When there was only emptiness, Kooch, the first being, cried his solitude and from its tears, the world began to exist. But the darkness will be jealous and one of her children will bring chaos to Kooch’s perfect and sweet world. In the afterword we talk about the Tehuelche's history and we finalize with a Guarani creation myth.
1. Web source: www.pdffactory.com and “The solitude that always existed” Anonymous Tehuelche.
2. Book: Legends, myths, stories and other Tehuelche tales, presented by F.Cordova y N. Sugobono. Published Longseller.
3. Article: Tehuelches y Selk’nam [Santa Cruz y Tierra del Fuego]: “No desaparecimos”. Pueblos Indígenas en la Argentina: historias, culturas, lenguas y educación. Mariela Eva Rodriguez y Laura Horlent. Ministerio de Educación y Deportes. Presidencia de la Nación.
4. Memory of FiIre, Genesis. Eduardo Galeano. Pantheon Books New York.
5. Web source: UN mito tehuelche: kooch, el creador de la Patagonia. https://www.folkloretradiciones.com.ar/literatura/Leyendas%20patagonicas.pdf
The vast solitude
A Tehuelche myth Patagonia (Argentina-Chile)
Adapted by Carolina Quiroga-Stultz
The Tehuelches tell that long time ago there was no sky, no sea, no land, only a vast obscurity, and its dense, and humid duskiness. And inside that darkness lived the one that had always existed, Kooch, the sky. Surrounded by the greatest of all the silences, where he could only hear his own deep sighs.
It is said that although his own presence, and existence had been enough for him for so long, in a moment of unexplainable, and profound solitude, he cried.
And he cried because although he did not know love, he longed for company. Although he knew the sound of his own sighs, he wished to hear a song. Although he was used to the darkness, he wondered how a colorful world would be.
He cried his emptiness for such a long time that his salted tears filled with sadness, created a vast ocean, known as Arrok, the first sea, the first element of nature. And like sadness sometimes lingers for a long time, Arrok’s waters extended itself as far as the horizon.
When Kooch realized that the waters were rising with such a nostalgic quietness that threaten to absorb him, he stopped crying and just sighed. And that deep sigh became the wind that began to blow, breaking, and dissolving that old obscurity. And with its dancing steps, the wind began to agitate the waters of Arrok in rhythmic tides.
Some say that it was the wind who dissipated the fog, revealing the light and the horizon. But others say that the first light was also Kooch’s work. Who knows, maybe one led to the other.
The elders say that surrounded by water, and darkness Kooch wished to see the world that was taking form. So, he walked away hoping he could contemplate it from a distance. But since he couldn’t see a thing, he raised his arm, and with a hand gesture, Kooch cut the darkness. It is said that that gesture was so quick, and graceful that his hand produced a spark that became Xaleshen, the sun.
The one who from the moment he was born, he knew his role. So, Xaleshen rose up over the tides of Arrok, and shone over the landscape. Over those waters that were letting themselves go, allowing the wind to play with them, contracting and dissolving.
Next, Xaleshen, the sun created the clouds, who immediately felt an urge for tirelessly wandering throughout the skies. When the wind saw the clouds, he felt the desire of playing with them too. So, he began to push them around huffing, and puffing, watching them stretch, and change forms as he pleased. Soft and soft at first, but the more he enjoyed the game, he blew them with a discovered fury that he didn’t even know he was capable of.
He blew them so strongly, so violently that the clouds began to clash against each other becoming thin strips. And the poor clouds, so young, so confused about what was going on, began to grunt, and cry in resounding thunders, and sharp lightnings that put the naughty wind in his place.
In the meantime, Kooch began to model his art. First, he filled the waters with fish, and then created a huge island, and filled it with land animals, birds, and insects. Everything was looking so beautiful that the sun, the wind and the clouds agreed to help preserve the work.
The sun promised to shine and warm up the land. The clouds promised to bring the beneficial rain. And the wind promised to blow with moderation so the grass could grow again, and again. And that is how, life became sweet, in Kooch’s island.
Next, feeling another inspirational thought, the creator, crossed the waters, and made a larger piece of land raise from the waters. Once he was satisfied, Kooch smiled, and walked towards the horizon from where he never returned.
And things would have remained as Kooch left them if it wasn’t for the misbehaving giant children of Tons, the darkness. One day, Noshtex, one of Tons arrogant children, either because of boredom or resentment, kidnapped Teo, one of the clouds, and locked her in his cave.
