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p. 79

II. Chapter 9

This was the first test of Xibalba. The Lords of Xibalba thought that [the boys'] entrance there would be the beginning of their downfall. After a while [the boys] entered the House of Gloom; immediately lighted sticks of fat pine were given them and the messengers of Hun-Camé also took a cigar to each one.

"'These are their pine sticks,' said the lord; 'they must return them at dawn, tomorrow, together with the cigars, and you must bring them back whole,' said the lord." So said the messengers when they arrived.

"Very well," [the boys] replied. But they really did not [light] the sticks of pine, instead they put a red-colored thing in place of them, or some feathers from the tail of the macaw, which to the night watches 1 looked like lighted pine sticks. And as for the cigars, they attached fireflies to their end. 2

All night [everybody] thought they were defeated. "They are lost," said the night watchmen. But the pine sticks had not been burned and looked the same, and the cigars had not been lighted and looked the same as before.

They went to tell the lords.

"How is this? Whence have they come? Who conceived them? Who gave birth to them? This really troubles us,

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because it is not well what they do. Their faces are strange, and strange is their conduct." they said to each other.

Soon all the lords summoned [the boys].

"Eh! Let us play ball, boys!" they said. At the same time they were questioned by Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé:

"Where did you come from? Tell us, boys!" said the Lords of Xibalba.

"Who knows whence we came! We do not know," they said, and nothing more.

"Very well. Let us play ball, boys," said the Lords of Xibalba.

"Good," they replied. 3

"We shall use our ball," said the Lords of Xibalba. 4

"By no means, shall you use [your ball], but ours," the boys answered.

"Not that one, but ours we shall use," insisted the Lords of Xibalba.

"Very well," said the boys.

"Let us play for a worm, the chil," 5 said the Lords of Xibalba.

"No, but instead, the head of the puma shall speak," 6 said the boys.

"Not that," said those of Xibalba.

"Very well," said Hunahpú.

Then the Lords of Xibalba seized the ball; they threw it directly at the ring of Hunahpú. Immediately, while those of Xibalba grasped the handle of the knife of flint, 7 the ball rebounded and bounced all around the floor of the ball-court.

"What is this?" exclaimed Hunahpú and Xbalanqué. "You wish to kill us? Perchance you did not send to call us? And your own messengers did not come? In truth, unfortunate

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are we! We shall leave at once," the boys said to them.

This was exactly what those of Xibalba wanted to have happen to the boys, that they would die immediately, right there in the ball-court and thus they would be overcome. But it did not happen thus, and it was the Lords of Xibalba who were defeated by the boys.

"Do not leave, boys, let us go on playing ball, but we shall use your ball," they said to the boys.

"Very well," the boys answered and then they drove their ball 8 through [the ring of Xibalba], and with this the game ended.

And offended by their defeat, the men of Xibalba immediately said: "What shall we do in order to overcome them?" And turning to the boys they said to them: "Go gather and bring us, early tomorrow morning, 9 four gourds of flowers." So said the men of Xibalba to the boys.

"Very well. And what kind of flowers?" they asked the men of Xibalba.

"A branch of red chiptlín, a branch of white chiptlín, a branch of yellow chiptlín, and a branch of carinimac," said the men of Xibalba. 10

"Very well," replied the boys.

Thus the talk ended; equally strong and vigorous were the words of the boys. And their hearts were calm when they gave themselves up to be overcome.

The Lords of Xibalba were happy, thinking that they had already defeated them.

"This has turned out well for us. First they must cut them [the flowers]," 11 said the Lords of Xibalba. "Where shall they go to get the flowers?" they said to themselves.

"Surely you will give us our flowers tomorrow early; 12

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go, then, to cut them," 13 the Lords of Xibalba said to Hunahpú and Xbalanqué.

"Very well," they replied. "At dawn 14 we shall play ball again," they said upon leaving.

And immediately the boys entered the House of Knives, the second place of torture in Xibalba. And what the lords wanted was that they would be cut to pieces by the knives, and would be quickly killed; that is what they Wished in their hearts.

