41. Deeper Meanings: The Tale Within the Tale < pg. 28 > In the tales produced here for your analysis, the tale of Kalaloo – though apparently dealing with the conflict between nature and technology – actually deals with the ugly history of racism and slavery which resulted in the dehumanization of a large number of enslaved Black captives (mancrab), the struggle for independence and an idealized Caribbean resolution.

The Bezanozano tale (A Pumpkin Speaks) – though superficially dealing with a man’s quest for a wife – actually deals with the ugly French colonial history of Madagascar and their suppression of the Malagasy masses, the struggle for independence, and its attainment. Furukombe – though superficially dealing with an unfortunate marriage – actually deals with the dismemberment of the Comoros island nation; and the Mahafaly tale – though purportedly dealing with the origin of the word for gold - masks an underlying ethnic conflict between the circumcised and non-circumcised peoples of southern Madagascar.

The tales still endure and have a strong impact upon the listeners, because they actually deal with real problems that continue to oppress them: 1) European vs African culture in the Caribbean; 2) Highlander (replacing French) domination over forest and coastal peoples in Madagascar; and 3) the continued French possession of Mayotte and other islands surrounding Madagascar. The last thing remaining, here, is to give a name to the aforementioned methodology, and - after great deliberation - I have decided to tentatively call it “explanatory exhumation”.

Southern Madagascar ’s tombs (like folktales) appear to be beautiful on the outside; but within the tomb (the underlying meaning) there is a great deal of rottenness and corruption (the all too ugly truth). In this regard the tomb and the folktale can be likened to the pied crow that appears alluring on the outside, but whose craw is filled with carrion. The task of the “decipherer” is thus similar to “grave digging” (“exploratory exhumation”) in that his or her objective is to reveal the rottenness within.

42 . Illustrated Adventures of Dan Aiki: Books 1 - 5

43 . Illustrated Adventures of Waburi

44 . Illustrated Adventures of Dan Aiki Books 1 - 10

45 . Illustrated Adventures of Waburi <Introduction > The Adventures of Waburi is an innovative series of books written in verse which aims to capture and display various aspects of the social, historical and cultural heritage of the various peoples of Melanesian (and Greater Melanesian) origin. For each region presented in the series (i.e. Melanesia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, etc.), Waburi, a fictitious character, recites various poems dealing with regional realities.

The first book in the series, Black Lore Melanesia, consists of seven poems, recited by Waburi, that take us on a trip (from west to east) through the seven lands which make up modern Melanesia, namely: 1) West Papua / Irian Jaya (presently a province of Indonesia); 2) Papua New Guinea (an independent republic); 3) Torres Strait Islands (presently administered by Queensland, Australia); 4) Solomon Islands (an independent republic); 5) Vanuatu (an independent republic); 6) New Caledonia (an overseas territory of France); and 7) Fiji (an independent republic).

These countries and territories lie in the South Pacific Ocean (north and northeast of Australia) and are called Melanesia because the indigenous population there have dark skins (as well as kinky or woolly hair) which contrasted sharply with the some of the more Asian looking inhabitants of Micronesia ("Small islands") and Polynesia ("Many Islands"). It is believed that ancestors of the present day Melanesians, however, once extended at least from Madagascar in the west to Hawaii in the East, a region I refer to as Greater Melanesia.

In reading these adventure poems, the vowels of Melanesian names and words should be pronounced as in Spanish. That is, "a" is always pronounced like the "a" in father, "e" like the "a" in late, "i" like the "ee" in see, "o" like the "oa" in boat, and "u" like the "oo" in loop. To aid you in the poetic reading of the narration, bold syllables are used to indicate "poetic" stress. A short introductory paragraph giving relevant cultural information and the source upon which the poem is based precedes each recitation.

Let us nowlisten to Waburi as he takes us through the seven regions of Melanesia. After finishing the book, I am sure you'll not only have a better idea of what Melanesia is all about, but will also agree that:


The most exciting tales e'er told,

On either land or sea,

Are those of a Melanesian youth

By the name of Waburi.


"The Coloring of the Birds of Taumako"


The tale that I'll now tell to you

Took place here long ago

Upon this lovely island that

We now call Taumako.


But at that time we lived in fear

Of two great monsters who

Consumed the children of the land

And men and women, too.