Teo’s sisters looked for her everywhere across the sky but no one knew where she was. Impotent, and in despair the clouds filled themselves with fury, and unleashed a terrible storm. The rain poured down the mountain, washing away everything in its course, flooding caves, holes, and nests. The poor animals paid for the giant’s blunder and selfish act.
After three days and three nights, Xaleshen, the sun wanted to know what was causing such a big drama, and appeared among the clouds. When he found out the details, he set off over the horizon to tell Kooch the unsettling news.
Without losing his temper Kooch declared: I promised you that the abuser will be punished; And, if Teo is with child, that child will be more powerful than whoever started this mess!
Next morning, Xaleshen went to communicate the prophecy to the sadden clouds. Who told Xochem, the wind, who gave the news to everyone who had ears to listen.
And that is how the Chingolo (the small bird with an orange neck), told the guanaco (the llama’s cousin). Then the guanaco told the ñandú (the distant cousin of the ostrich). Then the ñandú told the fox, the fox told the hare, the hare told the armadillo, and he told the puma.
Xochem did such a great job delivering the message that he stopped at the entrance of each cavern, each hole, each nest, making sure that every animal, bird, insect, plant, and dust particle, understood what Kooch had decreed.
When the giant Noshtex realized what could happen to him, fear cramped his stomach, and for the first time the giant felt afraid of the one who hadn't been born but could destroy him. Full of anger Noshtex looked at Teo’s swollen belly, and thought of killing, and eating them when they least expected.
So, one night while Teo slept, Noshtex hit her with such fury that was able to rip her, and pulled out the baby from her entrails. Then Noshtex proceeded to dismember the fallen cloud.
However, not everything was lost. Someone else inside the cave had heard the prophecy, Ter-Werr, (a rodent) who had her home underground. It is said that Ter-Werr was the one who saved the child.
While the cannibal was tearing, and devouring Teo’s body, Ter-Werr silently slid around the scene, and when the giant had grabbed the baby with his bloody hands, and was about to gobble him down in one bite, Ter-Werr bit the giant’s right foot. Noshtex cried in pain dropping the baby. Quickly Ter-Werr grabbed the child, and swiftly took him away, and hid him under the ground.
But the shelter was too precarious for both. Noshtex paced back, and forth with sounding steps making the whole cave shiver in fear of crumbling down. Then the giant went out to look through the island for that nefarious child that one day could inflict pain, and destruction upon his father.
Tee-Werr had no other option than to ask the animals for help. An assembly was convened, and the urgent matter discussed. The black feather’s bird Kius, who was the only one that had been in that other land beyond the waters that Kooch had created before leaving, proposed to take the child there. So, his vengeful father could never get hold of him.
The day came and Ter-Werr took the child to the shores of a lake, and hid him among some logs, and called Kiken, the chingolo, to call all the animals so they could help escort the child to safety. But not everyone attended the call. For instance, the puma refused to help, the ñandú and the flamenco arrived late, and the fox was intercepted by the giant.
When Noshtex found out about the animals’ plans he rushed to the lake, but a red-chest bird distracted the murderer with a beautiful song. Thanks to the brave intervention of this little bird, Noshtex arrived late to conclude his evil deed. He even missed seeing when the swan took off carrying the baby on his back.
All that Noshtex saw was a white majestic bird crossing the skies towards the west. But he didn’t know that on the birds back, sleeping in a cushy pillow of feathers, his son rode away to safety. The swan took Kooch’s protege to La Patagonia. That child was no other than the legendary hero of the Tehuelches, Elal, but that is another “cuento”.
Very well let's talk about the culture from which this story comes from, the Tehuelches. One of the first descriptions given about the people from La Patagonia (bottom of South America) was that its inhabitants were giants. Such a story was passed down from mouth to mouth, later from newspapers to books, repeating that in that part of the world the people had a disproportionate height. Indeed, they seemed to be tall, but they were not the type of giants the Europeans had in mind, the ones depicted in their myths and lore.
Those tall people were either the Selk’ham, or the Yamahas or the Querandies, the first inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. These groups, along with the Gununa Kuna, and the Aoninenk were part of the big Tehuelche family.
Different from most of the Tehuelche groups, the northern ones adopted the horse brought by the Europeans.
