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p. 57

II. Chapter 5

Now we shall tell of the birth of Hunahpú and Xbalanqué. Here, then, we shall tell about their birth.

When the day of their birth arrived, the girl named Xquic gave birth; but the grandmother did not see them when they were born. Instantly the two boys called Hunahpú and Xbalanqué were born. There in the wood they were born.

Then they came to the house, but they could not sleep.

"Go throw them out! "said the old woman, "because truly they cry very much." Then they went and put them on an ant-hill. There they slept peacefully. Then they took them from the ant-hill and laid them on thistles.

Now, what Hunbatz and Hunchouén wished was that they [Hunahpú and Xbalanqué] would die there on the ant-hill, or on the thistles. They wished this because of the hatred and envy 1 Hunbatz and Hunchouén felt for them.

At first they refused to receive their younger brothers in the house; they would not recognize them and so they were brought up in the fields.

Hunbatz and Hunchouén were great musicians and singers;

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they had grown up in the midst of trials and want and they had had much trouble, but they became very wise. They were flautists, singers, painters, and carvers; all of this they knew how to do.

They had heard about their birth and knew also that they were the successors of their parents, those who went to Xibalba and died there. Hunbatz and Hunchouén were diviners, and in their hearts they knew everything concerning the birth of their two younger brothers. Nevertheless, because they were envious, they did not show their wisdom, and their hearts were filled with bad will for them, although Hunahpú and Xbalanqué had not offended them in any way.

These two [last] did nothing all day long but shoot their blowguns; they were not loved by their grandmother, nor by Hunbatz, nor by Hunchouén; they were given nothing to eat; only when the meal was ended and Hunbatz and Hunchouén had already eaten, then the younger brothers came to eat. But they did not become angry, nor did they become vexed, but suffered silently, because they knew their rank, and they understood everything clearly. 2 They brought their birds when they came, and Hunbatz and Hunchouén ate them without giving anything to either of the two, Hunahpú and Xbalanqué.

The only thing that Hunbatz and Hunchouén did was to play the flute and sing.

And once when Hunahpú and Xbalanqué came without bringing any bird at all, they went into the house and their grandmother became furious.

"Why did you bring no birds?" she said to Hunahpú and Xbalanqué.

And they answered: "What happened, grandmother, is

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that our birds were caught in the tree and we could not climb up to get them, dear grandmother. If our elder brothers so wish, let them come with us to bring the birds down," they said.

"Very well," the older brothers answered, "we shall go with you at dawn."

The two younger brothers then discussed the way to overcome Hunbatz and Hunchouén. 3 "We shall only change their nature, their appearance; and so let our word be fulfilled, 4 for all the suffering that they have caused us. They wanted us to die, that we might be lost, we, their younger brothers. In their hearts 5 they really believe that we have come to be their servants. For these reasons we shall overcome them and teach them a lesson." Thus they spoke.

Then they went toward the foot of the tree called Canté. 6 They were accompanied by their two elder brothers and they were shooting their blowguns. It was not possible to count the birds which sang in the tree, and their elder brothers marveled to see so many birds. There were birds, but not one fell at the foot of the tree.

"Our birds do not fall to the ground. Go and fetch them down," they said to their elder brothers.

"Very well," the latter answered. And then they climbed the tree; but the tree became larger and the trunk swelled. Then Hunbatz and Hunchouén wanted to come down but they could not come down from the top of the tree.

Then they called from the treetop. "What has happened to us, our brothers? Unfortunate we. This tree frightens us only to look at it. Oh, our brothers!" they called from the treetop. And Hunahpú and Xbalanqué answered: "Loosen your breechclouts; 7 tie them below your stomach, leaving the long ends hanging and pull these from behind, and

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in this way you can walk easily." Thus said the younger brothers.

"Very well," they answered, pulling the ends of their belts back, but instantly these were changed into tails and they took on the appearance of monkeys. Then they hopped over the branches of the trees, among the great woods and little woods, and they buried themselves in the forest, making faces and swinging in the branches of the trees.

In this way Hunbatz and Hunchouén were overcome by Hunahpú and Xbalanqué; and only because of their magic could they have done it.

Then they returned to their home, and when they arrived they spoke to their grandmother and their mother, and said to them: "What could it be, grandmother, that has happened to our elder brothers, that suddenly their faces turned into the faces of animals?" So they said.

"If you have done any harm to your elder brothers, you have hurt me and have filled me with sadness. Do not do such a thing to your brothers, oh, my children," said the old woman to Hunahpú and Xbalanqué.

And they replied to their grandmother:

"Do not grieve, our grandmother. You shall see our brother's faces again; they shall return, but it will be a difficult trial for you, grandmother. Be careful that you do not laugh at them. And now, let us cast our lot," they said.