A wild boar roamed the east and he

Ate all who crossed his path;

While in the west an ogress dwelt

And none escaped her wrath.


The men who dared to fight the beasts

Were killed off one by one.

Those who remained resolved at last

That it was best to run.


So as a group they all embarked

And left in their canoes;

But they were forced to leave behind

A pregnant lady whose


Infected leg would surely sink

The largest of their craft.

They gave her food and left her there

Half hidden in a shaft.


The woman in that hole gave birth

To two strong healthy boys.

For want of other playthings, bows

And arrows served as toys.


She told them that the shaft would be

The only home they'd know.

Since monsters ruled the land above,

The boys must stay below.


But one day as their mother slept

They climbed out of that shaft

And roamed the spacious land above

Where they there played and laughed.


When they returned, they told their mom

What they had seen and done

And how they practiced shooting in

The land where there was sun.

Their mother warned of danger but,

The boys were unafraid.

And so they played above, while in

The shaft their mother stayed.


One day upon the surface they

By the ogress were seen.

The twins were not afraid, for she

Looked like a human being.


The boys were not suspicious and

Unwary of their plight,

Accepted her proposal to

Go fish with her at night.

46. BMA V:Dravidian Displays of Daring Part I: Tamil Nadu < pg. 14 > The Tamil “displays of daring” discussed in this publication are here divided into two sections: 1) those I observed in India testing physical (outer) bravery pitting man against charging bulls (jalli kattu), armed or unarmed combatants (silambam), and aerial acrobatics (mallar khambam)and 2) those I observed in Mauritius having a primarily spiritual (inner) purpose (sword-climbing, fire-walking, and self-inflicted pain during a religious procession). In all six, however, the practitioner demonstrates an amazing control of his physical and mental capacities directed towards victory over the fear of the possibility of either pain and /or death.

Though jalli kattu (attempting to snatch a wreath from the neck of a charging bull) is not as spectacular as the “bull encounters” practiced in northern Nigeria (see pg. 116 – 120 of BMA Volume I) or the African-Indian Ocean (see pg. 216 – 238 of BMA Volume II), it is nevertheless very dangerous and, as we shall see, occasionally lethal.

Whereas silambam (or silambattam) is glossed as “stick-fighting” it will become apparent that it is much more than just that as it includes (among other things) fighting with other weapons (deer horns, swords, clubs, etc.), bare-handed fighting, and fire-twirling. Indeed, it is said that silambam of southern India is the mother (origin) of all the major Asian martial arts practiced today in China and Japan. Buddhism originated in India and it was a Buddhist monk from southern India who is said to have initiated the monks of the famous Shaolin temple of China in the art of “self defense” which he brought from .his country of origin [See Section F for further details].

Mallar Khambamb (pole climbing & acrobatics), on the other hand, is not a true martial art per se but rather an ability derived from a long training program which traditional martial artists and soldiers underwent to strengthen their muscles, discipline, co-ordination, body-control and daring. It was discovered that those soldiers in ancient times who underwent this training performed better in combat.

Finally, though outwardly quite different, kathi poosai(sword climbing), theemithi (fire-walking), and kavadee (ritual procession of pain & sacrifice) are similar in that the adversary is neither man nor beast but rather the practitioner’s mind itself. Moreover, the purpose of each of these displays of bravery and endurance is not to defeat an opponent; but rather to move closer to godliness. To understand this notion, one need only recall that the Buddha taught that it is only by “defeating suffering” that one can obtain Nirvana - that is, eternal union with god.

47. In Search of the Vanaras in Tamil Nadu and the Andamans: Hanuman’s People

< Introduction > The subcontinent of India is a vast Asian territory that, over the centuries, has witnessed the incorporation of a plethora of languages, religions, and ethnic groups into a single country and cultural zone. Though its languages are many and its ethnic and religious divisions are marked, the Republic of India has, nevertheless, managed to project an image of a single nation with a common socio-historic base. Like a giant amoebae, the all-embracing Hindu religion has somehow managed to incorporate most traditional religions within its dominion, and the various ethnicities have been assigned structural relations within the Hindu polity either as Brahmins (priestly caste), Kashatrayas (warrior caste), Vaishyas (the merchant caste), or Sudras (peasants) and (within these) a number of “backward classes” specializing in various craft activities.