It should be mentioned that the 16th century brought lots of changes for the Tehuelche family. Before the Spanish arrival, the Araucanos, also known as the Mapuches, began to migrate south into the Tehuelche’s territories. It might have caused some friction, but it also created alliances.
In consequence by the 20th century the native groups of Las Pampas (do you remember episode 9?) were the mixed-race descendants of both groups. This means that the alliances brought a mix of languages, arts, and traditions.
During that same century, the Argentinean government (like many other governments in the Americas) claimed in the name of progress that the indigenous people had to be civilized to resemble the European or Criollo cultures. Such progress implied that the natives had to forget their language, traditions, beliefs and history. Similar to what happened to the natives at the missions in the southwest of the United States. For instance, those children who would speak their native language in the classroom would be punished.
That's how in 1960 in Argentina, language was used by scientists, and politicians as a way to dictate who was a native, and who was not. If he/she had value as a person or not. And unfortunately, is still like that in many places. Not too long ago I heard on the news about a school teacher here in the States that tried to shame a student she heard was speaking Spanish.
This to say that usually those who are in power and consider themselves as the dominant culture or the civilized people have used language as a discriminatory tool to segregate, and classify, superior vs inferior, developed vs undeveloped...and many have believed that tale. And by the way who knows what civilized people means, because in the name of civilization the most diabolical massacres have been committed,
Unfortunately, literature did its part too, and began using the strategy of making the other invisible by publishing books about the natives of the Americas with titles such as: “The last cacique or chief”, “the last Chaman” or “the last Tehuelche”. Such lie repeated itself for so long that more than one (especially in schools) believed it. Because when we declare that something is the last, we are saying that nothing else comes after, that it is their end.
On the other hand, some may claim that the same natives made themselves invisible too. By encouraging their children to learn the language and the ways of the newcomers so they would not suffer. And even if that was a reason, I would not blame them, you do what it takes to keep your children away from punishment.
As well the Maquiavelllian tactic of divide and conquer was applied. Do you remember that I said at the beginning that during the 16th century the Mapuches began to migrate south towards the Tehuelche lands? Well in 1878, Estanislao Zeballos justified the violent displacement and murders of Mapuches arguing that they were invading Chilean lands, that only the Tehuelches had the right of staying.
However, by that year, both groups had integrated in many aspects. The real goal behind that claim was to divide them by turning them against each other.
As Zeballos confessed in his book “The Conquest of 15.000 leagues”. The plan was to break alliances, break their will, turn them into alcoholics, and get them to fight alongside the Chilean army, so either way, the native numbers would be reduced and eventually become extinct.
I know that all I said seems to place the native groups as victims but don't think they didn't fight back. Until today, as the Mayans do (if you listen to episode 12 of “The Legend of La Tatuana”), the Tehuelches, and their brothers, and sisters across the Americas are still fighting for the right to have their ancestral lands back.
There is so much more I could say but I rather finish this episode on a positive note. Here is another of the sweetest creation myths from our brothers the Guarani people in Paraguay.
The first father of the Guarani people stood up in the middle of the darkness and
inspired by the reflections of his own heart, he created the flames and the thin fog, the beginning of a song.
While he still felt inspired, he created love but had no one to give it to. He created the language, but no one could hear him speak it.
He recommended the gods to build the world and take care of the fire, fog, rain and wind. And handed them the music with the words of the sacred hymn, so they could give life to the woman and man, now the world would not be in silence, at last.
So, love became communion, and language took over life, and the first father redeemed his solitude in the company of the man and the woman who sings:
We are walking this land. We are walking this shiny and beautiful land.
Well, friends this is all for now. My name is Carolina Quiroga-Stultz and Tres Cuentos tells you that whoever created this world, or these worlds did an incredible job and we should be thankful for it but also consider the responsibility that entitles. Wouldn’t you like this beautiful planet and its creations to last forever?
Next time, on our journey through the myths of creation we will meet three very curious men that let the night escape, and how our ancestor finally were able to catch some sleep.
Until the next cuento.
Slow hammers – The mini vandals
Grandpa – Puddle of infinity
Rise – Hovatoff
Final boss – Myuu
Exotics - Kevin McLeod, Creative Commons Attributions License
Outcast – Myuu
All this scoring - Kevin McLeod, Creative Commons Attributions License
Overcome – Ugonna Onyekwe