Place: Paraguay

Translation Tuesday: Myths of the Nivaklé

Three unsettling myths of an indigenous tribe of Paraguay, translated by Elisa Taber

The Nivaklé are an indigenous tribe of the Gran Chaco, a sparsely populated region of Paraguay referred to as “the green hell.” These stories pertain to ethnographic statements by indigenous informants, compiled by the anthropologist Miguel Chase Sardi. Masking cultural identity is a recurring theme in this polyglot society’s mythology. Enacting submission to preserve agency seems contradictory. However, the narrative devices employed render a convincing mode of defying assimilation. By translating the informant’s statements I attempt to extract the narrative potential of these myths, in addition to making the work intelligible in English.

The Unfurrowing of Birds

We treat them like lepers because their mother became a savage. Collecting parrot eggs with her husband incited the change. Something shifted as he hacked a hole in the trunk and extracted the parrot’s nest within.

“Catch them,” he called down as he dropped a frail egg. His wife caught it. Instead of placing it in the basket, the woman broke the shell and consumed the chick. She swallowed the following one whole.

The nest was nearly empty. Her husband peered down and discovered that so was the nest. READ MORE…