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Trickster Myths, Music, and History from the Amazon

Jonathan D. Hill

Publication Year: 2008

Made-from-Bone provides the first complete set of English translations of narratives about the mythic past and its transformations from the indigenous Arawak-speaking Wakuenai of southernmost Venezuela. The central character throughout these primordial times is a trickster-creator, Made-from-Bone, who survives a prolonged series of life-threatening attacks. Carefully recorded and transcribed by Jonathan D. Hill, these narratives offer scholars of South America and other areas the only ethnographically generated cosmogony of contemporary or ancient native peoples of South America.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: Introducing Made-from-Bone, the Trickster-Creator

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pp. xi-xxii

My goal in the following pages is to provide a complete set of English translations of Wakuénai narratives about the mythic past and its transformations. Wakuénai storytellers refer to these narratives by the phrase yákuti úupi pérri, or “words from the primordial times,” and they are set in an unfinished spacetime...

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1. The Arawakan Wakuenai of Venezuela

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pp. 1-18

The Wakuénai, or Curripaco, live at the headwaters of the Río Negro, a region that is politically divided among the three countries of Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. From a modern perspective, the Wakuénai appear to be located in a marginal area that is far removed from major centers of power...

Part 1: Words from the Primordial Times

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pp. 20-24

The primordial times are explored in a cycle of narratives that focus on the invincibility of Made-from-Bone (Iñápirríkuli). These narratives are set in the distant past, before there were cultural distinctions between human and animal beings, men and women,...

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2. Narratives from the Primordial Times

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pp. 25-56

Great Sickness had a wife. That woman had a brother. Great Sickness killed his wife’s brother. They gathered the bones. The wife of Great Sickness gathered the bones of her dead brother. She kept them in a hollow gourd and tied the top shut. She never left the gourd. Great Sickness said, “Why is it that she...

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3. Ethnohistorical Interlude: Historical Themes in the Myth of Made-from-Bone and Anaconda-Person

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pp. 57-68

This chapter arises from a specific connection between the mythic narrative about Made-from-Bone and the Anaconda-Person (Uliámali) and the widespread practice of using necklaces made of shells and beads as a form of currency during the colonial period. Taken in isolation, the occurrence of a...

Part 2: The World Begins

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pp. 70-74

In the narratives set in the times called “The World Begins” (Hekuápi Ikéeñuakawa), the trickster-creator uses his skills of trickery to get things from various animal-persons and mythic beings. Made-from-Bone obtains nighttime and sleep from Grandfather...

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4. Narratives from "The World Begins"

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pp. 75-91

Made-from-Bone went to work, grew tired, and returned home all the time. He went again, returned, drank patsiáka, and finished; he was tired. He went again; it was like this all the time. He did not know how to rest. “It’s not good how we are living,” said Made-from-Bone....

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5. Ethnomusicological Interlude: The Catfish Trumpet Festival of 1981, or How to Ask for a Drink in Curripaco

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pp. 92-107

There are a group of musical performances, dances, and other activities that make up pudáli, a tradition of ceremonial exchange that originated in the time of “The World Begins.” The origin of pudáli and the accompanying subgenre of ceremonial dance music, called mádzerukái, marked a crucial...

Part 3: The World Opens Up

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pp. 110-116

In the third and final period of mythic history, or “The World Opens Up,” Made-from-Bone continues to display the same powers of omniscience and invincibility that he has wielded since his creation in primordial times and that become the basis of his fame...

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6. Naratives from "The World Opens Up"

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pp. 117-146

First-Woman lived in Muthípani.1 They lived there as a single family, since there was no other group of people to live with them. Made-from-Bone was there; First-Woman [Ámaru] was his aunt [father’s sister]. He had sexual intercourse with First-Woman, his aunt. They hid their sexual relations from...

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7. Ethnological Coda: Shamanizing the State in Venezuela

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pp. 147-156

The narrative about Temedawí, the magical city of the Yópinai, spirits of the forest, rivers, and air, serves as a historical metaphor for the sociopolitical transformations unfolding at local, regional, and national levels in Venezuela at the time of my fieldwork in June through December 1998. The sociopolitical circumstances of indigenous peoples in the Venezuelan Amazon...

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Appendix A: A Note on Translation Methods

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pp. 157-159

Translating indigenous verbal artistry from oral performances in the original language to written texts in English is a difficult process of balancing the need to preserve important features of form and meaning from the original performances against the goal of making readable English texts. Translation is always an act of...

Appendix B: AILLA Numbers for Narratives, Music, Dances, and Illustrations

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pp. 160-161


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pp. 163-169


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pp. 171-175

References Cited

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pp. 177-184


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pp. 185-195

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252091513
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252033735

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Curripaco Indians -- Folklore.
  • Curripaco mythology.
  • Curripaco Indians -- Songs and music.
  • Tricksters -- Venezuela.
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