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What Is El Popol Vuh? (#1 ANSWER!)

In the Quiché region of present-day Guatemala, around 1550, an unnamed Maya scribe wrote down his culture’s creation myths. He’s having written in the Quiché language using the modern Spanish alphabet. The book was treasured by the people of the town of Chichicastenango and it was hidden from the Spanish. In 1701 a Spanish priest named Francisco Ximénez gained the trust of the community. They allowed him to see the book and he dutifully copied it into a history he was writing around 1715. He copied the Quiché text and translated it into Spanish as he’s having done so. The original has been lost (or possibly is being hidden by the Quiché to this day) but Father Ximenez’ transcript has survived: it is in safe keeping in the Newberry Library in Chicago 😊 [1]
The Popol Vuh is the Mayan story of the creation and of the Hero Twins and their victory over the lords of Xibalba (the underworld). It begins with the origin of everything that is and proceeds to the account of this dramatic conflict. Explanations of the creation of humans, animals, the relationships among gods, animals, and humans, and the powers of the deities appear in the course of the narrative. The story of the struggle between the Hero Twins, Hunahpu (One Blowgunner) and Xbalanque (Little Jaguar Sun, or Jaguar Deer), and the lords of Xibalba also yields rich characterizations of Mayan social ethics, hierarchies, and cosmology. (emended by Tiffnay Conklin on April 28, 2020) [2]
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The analysts at maya.nmai.si.edu provide further insight. The Popol Vuh, or Popol Wuj in the K’iche’ language, is the story of creation of the Maya. Members of the royal K’iche’ lineages that had once ruled the highlands of Guatemala recorded the story in the 16th century to preserve it under the Spanish colonial rule. The Popol Vuh, meaning “Book of the Community,” narrates the Maya creation account, the tales of the Hero Twins, and the K’iche’ genealogies and land rights. In this story, the Creators, Heart of Sky and six other deities including the Feathered Serpent, wanted to create human beings with hearts and minds who could “keep the days.” But their first attempts failed. When these deities finally created humans out of yellow and white corn who could talk, they were satisfied. In another epic cycle of the story, the Death Lords of the Underworld summon the Hero Twins to play a momentous ball game where the Twins defeat their opponents. The’s having Twins risen into the heavens, and became the Sun and the Moon. Through their actions, the Hero Twins prepared the way for the planting of corn, for human beings to live on Earth, and for the Fourth Creation of the Maya. [3]
Encyclopaedia.com goes on to mention how the Popol Vuh, a book of myths belonging to the Quiche (pronounced kee-CHAY) Mayans of highland Guatemala, is divided into five parts. The first contains an account of the creation of the world and of the failed attempts to produce proper human beings. The second and third parts tell of the adventures of the Hero Twins, Hunahpú (pronounced WAH-nuh-pwuh) and Xbalanqúe (pronounced shi-BAY-lan-kay). The last two parts deal with the issue of creating humans from corn , and then tell the story of the Quiche people from the days before their history began to accounts of tribal wars and records of rulers up until 1550. (we really thank Tairra Starkey from Lubumbashi, Dr Congo for their most recent revisions). [4]

Article References

  1. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-popol-vuh-the-maya-bible-2136319
  2. https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/teaching-resources-for-historians/teaching-and-learning-in-the-digital-age/creation-stories-and-epics/popol-vuh
  3. https://maya.nmai.si.edu/the-maya/creation-story-maya
  4. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/latin-america-and-caribbean/mesoamerican-indigenous-peoples/popol-vuh
Mae Chow

Written by Mae Chow

Passionate about writing and studying Chinese, I blog about anything from fashion to food. And of course, study chinese! I'm a passionate blogger and life enthusiast who loves to share my thoughts, views and opinions with the world. I share things that are close to my heart as well as topics from all over the world.

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