Aside from its often criticized regimentation of individuals into a rigid caste system and the subjugation and mistreatment of those born into poverty, Hinduism is a fatalistic religion which fosters belief in reincarnation and credits an individual’s “karma” (action in previous lives) for his or her present status in this world. Nevertheless, a considerable number of persons - pertaining to a number of ethnicities - remain outside of this monolithic socio-cultural umbrella, namely: the “untouchables” and the so called “tribal peoples” which together with the “sidhis” (descendants of early African migrants) constitute what is known in India as “scheduled castes & tribals” (STT).

According to the great Hindu epic known as the Ramayana, Hanuman was a leader of forest tribals (a non-Hindu ethnic group) who aided Rama and his allies to defeat the forces of Ravana (Raven) in an epic war that resulted in the establishment of “righteousness” in the world (i.e. Aryan supremacy on the sub-continent). When Rama asked Hanuman what reward he wished for his help, Hanuman replied that all he wanted was that whenever the name of Rama was mentioned his name, too, should be evoked. As a result, Hanuman was “painted white” and incorporated in the Hindu Pantheon as the “white monkey god”.

While the Ramayana is considered to be a sacred text by some and merely an epic text by others, it is this author’s contention that it is, in its present form, an allegorical text which attempts to explain and justify the invasion of the Indian sub-continent by Causcasoid peoples from Persia (Aryans) and their conflict with the dusky inhabitants of ancient India (Dravidians). During this lengthy struggle for dominance, at least some of the forest peoples (Aboriginal Negroids, perhaps?) allied themselves with the Aryans provoking the defeat and eventual assimilation of the darker local populations into Aryan vassalage.

An Indian anthropologist once wrote that the Andaman Islands were named after Hanuman. This nomenclature for these islands was based on the racist notion that the Negrito peoples there (i.e. the Onges, Jarawas, Sentinel Islanders, and Great Andamanese) resembled Valmiki’s description of Hanuman’s people in the Ramayana. Nevertheless, it is my belief that one need not restrict one’s attention to these now decimated island populations, for according to many anthropologists (for which see further) there are still remnant “black” populations in a number of isolated regions of Southern India.

Consequently, I decided to undertake a 6 month journey to Central & Southern India to visit these isolated pockets of Black (Melano) Indians to see if they have any remembrance (through customs, traditions, or folklore) of any affiliation with said Hanuman.

It has been asserted that the general population of Southern India is composed of a mixture of races, one component of which is the Asiatic Negroid. Indeed, isolated Negroid populations existed throughout Asia and the descendants of this race can still be found in Sri Lanka (e.g. the Veddas), Malaysia (e.g. the Semang of the Central Highlands known derogatorily as Sakai), Indonesia (e.g. the Senoi of Sumatra), the Philippines (Aeta, Agta, Mamanwa, etc), Thailand (e.g. Ngok, Ngok Pa, or Ngo), Vietnam (e.g. the Ruc of Central Quang Binh province, a group of some 169 kinky-haired individuals whose territory in Cambodia was bombed by the US during the Vietnam war), and throughout the island nations of Melanesia where other Black peoples remain the dominant race [See my Lore of Melanesia for further details].

All Negritos - in their purer state - are characterized by their short stature, fuzzy hair and dark complexions. Because men in these groups are average only 5 feet tall with women typically being some 6 inches shorter than the men, they are called “pygmies” by some and Negritos (Spanish word meaning “little black people”) by others.

Nevertheless, they have their own names for themselves and they are by no means a monolithicgroup. That is, they speak a variety of languages and have cultural characteristics that distinguish one group from another [For an interesting summary of the Negrito populations of Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines see pages 236 to 260 of my Aeta of Bataan].

In India, Negrito populations were once thought to be the sole inhabitants of the Andaman Islands. This archipelago – which lies off the eastern coast of India – has presently been colonized by mainland nationals and the once populous Andaman Island Negritos are now virtually extinct. Nevertheless, there still remains a residual Negrito population of Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas, and Sentinelese in certain areas that are closed to all save a few privileged Indian nationals.

The Onge population which stood at 1,000 in 1901 dropped in 1988 to a mere 96. In 1901 the total Jarawa population (including the estimated 117 natives of North Sentinal Island in the southern part of the Andaman island chain) now number only 257, and the Great Andamanese population (once the largest group of all consisting of 12 tribes) has been reduced to a mere 19 souls.

