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← The myth of the stolen eyeballs - Nathan D. Horowitz

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Showing Revision 5 created 10/08/2020 by lauren mcalpine .

  1. Deep in the Amazon rainforest
    in the river Nea’ocoyá,
  2. lived,
    according to Siekopai legend,
  3. a school
    of particularly big and tasty fish.
  4. When the rains came and the water rose,
    the fish appeared,

  5. swimming away as the waters fell again.
  6. The villagers along the river reveled
    in this occasional bounty—
  7. and wanted more.
  8. They followed them upriver deep
    into the jungle
  9. to a lagoon that thundered
    with the sound of flapping fish.
  10. The whole village set up camp
    by the lagoon,

  11. bringing barbasco, a poison they would put
    in the water to stun the fish.
  12. Meanwhile, their young shaman took a walk.
  13. He sensed he might not be
    completely alone.
  14. Then, he came to a monse tree
    humming so loudly
  15. he could hear it even above the thunder
    of the fish.
  16. With that, he was sure:
    spirits lived here.
  17. Back at camp, he warned his people
    these fish had an owner.

  18. He would find the owner.
  19. Until he returned, no one should fish.
  20. He went to the humming tree.

  21. Inside was a hollow as big as a house,
    full of busy weavers.
  22. Their chief invited him in,
  23. explaining that the juicy
    little siripia fruits were ripening,
  24. and they were weaving
    baskets to collect them.
  25. Though they looked and acted like people,
  26. the shaman knew they were juri,
    or air goblins,
  27. who could fly and control the winds.
  28. They taught him how to weave.
  29. Before the shaman left,

  30. the goblin chief whispered
    some cryptic instructions in his ear.
  31. Finally, he told him to tie
    a pineapple shoot outside a hollow log
  32. and sleep inside that night.
  33. Back at camp, the villagers were fishing
    with barbasco poison, cooking, and eating.

  34. Only the shaman’s little sister refrained.
  35. Then, everyone else fell
    into a deep sleep.
  36. The shaman and his sister
    yelled and shook them,
  37. but they wouldn’t wake.
  38. It was getting dark,
    so the shaman and his sister

  39. tied the pineapple sprout outside
    the hollow log and crawled inside.
  40. A strong wind rose—
    the mark of the air goblins.
  41. It broke branches
    and brought down trees.
  42. Caymans, boas and jaguars roared.
  43. The water began to rise.
  44. The fish flopped off the drying racks
    and swam away.
  45. The pineapple sprout turned into a dog.

  46. All night it barked, keeping the jungle
    creatures away from the fallen tree.
  47. When dawn broke, the flood receded.

  48. The fish were gone,
    and most of the people were, too:
  49. the jungle animals had devoured them.
  50. Only the shaman’s relatives survived.
  51. When his family turned toward him,
  52. the shaman realized what the goblins meant
    when they said the fruits were ripening:
  53. they weren’t really collecting
    siripia fruits at all,
  54. but human eyes.
  55. The shaman’s older sister called him over,

  56. trying to touch his face
    with her long, sharp nails.
  57. He backed away and, remembering
    the goblin chief’s instructions,
  58. threw palm seeds at her face.
  59. The seeds became eyes.
  60. But then she transformed
    into a white-lipped peccary and ran away—
  61. still alive, but no longer human.
  62. The shaman and his little sister’s
    whole community was gone.

  63. They went to live with another village,
  64. where he taught everyone to weave baskets,
    as the air goblins had taught him.
  65. But he couldn’t forget the last
    of the goblin chief’s words,

  66. which told him how to get revenge.
  67. He returned to the air goblins’ home
    carrying chili peppers wrapped in leaves.
  68. As the goblins watched
    through their peepholes,

  69. the shaman made a fire
    and put the chili peppers on it.
  70. The fire began to smoke the tree out.
  71. The goblins who had eaten
    people’s eyes died.
  72. Those who hadn’t
    were light enough to fly away.
  73. So the goblins, like the humans,
    paid a steep price.

  74. But they also lived to tell the tale,
    like the shaman.
  75. In Siekopai legend, where the spirit
    and human worlds meet,
  76. there are no clear victors,
  77. and even death
    is an opportunity for renewal.