Mythic Propositions

Posted by: | February 4, 2009 | Comments Off on Mythic Propositions

Vexation. “Where and What is the moral of this legend?!” – Was a question I had the honour of asking myself four consecutive times, once for each of Asturias’ tales. In Greek myths and legends such as Daedalus and Icarus, Narcissus, and Sisyphus, the morals are effortlessly detectable, so much so that their visibility is almost deceiving. Each tale can be summarized in a sole phrase or sentence. Icarus – listen to your father, don’t let your abilities inflate your ego or else you will die; Narcissus – don’t be a cruel lover, don’t let vanity get the best of you, or else death will be happy to be your companion; Sisyphus – Just Don’t (there really is no word in English that can describe him), or else you will be sentenced to a banal existence of pushing an enormous boulder up and down a hill for eternity i.e. your soul will die.

Sadly, trying to distinguish the morals within the fragrant stories of Asutrias doesn’t come easily; however, his tales do provide a commentary on social phenomena in Latin America, similar to the way Greek myths and legends exhibit ultimatums concerning lifestyle choices. If I were to apply the same one sentence rule to some of the legends Asturias recounts, taking the final paragraphs of each (since in greek mythology, that is where the elusive moral is discovered resulting in the A-HAaaaaa moment, except for Asturias, it’s more a welcome relief than anything ) could only be applicable to Legend of the Singing Tablets…

One Punch Morals
Legend of the Singing Tablets
“…but many are the poets condemned to deposit white cloudlets in the craters of volcanoes, seeds leftover for the colours that the sun steals from the moon, the price that must be paid for the tablet, in order to form the rainbow.” (88)
There is always a return to nature, a degeneration of what one accomplishes, and a regeneration in nature (rainbow!) from what has been produced.

Legend of the Silent Bell
Don’t gouge your eyes out in vain; don’t compromise your original beliefs to conform to Spanish colonialists – they won’t appreciate it, and will only try to silence you.

Legend of the Dancing Butchers:
If you slaughter people, expect to be slaughtered yourself.

One line morals simply cannot summarize the layers within Miguel Angel Asturias’ prose, where each choice of adjective or noun can symbolize and lend meaning to another idea.

Jose Maria Arguedas’ story The Pongo’s Dream carried, in comparison to The Legends, a literal moral, threaded in a calculated manner throughout the text until the final retribution. Although his tale does not seem to take place within the century, the element of the pongo’s servitude to the criollo echoed in a story I heard from one of my friends about his close friend’s father who, during the 70s in Ecuador had a memorable night. My friend re-told me part of the story on msn…

Licenciado Crespo, a friend of his who was a Doctor, and another friend, had travelled to the rural regions to help the people there. One night, Licenciado Crespo, the Doctor and the Other Friend decided to get really drunk, walked aimlessly around in the woods until they saw a small house, with their cloudy vision, in the field. They knocked on the door and a man with the distinctive features of an indio opened the door, with a machete in hand. The Other Friend was scared shitless and ran away, Licenciado Crespo and the Doctor were pissed drunk to even notice that their friend had disappeared. The peasant was about to hack them until they told them their names (the Crespo family in that region was widely respected). The campesino then invited them inside. Entonces, el doctor y el licensiado crespo se sientan a conversar con el indio, el cual les ofrecio algo de tomar. Los señores acceptaron y el indio saco tres vasos, es la costumbre del campesino de escupir en el vaso y limpiarlo enfrente de sus visitas, es una muestra de respeto. Empiesan a tomar, y el doctor (racista y borracho) empiesa a hablar con el indio. “Sabe usted campesino, que ustedes son todos sucios y no se cuidan, y miren a sus mujeres, que feas”. El licenciado avergonzado por la falta de respeto del doctor se queda callado. El campesino le pregunta “por que dice eso señor, mi esposa es una muy buena persona, cosina para mi”. El doctor le contesta “tengo hambre, traigame algo de comer”. La esposa del campesino se va a la cosina y trae choclo. El doctor dice “estoy aburrido, a ver, doña maria, baile, vaya baile”. El señor crespo le dice “por que se porta asi doctor, no esta haciendo quedar mal”. El doctor lo ignoro y siguio demandando que la esposa del campesino baile. El campesino then pleaded with his wife to dance for the Doctor, and she complied.

Just relating Argueda’s story with a mutual friends’ father’s life event portrays that even in the 1970s and even today in Latin America, despite indigenous or folk culture being the historical branch of popular culture, the people that physically represent that history are often marginalized or demeaned.


Comments are closed.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind

Spam prevention powered by Akismet