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The Thunder God´s Son - Peruvian folktale

The Thunder God´s Son

A Peruvian Folktale (Illustrations by Ariana Dewey)

Young Acuri, son of the thunder god, is sent down to earth by his father to learn about the ways of man. Acuri's adventurous apprenticeship is served against an exotic setting of talking foxes, many-colored llamas and huge, threatening serpents. He encounters greed, dishonesty, and vanity among humans, and under the protective all-powerful eye of his father, he learns both to punish and to reward. His schooling over, he returns to the heavens a very much wiser young god.

On Acuri's thirteenth birthday, his father, the thunder god Paricaca, said: "My son, disguise yourself as a beggar and go down to earth. It is time you learned more than you know. Do not be afraid, for I will never be far away." Acuri disguised himself, said goodbye to his father, and set off.

thunder gods son peruvian folktale

One day, as he was passing through a forest, he overheard two foxes talking. "The man who owns this land has made a fortune selling the wool of his many-colored llamas,'' said one fox, "but he is so selfish he spends all his money on himself and his wife and will help no one."

"And so vain," added the other, "that he even put a roof of yellow and red feathers on his house."

"Did you know that despite everything she has, the wife steals gold rings and hides them behind a loose stone next to the door?" said the first fox.

"But at last, they are being punished for their greed,'' said the second. "The old man has a raging fever, and nothing seems to help him."

As Acuri was thinking about what the foxes had said, he heard his father's voice. "Go to the house with the feathered roof," Paricaca said. "When you get there, you will know what to do."

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The house was not hard to find. Acuri knocked on the door and a rude voice shouted, "What do you want?"

"I have come to cure the sick man," Acuri replied.

"Then don't just stand there. Do something!" the voice bellowed.

Acuri went inside. The rich man lay in a hammock, groaning.

"There is a two-headed toad hiding under the grindstone,'' Acuri told him. "It is casting an evil spell that causes your fever. I can get rid of the toad, but you must promise to share your wealth with the rest of the village, and I would like to remain a guest in your house for a while."

"All right, all right," grumbled the rich man. "I promise, and you can stay as long as you like. Just make me well."

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Acuri caught the two-headed toad and threw it into the river. No sooner was the toad gone, than so was the fever. Just then the rich man's wife returned. When she saw Acuri, she screamed, "Get out of my house, you dirty beggar!"

"Calm yourself," begged her husband. "This boy has cured me, and I have promised that he may stay as long as he likes."

Ignoring the wife's rudeness, Acuri said to her, "I hear that you are so fond of gold rings that you steal them whenever you can." He removed the stone next to the door and took out a handful of gold rings.

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Her husband was furious and was about to hit his wife, when Acuri stopped him.

"She won't steal anymore," Acuri assured him. "The two serpents hovering over the house were sent by Paricaca to swallow her up."

"Ha!" scoffed the wife. But she and her husband ran to the window to Iook out. The serpents slid into view.

"My wife will promise you anything, if you will save her," the rich man pleaded.

"Do stay with us as long as you Iike," the wife begged.

"I will never steal again. Only get rid of the serpents." "Very well,'' said Acuri.

The serpents were huge and Paricaca flew down to help his son. Together they tied the serpents in knots and dropped them into the jungle to untangle themselves.

thunder gods son peruvian folktale 18

Some days later, Rupay, the couple's son, returned from a trip. When he saw Acuri, he was disgusted at having a beggar as a guest in their house.

I will make that beggar look like a fool and then my father will throw him out, he thought to himself. "Let's have a contest," he said to Acuri. "Let's see who has the handsomest costume, who can drink the most chicha (fermented drink) and dance the longest. We'll meet here at sunset."

Acuri agreed.

Then he called to his father to ask his advice. Paricaca, who enjoyed a good challenge, said, "Here is a red puma skin. That will be your costume. Now go to the mountain pasture and wait. The two foxes will come by. One will bring you a jar of magic chicha and the other a flute. Then you will have what you need."

It was time for the contest to begin. The puma skin looked like a rainbow and the jar remained full of magic chicha. As much as he drank, Acuri did not become drunk or tired and he danced for hours to the rhythm of the flute. Rupay's costume was a mess. Someone had pulled half the feathers out of his headdress and torn away the gold beads.

thunder gods son peruvian folktale

Without magic help, he soon became drunk and collapsed in a heap. When he opened his eyes, he saw his mother wearing a dress trimmed with his missing feathers and beads.

But Rupay would not give up. The next day he suggested another trial. "Let’s start right now and see who can build the best house the fastest," he said. He was confident of winning because he had already hired thirty men to help him. And indeed, by evening, his house was nearly finished, while Acuri had only managed to lay the foundation for his. Rupay went off to bed, sure that he had won.

When Rupay awoke, he shouted angrily at his workers, "You stupid louts, that beggar has beaten me again while you lay there sleeping."

thunder gods son peruvian folktale

And when the rich man saw Acuri's house, he wanted it.

"It's on my property, so it's mine," he declared.

Rupay was still not satisfied. "I can throw a stone higher than you can with my bola (a type of throwing weapon made of weights on the ends),'' he bragged to Acuri.

"Show me," Acuri replied.

Rupay hurled his bola ball with all his strength. It flew up and up, but suddenly it collided with a thunderbolt that Paricaca placed in its path.

thunder gods son peruvian folktale

The thunderbolt shattered and fell to earth as rain and hail. There was a deluge.

"Run for cover," cried the rich man, just as a huge wave washed his house away. And while the rich man, his wife, and their son were still running, Paricaca changed them into deer, and so they remained.

thunder gods son peruvian folktale

The storm was over, the sun carne out, and Acuri led the wonderful llamas to the mountain pasture to graze. He gave them as a gift to the villagers, so that all could share in the riches their wool would bring.

Then Acuri took off his beggar's clothes. It was time to return home.

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