Hunter of Stories

Eduardo Galeano

Artwork by Jiin Choi


Wind smooths over the tracks of gulls.

Rain washes away human steps.

Sun bleaches the scars of time.

Storytellers seek the footprints of lost memory, love and pain that cannot be seen but are never erased.

Elegy to Travel

In the pages of A Thousand and One Nights, this advice appears:

Get going, friend! Drop everything and get going! Of what use is an arrow if it never flies from the bow? How good would the melodious lute sound if it were still a piece of wood?


By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.

Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.

Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.



The world is on the move.

On board are more shipwrecked souls than successful seafarers.

Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood.

The illusions of any who manage to arrive do not last long.



It spreads seeds, guides clouds, tests sailors.

Sometimes it cleanses the air; sometimes it dirties it.

Sometimes it brings close what was far off and sometimes it scatters what was close by.

Invisible and untouchable, it caresses or strikes, whispers or roars.

Some think it says, “I blow wherever I wish.”

But no one really understands.

Does it announce what is to come?

Weather forecasters in China are known as “mirrors of the wind.”


Rice’s Journey

In Asia rice is cultivated with meticulous care. At harvest the stalks are gently cut and gathered into bunches, so that evil winds do not carry off its soul.

The people of Sichuan remember the fiercest flood that has ever been or will be: it occurred in ancient times and it drowned the rice, body and soul.

Only a dog survived.

After the flood finally turned and the angry waters began to abate, he managed to reach shore, swimming hard.

The dog had a grain of rice stuck to his tail.

In that grain lay the soul.


Lost Breath

Before the before, when time was not yet time and the
world was not yet the world, we were all gods.

Brahma, the Hindu god, could not bear the competition, so he stole our divine breath and concealed it in a secret hiding place.

Ever since, we have lived in search of our lost breath. We seek it in the depths of the sea and on the highest peaks.

From his great distance, Brahma smiles.



On the banks of the Platte River the Pawnee Indians speak of the origin.

Not even once had the paths of the evening star and the morning star crossed.

They wanted to meet.

The moon agreed to guide them to a rendezvous, but halfway there she threw them into the abyss, then spent several nights chuckling at her joke.

The stars were not discouraged. Desire gave them the strength to scale the precipice back up to the high heavens.

There, far above, they embraced so passionately that no one could tell which was which.

And from that incomparable coupling we wanderers of the world arose.



Tezcatlipoca, Mexican god of the night, sent his son to sing alongside the crocodile musicians of heaven.

The sun was against it, but the black god, the outlawed beauty, paid no heed and brought together the voices of heaven and earth.

Thus were united silence and sound, chants and music, day and night, darkness and color. And thus they all learned to live together.


The New World

Ulysses, driven by the wind, might have been the first Greek to see the ocean.

I can only imagine his astonishment when his ship passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and before his eyes lay that immense expanse, guarded by the ever-open maws of monsters.

It would not have crossed the mariner’s mind that beyond those salty waters and roaring winds lay a mystery even more immense and still without a name.


Satanic Diversity

In Peru, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the priest Bernabé Cobo finished writing his History of the New World.

Cobo set out in that voluminous work the reason why indigenous America had so many gods and such diverse versions of the origins of its peoples.

The reason was straightforward: the Indians were ignorant.

A century before, the scribe Juan de Betanzos, principal advisor of conquistador Francisco Pizarro, had revealed another, more powerful reason: Satan dictated what the Indians believed; that was why they did not share one religion and why they confused Good with Evil and had so many conflicting ideas.

“The Devil sends them thousands of illusions and ruses,” he decreed.


Barbaric Customs

The British conquerors were cross-eyed with astonishment.

They came from a civilized nation, where women were the property of their husbands and owed them obedience, as the Bible insists, but in America the world was upside down.

They suspected the Iroquois women were libertines. Women had their own opinions and their own possessions. They had the right to divorce and could vote in community decisions. Husbands did not even have the right to punish the women that belonged to them.

The white invaders could no longer sleep in peace, for the customs of the pagan savages might prove contagious.



Indigenous divinities were the first victims of the conquest of America.

“Extirpation of idolatry” is what the victors called the war that condemned the gods to silence.

translated from the Spanish by Mark Fried