XbalanquePosted by Sara C. Snider on Apr 28, 2014 in A to Z Challenge, Fairytales and Folklore | 16 comments
Xbalanque and his twin brother, Hun-apu, are described as “hero-wizards, warriors and mischief-makers, both the pride and torment of Guatemala.” (Garner p. 16) In one story, Xbalanque and Hun-apu take on Vukub-Cakix—a troublesome creature in the form of a great bird. Vukub-Cakix was one to gobble up harvests, and his sons–Zipacna the Earthmaker, and Cabrakan the Earthshaker–would raise up mountains and then topple them.
One day, Hun-apu climbs into Vukub-Cakik’s nanze-tree and eats all the fruit. When Vukub-Cakix discovers this, he goes into a rage. He gets into a tussle with Hun-apu, rips off his arm, and makes off with it. Wanting to get the arm back before it’s cooked beyond repair, the twins head over to Vukub-Cakix’s lair, pose as physicians, and essentially convince the poor bird to allow them to pull out his teeth and eyes. Vukub-Cakix was forever considered harmless after that.
The story doesn’t stop there, though. Not wanting to wait for Vukub-Cakix’s sons to seek vengeance, the twins go after both Zipacna and Cabrakan. It’s kind of a long story, but essentially Xbalanque and Hun-apu recruit 400 young men to take on Zipacna. Together, they manage to bury Zipacna in the ground, but Zipacna quakes the earth and the young men are sent into the sky and become the Pleiades. Zipacna’s eventual downfall comes when he eats a great stone made to look like a crab and is then both drowned in a river and buried underneath a mountain.
As for Cabrakan, Xbalanaque and Hun-apu find him throwing boulders around and flattening villages. They pretend to be unimpressed by these antics, which makes Cabrakan try all the harder until he becomes weak with hunger. So, the twins cook for him a bird baked in poisoned clay. With Cabrakan sick with fever, the twins then taunt him that he couldn’t lift a certain massive mountain. Wanting to prove them wrong, Cabrakan tries to do it, but fails. He tries so hard that eventually the top of his head blows off, and that was the last of him.
Source: Garner, Alan, “Vukub-Cakix”, Collected Folk Tales, Harper Collins, 2011.