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p. xix

3. The Author of the Popol Vuh

THE manuscript of Chichicastenango is an anonymous document. Father Ximénez, who had the original manuscript in his hands, and transcribed and translated it into Spanish, left no indication whatever of its author. The terms which Ximénez employed in referring to this document lead one to think that he believed there had been various authors, or compilers, of the Quiché book. In the foreword to his principal work, the Dominican chronicler says that he translated the histories of the Indians into the Spanish language from the Quiché tongue in which he found them written "from the time of the Conquest, when (as they say there) they changed their way of writing their histories into our way of writing." And two paragraphs farther on, he repeats the same idea when he says that he determined "to set down and transcribe here all their histories, according to the way they have them written."

Speaking of the accounts composed by the Indians after the Conquest, the Dominican chronicler who wrote the Isagoge Histórica Apologética says:

"The Preaching Father Francisco Ximénez; translated from the Quiché language into Spanish a very old manuscript, without giving the name of the author, and without [giving] the year in which it was written, and it is only known by the manuscript itself that it was written in the village of Santa Cruz of the Quiché, shortly after the conquest of this Kingdom."

The well-known philologist Rudolf Schuller believes that there is basis for attributing the authorship of the Popol Vuh to Diego Reynoso; but he interprets the citations of Ximénez and of the Título de los Señores de Totonicapán differently, and, in my judgment, inaccurately.

It is well to clarify here these points about the person of Diego

p. xx

[paragraph continues] Reynoso, because they are concerned with one of the few known Indian authors who have left written accounts subsequent to, or contemporary with, the Conquest. Although educated by the Spanish priests, Reynoso never renounced his name and status as that of a noble Quiché Indian and the fact that he never joined any of the Spanish religious orders gives greater validity to his accounts of the ancient times of his nation.

The problem relative to the author of the Popol Vuh must nevertheless remain unsolved; and so long as no new evidence is discovered which will throw light upon the matter, the famous manuscript must be considered as an anonymous account, written by one or more descendants of the Quiché race according to the traditions of their forefathers.

Next: 4. The Writings of Father Ximénez