The “Negroid populations” of India, however, as was mentioned above, are not limited to the Andaman Islanders for as Edgar Thurston in his Castes and Tribes of Southern India (pg. xxvii – xxviii) pointed out: …. etc.

48. Black Song & Dance of the Tropics, Book I: The African Indian Ocean < pg. 85 > Rodrigues (an Island belonging to the Republic of Mauritius) is home to a rich traditional and modern music culture. Among the traditional dances there are those of both African & European inspiration. In a conversation with one of the librarians in Port Mathurin, I learned that there are at least five groups which perform traditional dancing on the island of Rodrigues: 1) Camaron (led by Citron Danise); 2) Bois Sirop(led by Félicité) from Mt. Lubin; 3) Arc en Ciel(led by Speiville) from Rivière Cocos; 4) Jiska Kan (led by Tino) from Mt. Lubin; and 5) Racines (led by Ben Gontran) from Port Mathurin.

I also learned, from the same source, that there are other groups that do Black American / Caribbean song and dance styles such as soukousse and ragamuffin. Of these the most prominent are: Black Naughty Boyz from Lataniers, that does rap and ragamuffin, and "The Truth" from Mt. Lubin (led by Curtis Perrine) that does Haitiansoukousse and "Michael Jackson" dancing. Perrine’s shows featuring both these dance forms are very much appreciated and loudly applauded.

Our Rodrigan musical odyssey, in this text, will take us on a visit to three of the most popular groups on the island: 1) Jiska Kan, a traditional sega-tambour group led by Tino Samoesy; 2) Racines, a traditional ball room dancing troupe led by Ben Gontran; and 3) the Black Naughty Boyz, a Rodriguen Rap / Ragamuffin group led by Jean Paul Bernard. We will also stop buy the home of a female singer in Lataniers named Lorenza Gaspard who is well known for her renditions of the famous Rodrigan “romances” sung at wedding ceremonies.

The order of presentation selected here represents somewhat of an evolution, for the traditional sega is the oldest music / dance form in Rodrigues, having been brought to the island by Afro-Malagasy slaves. The Racines group, which also does sega, has capitalized on the second most significant influence - colonial European music and dance forms like the scottish, polka and mazurka. These forms, however, were somewhat modified in the hands of the Afro-Malagasy population producing Creolized forms. The creations of the Black Naughty Boyz represent the most recent influence on Rodriguen culture - that of Reggae and Rap from the Black populations of the Americas.

Jiska Kan - I first became aware of the existence of Jiska Kan over a hotel dinner. After the meal, I made an appointment to meet with Tino Samoesy, the thirty-seven year old leader of the group that performed that night. Though Tino (originally from Rivière Cocos) lives in Mt. Lubin, he works for the government as a chauffeur in Port Mathurin. My rendezvous with him took place at a government building near the island jetty where Tino informed me that he formed his group three years ago and named it Ziska Kan (“Until When?”) because he didn't know how long it would last.

The group has been quite successful and, though many of its members are elderly, will hopefully last for many more years to come. Tino's group performs every Friday night from 21:00 to 22:00 at the Solitaire Restaurant and whenever and wherever there is a demand for his brand of entertainment. Though Sega-tambour is undoubtedly the group's forte, Zizka Kan also performs polka, scottish and mazurka.

The group presently – Tino says - consists of nine musicians (five male and four female) and six dancers (three male and three female). Most of the group's members hail from Grande Montagne and Mt. Lubin. The instruments played include: a) two triangles(round iron forged in a triangular fashion with a slightly open angle at one end on which one beats rhythmically with a small iron rod) played by men; b) the trois son bambous ("three sounds bamboo") an instrument created and played by Tino himself [see top photo, pg. 151]; c) the diatonic accordion played by a man; d) the bom(or bobre), a bow like instrument with a metallic string played by hitting the string with a wooden stick while simultaneously striking the bottom end of the bow on the top of a special wooden bench; e) the katia-katia, a box with seeds played by a woman; f) samayos[also spelled mailloches], two flat sticks played by a woman [Note that these sticks had their origin in net fishing to frighten the fish in the desired direction.]; g) coco yas (a large maraca like instrument) played by a woman; and, of course, h) a large tambour (ravanne).

