into her basket. Meanwhile, her young son had half-risen from his bed and was looking at his mother from behind. As she collected the mussels, he was able to see her private parts once again, which pleased him greatly. He quickly got up from his bed and painted his head, face and torso black with coal dust; but his legs he painted red with imi. When his body was entirely covered in paint, he left the hut and ran to the beach to where his mother was.

On the way he passed some other women who were also collecting mussels and secretly looked at their private parts from behind as well, but without touching them. When he stopped beside his mother, “he placed his hand on her genitals and began to play with them. It was so pleasurable that his desire increased. His mother also enjoyed it, and she let him have his way.”
To ensure that the other women did not realize what they were doing, the two ran to her canoe, climbed aboard and paddled off to a nearby island. There, alone at last, they lay down and coupled. They remained this way for so long that they were finally transformed into birds.

The next day, the two left the lonely island and flew back to the beach where their people had their huts. They perched on a rock right in front of the hut they used to inhabit. Meanwhile, the husband had returned home from hunting, but could not find his wife or son in the hut. He asked the others, fearfully, “Where are my wife and little son? I can’t find them in the hut, or anywhere.” The people answered him, “Look at that rock. There are two birds perched there that were not there before. Those two shekus (wild geese) are your wife and little son. They have fallen so deeply in love with each other that they have been transformed into birds!” Since then, the two birds have remained together and live completely apart from all others, even today.

Lom, amor y venganza. Mitos de los yámana de Tierra del Fuego. Martín Gusinde, Anne Chapman. Lom ediciones. 2006.