The Tale of Antú and Cuyen

A Pehuenche creation tale

Image from http://www.veselka.by

At the very beginning of all time Ngünechen created Antú, the sun, and Cuyen, the moon. He fashioned them in the form of two young lovers who would reign over the Pehuenche lands and care for the people. Cuyen was pale of face, with wide eyes that sparkled light blue; she was warm, tender and caring and looked after the women and children. Antú was made tall and strong, with the flaming red hair and the ruddy face of a warrior; it was his job to care for the men of the tribe.

At first all went well between them, but as the years went by Antú became more self-centred and began to lose some of the care and fondness he had previously shown for the Pehuenche people. He became bad tempered, and when he was angry he would give off so much heat that those near him would get burned. When Cuyen reproached him for this he became even more furious with her and struck her around the head and face so hard that she nearly fell to earth. So angry was he that all the Pehuenches around him were exposed to the heat of his temper, which is why they are dark-skinned today.

Cuyen was beaten so badly that her face was for ever marked with the fingers of Antú, as you can see today if you look up to the night sky. After that it was clear that the flame that had been their love was extinguished and they hardly ever saw each other again, with one of them only coming out during the day and the other in the night.

For the sensitive Cuyen this separation brought great sadness. She could be seen at night, wan and downhearted, wandering through the fields of amancays and mutisias, through the forests of pehuenes y coihues. She still loved Antú, and her loss hurt her badly.

Night after night she reflected on what had been, until each dawn announced the arrival of Antú and it was time for her to retire. Sometimes she dreamed of their getting back together, but could not now see how, when they never even talked to each other any more. Had she but known it, Antú, who was not such a bad person apart from his short temper, had been harbouring similar thoughts but he was too proud to approach his wife and beg her pardon.

And so things stayed, until in the fading light of a young spring day Antú saw a young Pehuenche girl gathering flowers by a meadow brook. He fell for her immediately and swept her up, flying high, high into the firmament where he set her to be his companion for ever. He called her Collipal, or ‘Golden Star’; we still see her today and know her as the Evening Star, or more properly the planet Venus.

Such was Antú’s new love that he forgot completely and for ever his old love Cuyen, but it didn’t take long for her to realise that something had changed. At dusk one evening Cuyen saw Antú and Collipal close together, and it was crystal clear to her that her dreams of their getting back together were dashed for ever, and that she could and would never be with Antú again.

Realising that it really was all over her eyes filled with tears and she cried and cried and cried. She cried for such a long time that her tears formed a large pool, and that pool we know today as the Alumine Lake. From there, the water spilled into all the other streams and rivers of the south that we see today.

And since that day, in the clear and calm Patagonian nights, those limpid waters reflect Cuyen’s eternal yet hopeless love for Antú.

 

 

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