Members of the group [See photos page 151] include: Madame Samoesy (Tino's wife), Eloay Begué (accordion player), James Kasimira (tambour player), and Nicolas San Pierre (accordion and tambour player). The oldest member of the group is 59 years old and the youngest is 20. Tino tells us that he is gong to train young people to perform with the group so that the Sega-tambour tradition will not vanish. Unlike on the island of Mauritius, the Sega of Rodrigues has maintained its primitive African originality because nearly all of the population of Rodrigues are descendants of the mountaineers (the first batch of African slave brought to the islands) and mulattos (a mixture of Franco-Mauritians and Afro-Mauritians). Due to this ethno-cultural homogeneity, the Rodriguan Sega has not suffered excessively from the musical influences of other ethnic groups.

Nevertheless, because of the tendency for the Sega to end in sexual encounters, it was frowned on by the church and nowadays strict propriety is observed. At the first sign of misbehavior the offender is ejected or clouted on the ear.

49. Black Song & Dance of the Tropics, Book II: Central & South America <pg. 166 > After our meal I searched for Daniel Barra and, fortunately, he had time to me despite the fact that he is quite a busy man. In addition to being a coca farmer, Don Daniel, (who is married with six children) is also an auxiliary nurse, catechist, and President of La Saya del Gran Poder de Chica Loma, a group consisting of 16 male and 6 female performers.

Born in Chicaloma in 1950, Daniel told me that although he has always had an interest in the Saya, he only became an active participant in 1987. Presently, he not only directs the group, but knows how to play all four bombos (tambor mayor, sobre tambor, requinto, and ganyingo). Note, however, that El Negro no es un color es una Saya refers to these drums as: bajo (largest drum), sobre caja (or requinto), sobre requinto, and the gauyingo or cachimba (the smallest).

As in performances of old, the cuancha (scraper made from toqoro) and cascabeles (ankle rattles) accompany the drum rhythms. His group has performed in La Paz, Cochabamba (for the Urkupiña festival), Copacabana, Oruro and elsewhere and was the recipient of a first place trophy.

Daniel is reported to be critical of the Saya group of Tocaña because they have not preserved the traditional Afro clothing, instruments, and music. When asked if his group sang traditional lyrics or composed their own, Daniel replied that it does both. One song that he composed, himself, entitled "Campesino Boliviano" is in defense of the cultivation of coca - a plant which is of crucial economic importance to the region as well as the nation.

Campesino Boliviano

[the choral response is]

Campesino boliviano que somos los productores (x2)

(Bolivian farmer, we are the producers.)

Hemos trabajado siempre, pero siempre somos pobres. (x2)

(We have always worked; and yet we're always poor.)

Desde que amanece el día hasta que llega la noche (x2)

(From daybreak to sunset)

Soportando sol y lluvia, hasta que llega la muerte. (x2)

(Enduring sun and rain, until death overtakes us.)

Nuestra coca no es cocaina; los que elaboran son otros; (x2)

(Our coca is not cocaine; those who make it are others.)

Nuestra hojita es sagrada; orgullo del campesino. (x2)

(Our little leaf is sacred; the pride of the rural farmer.) 


(Man sings)

Yungueñito soy señores, del pueblo de Chicaloma; (x2)

(I am a small Yungueñan sirs, from the town of Chicaloma.)

toda la semana yo gano con el sudor de mi frente. (x2)

(All week long I earn a living with the sweat of my brow.)


[choral response]

(Man sings)

Ay madre porque tuviste, un hijo tan desgraciado? (x2)

(O mother, why did you have such a disgraceful child?)

En vez de darle tus pechos, veneno debías darle. (x2)

(Instead of giving it your breasts; you should have given it poison).

[choral response]

Indeed, as another of his songs has it, "la coca no es cocaina, para que la veas con desprecio" ("the coca plant is not cocaine that it should be despised"). In the Campesino Boliviano song, above, the women (and men) first sing a 6 line chorus repeating each line twice. A man then sings a 2 line verse repeating each line twice. Then the chorus is repeated and is followed by another verse. After the repetition of the final chorus, the last half of the last line is repeated two more times to close. One should also note the poetry of the lyrics; for each line typically has 16 syllables divided into two hemistiches of 8 syllables each. One should also note that the verses may or may not have any relationship with the chorus. This is also a characteristic of Northern Nigerian "Combat Literature" songs [for which see my PhD dissertation entitled Hausa Combat Literature].