But the [boys] did not die. They spoke at once to the knives 15 and said to them:

"Yours shall be the flesh of all the animals," they said to the knives. And they did not move again, but all the knives were quiet.

Thus they passed the night in the House of Knives, and calling all the ants, they said to them: "Come, Cutting Ants, 16 come, zompopos17 and all of you go at once, go and bring all the kinds of flowers that we must cut for the lords."

"Very well," they said, and all the ants went to bring the flowers from the gardens of Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé.

Previously [the lords] had warned the guards of the flowers of Xibalba: "Take care of our flowers, do not let them be taken by the boys who shall come to cut them. But how could [the boys] see and cut the flowers? 18 Not at all. Watch, then, all night!"

"Very well," they answered. But the guards of the garden heard nothing. Needlessly they shouted up into the branches of the trees in the garden. There they were all night, repeating their same shouts and songs.

"Ixpurpuvec! Ixpurpuvec!" one shouted.

"Puhuyú! Puhuyú!" the other answered. 19

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Puhuyú was the name of the two who watched the garden of Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé. 20 But they did not notice the ants who were robbing them of what they were guarding, turning around and moving here and there, cutting the flowers, climbing the trees to cut the flowers, and gathering them from the ground at the foot of the trees.

Meanwhile the guards went on crying, and they did not feel the teeth which were cutting their tails and their wings.

And thus the ants carried, between their teeth, the flowers which they took down, and gathering them from the ground, they went on carrying them with their teeth.

Quickly they filled the four gourds with flowers, which

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were moist [with dew] when it dawned. 21 Immediately the messengers arrived to get them. "'Tell them to come,' the lord has said, 'and bring here instantly what they have cut,'" they said to the boys.

"Very well," the [boys] answered. And carrying the flowers in the four gourds, they went, and when they arrived before the lord [of Xibalba] and the other lords, it was lovely to see the flowers they had brought. And in this way the Lords of Xibalba were overcome.

The boys had only sent the ants [to cut the flowers], and in a night the ants cut them and put them in the gourds.

Instantly the Lords of Xibalba paled and their faces became livid because of the flowers. They sent at once for the guardians of the flowers. "Why did you permit them to steal our flowers? These which we see here are our flowers," they said to the guardians.

"We noticed nothing, my lord. Our tails also suffered," they answered. And then the [lords] tore at their mouths as a punishment for having let that which was under their care be stolen.

Thus were Hun-Camé and Vucub-Camé defeated by Hunahpú and Xbalanqué. And this was the beginning of their deeds. From that time the mouth of the owl is divided, cleft as it is today.

Immediately they went down to play ball, and also they played several tie-matches. Then they finished playing and agreed to play again the following day at dawn. So said the Lords of Xibalba.

"It is well," said the boys upon finishing.


84:1 p. 217 Varanel, the "night guards."

84:2 Caca chicop, insect of fire, glowworms. As in English, the firefly.

84:3 p. 218 In order to understand better the passages of the Popol Vuh in which the ball game is spoken of, it is well to read Sahagún's description of it (Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España, Vol. II, Book VIII, Chap X, p. 297), which follows: ". . . At other times the lord played ball for his pastime, and for this balls of ulli were kept; these balls were about the size of some large balls for bowling [and] they were solid, of a certain resin or gum which they called ulli, which is very light and bounces like an inflated ball; and he also brought with him good ball players who played before him and other principal men played on the opposite [team] and they won gold and chalchiguites and beads of gold, and turquoise, and slaves, and rich mantles, and maxtles, and cornfields and houses, etc. [feathers, cacao, cloaks of feather]. . . . the ballcourt was called tlaxtli or tlachtli and consisted of two walls, twenty or thirty feet apart, and were up to forty or fifty feet in length; the walls and the floor were whitewashed, and were about eight and a half feet high, and in the middle of the court was a line which was used in the game. In the middle of the walls, in the center of the court, were two stones, like millstones hollowed out, opposite each other, and each one had a hole wide enough to contain the ball for each one of them. And the one who put the ball in it won the game; they did not play with their hands, but instead struck the ball with their buttocks; for playing, they wore gloves on their hands and a belt of leather on their buttocks, with which to strike the ball."