Immediately they began to play their flutes, playing the song of Hunahpú-Qoy. 8 Then they sang, playing the flute and drum, picking up their flutes and their drum. Afterward they sat down close to their grandmother and continued playing and calling back [their brothers] with music and song, intoning the song, called Hunahpú-Qoy.

At last, Hunbatz and Hunchouén came and began to

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dance; but when the old woman saw their ugly faces, she began to laugh, unable to control her laughter, and they went away at once and she did not see their faces again.

"Now you see, grandmother! They have gone to the forest. What have you done, grandmother of ours? We may make this trial but four times and only three are left. Let us call them [back again] with flute and with song, but you, try to control your laughter. Let the trial begin!" said Hunahpú and Xbalanqué.

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Immediately they began again to play. Hunbatz and Hunchouén returned dancing, and came as far as the center of the court of the house 9 grimacing and provoking their grandmother to laughter, until finally she broke into loud laughter. They were really very amusing with their monkey faces, their broad bottoms, their narrow tails, and the hole of their stomach. 10 all of which made the old woman laugh.

Again the [elder brothers] went back to the woods. And Hunahpú and Xbalanqué said: "And now what shall we do, grandmother? We shall try once again, this third time."

They played the flute again, and the monkeys returned dancing. The grandmother contained her laughter. Then they went up over the kitchen; their eyes gave off a red light; they drew away and scrubbed their noses and frightened each other with the faces they made.

And as the grandmother saw all of this, she burst into violent laughter; and they did not see the faces [of the elder brothers] again because of the old woman's laughter.

"Only once more shall we call them, grandmother, so that they shall come for the fourth time," said the boys. They began again, then, to play the flute, but [their brothers] did not return the fourth time, instead they fled into the forest as quickly as they could.

The boys said to their grandmother: "We have done everything possible, dear grandmother; they came once, then we tried to call them again. But do not grieve, here we are, your grandchildren; you must look to us, oh, our mother! Oh, our grandmother! to remind you of our elder brothers, those who were called and have the names of Hunbatz and Hunchouén," said Hunahpú and Xbalanqué.

They were invoked by the musicians and singers, and

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by the old people. The painters and craftsmen also invoked them in days gone by. 11 But they were changed into animals and became monkeys because they became arrogant and abused their brothers.

In this way they were disgraced; this was their loss, in this way Hunbatz and Hunchouén were overcome and became animals. They had always lived in their home; they were musicians and singers and also did great things when they lived with their grandmother and with their mother.


63:1 p. 215 X-c'ah rumal qui chaquimal, qui gag vachibal puch cumal Hunbatz, Hunchouén.

63:2 Xere qu'etaam ri qui qoheic, queheri zac ca qu'ilo.

63:3 X-caminac cut qui naoh qui cabichal chirech qui chaquic Hunbatz, Hunchouén. This passage was not understood by Brasseur de Bourbourg. Of the translators of the Popol Vuh, only Ximénez has interpreted it correctly as: "And the two having talked to each other, about the overthrowal of Hun-batz and Hun-chouen."

63:4 Ca tzih ta ch'uxoc, literally, "that our word and command be fulfilled."

63:5 Chi qui qux, literally, "in their hearts."

63:6 Canté, yellow wood, Gliricidia sepium. A tree from the roots of which the Maya obtained a substance which yielded a yellow color, according to the Diccionario de Motul. In Yucatán it is known by the name Zac-yab, and in Central America as Madre de cacao. Standley, Flora of Yucatan.

63:7 Ch'y quira y vex. Unfasten your trousers, or breechclout; probably a simple loin cloth similar to the maxtatl of the Mexican Indians and the ex of the Maya is meant here.

63:8 The monkey of Hunahpú.

63:9 X-e ul chic u nicahal u va ha, literally, "they came to the edge of the house."

63:10 U chi qui qux, literally, "the mouth of their stomachs."

63:11 The painters and carvers of Yucatán invoked Hunchevén and Hunahau, who were the younger sons of Ixchel and Itzammá (a god and goddess whom the Maya of the peninsula venerated), according to Bishop Las Casas ("De los libros y de las tradiciones religiosas que había en Guatemala," Apologética Historia de las Indias, Chap. CCXXXV). Those younger sons--the chronicler says--were not gods but divine men. Their names are evidently p. 216 those of the days of the Maya calendar, 1 Chuén and 1 Ahau. The reader will easily notice the similarity between the Quiché youths and the Maya demigods. Bishop Las Casas writes in this connection: "All the trained workmen like the painters, the workers in feathers, the carvers, silversmiths, and others like them, worshiped and made sacrifice to those younger sons called Hunchevén and Hunahau, so that they would grant them the talent and skill needed to do a finished, perfect piece of work.

Next: II. Chapter 6