Daniel concluded his interview with me saying that he got interested in the Saya Movement because he liked working with people. He then said that he, too, is angry with the Kjarkas because they had taken the name "Saya" and misrepresented it. That is, they say they are playing Saya; but they are really playing Caporal. Another Saya song entitled "Después de 500 Años" ("After 500 Years") addresses this matter with the following lyrics:

Después de 500 Años

(The chorus is)

Después de quinientos años, no te vayas a cambiar (x2)

(After five hundred years, do not exchange)

el bello ritmo de Saya, con ritmo de Caporal. (x2)

(the beautiful rhythm of the Saya, for that of Caporal!)

La gente está confundida, con ritmo de Caporal. (x2)

(People are confused, with the rhythm of Caporal.)

Lo que ahora están escuchando, es Saya original. (x2)

(What you're listening to now, is original Saya.)


(man sings)


La vaca parió en la loma, la loma llena de sangre. (x2)

(The cow gave birth on the hill, the hill full of blood.)

El ternerito lloraba, por la leche de su madre. (x2)

(The little calf cried, for the milk of its mother.)



(man sings)

Soy un jovencito enamorado; soy un jovencito enamorado

(I'm a young man in love; I'm a young man in love.)

al pasar por el lago; me rompieron la cabeza.

(When passing by the lake, they made a gash in my head.) 


Daniel added that though the Saya is alive and well, the number of Blacks in Chicaloma is rapidly diminishing. He placed the present Black population at 30% and attributed its diminution to the fact that many Indians arrived in the town after 1940 because of their increased freedom of movement. When asked if Blacks had other dances, he replied that they did not. That is, though Blacks do other dances ( Caporal street dances, etc.), the only original Black Bolivian dance is the Saya. His group has produced a 10 song cassette entitled (Saya Gran Poder de Chica Loma) which features the two aforementioned songs as well as songs entitled "De Chicaloma Venimos", "La Coca no es Cocaina", "De noche la luna del día el sol”, etc.

50 . Pop Wuj I (Mythological Portion) in Rhymed Metric Verse - < Foreword > The Pop Wuj - also known as the Popol Vuh – is a sacred compilation of K’iche’ [See pronunciation guide below in section #19 of this volume], stories, rites and symbols dealing with the creation of man and the cosmos as well as the daring deeds of its pre-Columbian cultural heroes. The K’iche’ are a sub-division of the ancient Maya whose descendants (numbering in the millions) still occupy large areas of Guatemala, Belize, and southern Mexico as well as smaller areas in El Salvador and Honduras.

Mayan civilization during the Classical Period (300 AD – 900 AD) rivaled ancient Greek and Egyptian civilization in knowledge and splendor. Indeed, the ancient Maya invented the mathematical equivalent of the zero, had their own unique hieroglyphic writing system, constructed magnificent pyramids and temples, domesticated a number of varieties of important plants and animals, created beautiful ceramics and artifacts, and had an incredible knowledge of the cosmos and measurement of time. Indeed, their cyclical calendar was held to be the most accurate time-keeping device in the ancient world.

At the time of the Spanish conquest of Guatemala (1524), Mayan civilization (having broken into various mini-states) was already in decline. Nevertheless, at that time, the K’iche’ (Kiché) and the Q’aq’chikel (Kakchikel) were still the most powerful groups of Central America. The K’iche’ offered fierce resistance to the Spaniards and their allies; but their rulers, armies and glorious capital of Q’u’markaj (Kumarkaj / Utatlán) were cruelly and utterly destroyed. The Q’aq’chikel, who initially welcomed the Spanish as allies, soon suffered the same fate.

Many of the defeated K’iche’ nobles and their followers took refuge in Chuwilá (presently called Santo Tomás Chichicastenango), and it is there where one can still find many of the descendants of this once mighty race who – despite Christianization - still cling to important elements of their traditional beliefs and customs.

Though believed to have been originally written down in Mayan hieroglyphics, the version on which my versification and other modern texts are based is actually a K’iche’ language manuscript that was created subsequent to the Spanish conquest (most probably somewhere between 1554 and 1564). The supposed author of the manuscript is held to be Diego Reinoso, a K’iche’ man who learned from missionaries how to read and write in Spanish.