84:4 Brasseur de Bourbourg intentionally changes the order of this part of the dialogue. The order has been re-established here according to the original Quiché, to which both Ximénez and I adhere, as may be seen in the former's first version (1857).

84:5 Chil, a caterpillar which, according to Ximénez in his Tesoro, clings. This may be the centipede, according to the Vocabulario Maya-Quiché-Cakchiquel que se habla en la laguna de Atitlán.

84:6 This passage is very vague, and Brasseur de Bourbourg even says that it is unintelligible. There is an evident play of words concerned in it. The original says: He bala xa hu chil, x-e cha Xibalba. Ma bala, xa holom coh cha chic, x-e cha qaholab. Bala is an indefinite word used to give emphasis to the account, and is sometimes also an adverb of place. It seems, nevertheless, that here it is repeated in the text to appear like balam, as though wishing to say: "The head of the jaguar [balam] does not rule here, but the head of the puma [coh]." These seem to be terms of the ancient ball game. Surmounting the side of the imposing ball-court of Chichén-Itzá is the Temple of the jaguars, so called because of the figures of these animals which are engraved on its walls. Undoubtedly the jaguar had some connection with the ball game.

84:7 p. 219 Catepuch ta x-qu il Xibalba ri zaqui tog, ta x-el chupam ri quic. The lords of Xibalba, without losing time, wanted to kill their guests with the sacrificial knife and only were deterred from this intention by the just complaint which may be read in the following paragraph.

84:8 Are cu x-oc ri quic. Playing with their own ball, the youths had no difficulty in driving it through the ring of their opponents and thus winning the game.

84:9 Xa cacha ca cah cah zel cotzih. Cah is the numeral "four" and also the adverb "early."

84:10 Caca-muchih. Muchih or muchit is the name of a certain plant called chipilín, says Ximénez. It is a plant of the leguminous family, Crotalaria longirostrata. It has not been possible to identify the plant which the text calls Carinimac.

84:11 Nabe mi x-e ca chaco.

84:12 Quitzih ta agab ch'y ya ri ca cotzih. Here agab, agabá means at dawn, or daybreak, when night is over, and only by following this interpretation does this part of the story agree with that which appears farther on.

84:13 Ca chacom puch. Until now, the meaning of the verb chacón from chacá and chaqué, "to cut bunches of flowers," has escaped translators of the Popol Vuh.

84:14 Agabá the same as in the previous paragraph.

84:15 Ta x-e cha chire cha. Brasseur de Bourbourg observes here that the Quiché delighted in these plays on words. In this entire chapter the author uses the word cha, which means to talk, to say, lance, knife, glass, etc. The same may be said of the word cah used, as has been said in a previous note, as an adjective, a verb, and an adverb.

84:16 Chai-zanic, cutting ants.

84:17 Chequen-zanic, red or black ants which travel by night and cut the tender leaves and flowers. In Guatemala they are commonly known as zompopos, a Mexican word.

84:18 ¿Ana-vi x-pe vi r'ilo ca chacón cumal? Again the verb chacón, in the sense of cutting branches or flowers.

84:19 Purpuvec and puhuy are the names which the Quiché and Cakchiquel still give to the red or barn owl. They are words which imitate the call of these birds. "Puhuy, Pupuek, a night bird which travels when the moon is up, at night," says the Vocabulario de los P. P. Franciscanos. The birds of which the text speaks here seem to be rather the bird commonly called the churn owl. This word imitates the choppy call of those birds which are to be heard at a distance in the night. Puhuy is the Maya name of one of these night p. 220 birds. The Vocabulario de las lenguas Quiché y Cakchiquel defines these words as follows: Xpurpugüek, cuerpo-ruin; Puhuyú, chotacabra. Both names apply to the same bird, a member of the Caprimulgidae family.

84:20 Ri Puhuyú u bi e caib chi chahal ticon, u ticon Hun-Camé, Vucub-Camé.

84:21 Tiquitoh chicut ta x-zaquiric.

Next: II. Chapter 10