In order to preserve the legends and traditions of his people, Reinoso used roman script to produce the aforementioned K’iche’ document which became known by various names including: Popol Vuh, Popol Buj, Manuscripto de Chichcastenango, Libro de Consejo, Libro Sagrado, Libro de Común, Libro Nacional de los Quichés, and now the Pop Wuj.

According to Adrian Chavez [Bibliography Book #11 pg. 229 - henceforward abbreviated as “book #: page number”], a highly educated native-speaker of the language:

“El verdadero nombre del libro según el prólogo del mismo es “Pop Wuj” el cual no se escribió bien porque el fraile dominico Francisco Ximénez quien fue que hizo la copia del Manuscrito indígena, era español, por tal motivo, tanto el prólogo como el texto están castellanizados, es decir, que las palabras consonánticas se les dió tono castellano. Hay que agregar que en aquella época a algunas letras se le dió valor diferente: la “h” se le dió el valor de “j”; a la “x”, valor de “j” y de “sh”, la “ch” con el valor del latín de “k”; la “v” se le dió el valor de “u” o de “w”. Por esta anarquía ortográfica fue que el título del documento resultó “popo vuh” y más tarde empeoró con el de “Popol Buh.” La segunda ‘o’ de POPO es falsa; no existe enKiché ni una sola palabra grave, todas son agudas: el título con accento agudo no tiene ninguna signifación en Kiché: popó.

That is, the additional “o” in the word “pop” resulted from a transcription error and the phonetic value of certain letters in Spanish were different - the letter “v” being used to represent the sound “w” (i.e. word initial “u”). According to Chavez, Pop Wuj can be translated either as the “Book of Time” (Libro del Tiempo), the “Book of Events” (Libro de Acontecimientos) or the “History of the Universe” (Historia del Universo).

This manuscript - which somehow fell into the eager hands of Francisco Ximénez in the cural house (curato) of Santo Tomás Chichicastenango in 1701 or 1703 – greatly amazed this Spanish Friar who (having learned K’iche’) copied down and translated it into Spanish. Subsequent to this first translation there have been many others both in Spanish (see bibliography for eight such works) as well as in various European languages.

Ximénez (who was said to have mastered the K’iche’ language) divided his text into 20 chapters – the first 13 of which can be called mythic with the remaining chapters being primarily historic in nature. Ximénez’ chapter titles are as follows: 1) Beginning of history of the Indians; 2) State of the cosmos prior to creation; 3) Vucub-Caquix (“that seems to correspond to Lucifer”); 4) Death of Vucub-Caquix; 5) Deeds of Zipacná (first son of Vucub-Caquix); 6) Birth of Hunahpú and Xbalanqué; 7) Xquic and how she came to the tree on which the severed head of Hunahpú had been placed; 8) Arrival of Xquic to the home of her mother-in-law; 9) Birth of Hunahpú and Xbalanqué; 10) Ball play and descent into “Hell”; 11) How Hunahpú and Xbalanqué died; 12) How man was created; 13) Time of darkness before the birth of the sun; 14) Dawning; 15) What happened on the mountain; 16) How the four progenitors of the Kiché stole men; 17) Death of Balam – Quitzé and the other three; 18) The 24 lineage divisions; 19) Idol House and its worship; and 20) Descendents of the Kings and other Lords. [Note that in my versification, I prefer to use the book and chapter divisions created by Adrian Recinos for which see entry #22 on pg. 98.]

The Ximénez text (consisting of 9,000 verses) deals with the origin of the world and of the Mayan race, the nature of the cosmos, ancient traditions and beliefs, heroes, founding fathers, and major events that occurred in early pre-historic times as well as the chronology of K’iche’ kings to the year 1550. As a whole, the document, which is said to be highly poetic in the original K’iche’, reflects a vast regional cultural patrimony that (at the time of the Spanish arrival) extended far beyond the boundaries of the erstwhile K’iche’domain.

According to Sam Colop (author of the Versión Poética K’iché) [31: 15]:

the language in which the Popol Wuj is written combines poetry and prose. At times the poetry is dense and at other times it is subtlely manifest within the verbal weave of the text. That is, the language in which the “Popol Wuj” is written is artistic in addition to its mytho-historic content.

Colop (who happens to be both a native K’iche’ speaker and a poet of note) goes on to say that:

The poetry in the “Popol Wuj” – as in Central American indigenous poetry – is characterized by parallel verses. This parallelism, nevertheless, should not be conceived as merely the contiguity of two lines, because it also occurs in repetitions of three and four lines. In K’iche’ verse, as in Maya verse, the verbal correspondence is mainly semantic rather than syntactic or phonologic. Thus, “si la rima del verso en otras culturas es fonológica; la rima del verso maya es semántica [if the rhyme of the verse in other cultures is phonetic, the rhyme of Mayan verse is semantic].”

Colop then provides concrete examples of what he means by this using the first six lines of the K’iche’ version of the Popol Vuh as an example [for which see 31: 15 – 16]. Another aspect of K’iche’ poetics, Colop says, is the use of paronomasia, which he defines as “the phonetic similarity of words of different meaning.” As an example of this he gives [31: 18]:

Ta xkam k’ut ri Wuqub’ Kak’ix

It was then that Wuqub Kak’ix died.

Ta xuk’am k’ut uq’ab’ ri Junajpu

It was then that Junajpu recuperated his arm.

Here, Colop explains: the verbal phrases xkam (“die”) and xuk’am (“got back”) have the same syntactic structure and a similar pronunciation but quite different meanings.

My poetic translation and related discussions incorporate some of these features; but being written for English readers; I offer a constant rhyme and meter throughout. My rhymed presentation in this volume deals only with Adrian Recino’s Book I and Book II (that is the mythological section) of this crown-jewel of ancient Mayan literature with the remaining portion being reserved for the second volume (Recino’s Books III and IV). Volume III of this series is a manual for learning K’iche’ and Volume IV discusses the post-Colombian history, culture, and present conditions of this once mighty race.

It is quite interesting to note how the Pop Wuj (once considered by Spanish missionaries of the time as “the work of the devil”) has now become accepted reading even for Guatemalan children. In this regard, however, it is presented and taught as Native American folklore rather than as a sacred text. Certain indigenous people, however, still think of the accounts it narrates as historical fact and consider the text to be the “sacred words of the ancestors” just as many Christians consider the bible to be the actual “word of god.”

Chapter II - First Three Creations < pg. 10 >:

Jun Raqan or Heart of Heaven

Ma nifested in forms three:

Ka qulha, the One-legged lightning;

Ch’i pi Kaqulha, the wee;

Ra xa Kaqulha the third form

Who in all his majesty

Stand ing tall above the others

Was the grandest of the three.


In the Heart of that great darkness,

They created earth and trees,

A nimals and tiny insects

Ri vers, oceans, and the seas.

Ja guars, pumas, snakes and vipers,

Lice and tree-frogs, birds and deer.

Ma ny countless other creatures

Were created and placed there.


They then told all their creations

Where to live and what to eat.

Told the deer to live near water

And to walk upon four feet.

Told the birds to live in treetops;

Told the small ones to eat lice;

But the Raptor birds among them

Were allowed to feed on mice.


And those creatures did as ordered,

Dwelt they in Ulew, the Earth.

There they multiplied and prospered

‘Ere the earliest human birth.

They forgot the Heart of Heaven

And invoked him not in prayer;

Though they lived they only cackled,

Hissed and screeched from far and near.


Since you can not praise your makers

Said the gods, in angry mood,

Hence forth you ungrateful wretches

Shall become for man, his food.

Get thee hence into the forests!

Fish , get thee into the sea!

We will fashion those who praise us.

All of you his food shall be.


Heart of Heaven took the soft earth

Made a man, and made him talk;

But that creature was discarded

As it could not move or walk.

Abandoned were these mindless beings

And they were straightway destroyed.

Since they could not praise their makers,

Q’uq’ kumatz was much annoyed.


[Drawing 2]


Heart of Heaven sought diviners,

In the guise of Q’uq’kumatz

Xpiy ako’k and Xmukane

Lis tened, mused, then cast their lots.

Speak red beans and speak oh corns

Dear er unto us than jade!

Can a creature praise its maker

If from wood its flesh is made?”


The corn and blood red beans replied:

“If it’s a sapient man you seek

Make him out of forest wood

And he’ll surely walk and speak.”

The humans then were carved of wood

And thrived on earth without a care.

They consumed both fruits and roots

As well as flesh from timid deer.