Maya legends are stories heard or told by the local families, passed from generation to generation and fascinating to the ears of people who listen to them for the first time.
There are plenty of stories about animals unsuccessfully trying to imitate their godfather, the Great Jaguar, here are two of them.
The Possum and the Jaguar
The mother of the small possum told her son, “I think it’s time for you to go out and find someone to be your godfather.”
So, the little possum went out to search for a godfather. First he headed for the jaguar’s lair. The jaguar came to attention thinking that this would be an easy meal. The possum, however, quickly shouted out the purpose of his visit. “Señor Jaguar, excuse me for bothering you, but the only thing I want is to ask if you would like to be my godfather.”
“Ah, so you want me to be your godfather?” the jaguar asked.
“Yes,” the possum replied.
“Very well, if that’s what you want, then that’s how it will be. Tomorrow I’ll come for you so that we can go out and eat,” the jaguar said.
“Very good, Godfather. I will be ready and waiting in the morning.”
The next day the jaguar arrived at the possum’s house and announced, “I have come to see my godson.”
“Of course,” the mother said. “Come in. He’s waiting for you.” So the possum went with his godfather to the plain where there was a spring with a little fountain .
There other animals came to drink. Then the jaguar told the possum, “Get up in that tree, and when I shout ‘now there’s meat’, you come quickly to find me.”
“Very good, I’ll do it, Godfather,” said the possum and hid himself among the limbs of the tree. At noon the thirsty cattle began to come down the hills to the spring, and the last to arrive was a black bull.
“Now I will procure some food for my godson,” said the jaguar. So while the bull was drinking the jaguar leaped out of his hiding place and attacked. He brought down the bull in the mud at the edge of the spring. When the meal was ready the jaguar shouted, “Godson, come quickly. “Eat all that you want, dear godson. There is plenty of meat,” the jaguar said.
The possum began to eat, but he could hardly finish a mouthful.
“Eat, eat, my godson. Don’t waste the food we now have so abundantly,” the jaguar said.
“Thank you godfather, but my stomach is very small and I cannot eat much,” the possum answered.
The jaguar ate all that he could and left part of the kill for other animals. As they were leaving his godson said, “Many thank;s godfather, now it is my turn to invite you to a banquet as you have invited me.”
On the day of the invitation the jaguar arrived at his godson’s house. This time the possum was ready to provide the food for the banquet, and the jaguar accompanied his godson in search of meat. The possum headed toward a little village where some laborers had chickens and turkeys in their pens. They paused at the edge of the village to wait until everyone went to sleep.
At midnight the possum entered a pen to hunt. One by one he was carrying off the chickens and turkeys for his godfather to eat. The jaguar said he was still hungry, so the possum returned to the pen to capture more hens. This time the hens made a great racket and woke up the farmers, who came out with dogs, sticks and machetes, ready to chase those who were ravaging the hen house. They searched the plain with flaming torches but found nothing.
A few days later the little possum said to his mother, “Come with me to eat, Mama. I know how my godfather got very good meat and I will do the same.”
His mother went with him to the scene of the hunt. “Climb up that tree while I hide in the bushes at the side of the spring When I shout, ‘Now there is meat’ I want you to come quickly.”
In this manner the possum hid himself in the same place from which his godfather had ambushed his prey. At noon the cattle began to come down from the hill to drink before they took their rest. In a little while a single bull also came down. While the bull drank water the possum leaped upon him in the same way his godfather had done. But the bull was not frightened and simply began to shake himself to get rid of this tickling on his shoulder. As he shook himself he hurled the possum into the air. He landed and stuck in the mud. Unable to get out, the possum called to his mother for help.
“Come here, Mama. Now there is meat” he shouted. His mother jumped to the ground thinking the meat was now ready.
When she got to the spring she discovered her son almost dead, and she leaped to his rescue. But she too got trapped in the mire where it is said the two sadly died.
The Jaguar And The Little Skunk
Once there was a gentleman jaguar and a lady skunk. Mrs Skunk had a son, who was baptized by Mr Jaguar, so Mrs Skunk became his comadre. And as Mr Jaguar had baptized the little skunk, he was Mrs Skunk’s compadre.
Mr Jaguar decided to go looking for food and came to Mrs Skunk’s house. “Well, compadre, what are you looking for? What have you come here for?” the skunk asked the jaguar.
“Comadre, what I have come to do is to look for some food,” said Mr Jaguar. “Oh,” replied Mrs Skunk.
“I want my godson to come with me so that he can learn to hunt,” said Mr Jaguar.
“I don’t think your godson ought to go; he’s still very small and something could happen to him. He better not go, compadre,” said Mrs Skunk.
But the little skunk protested: “No, mother, I need to go. What my godfather says is true. I need to get some practice, if I’m going to learn to hunt,” said the little skunk.
“But if you go, you’ll be so far away from me, and I will miss you, my son,” said Mrs Skunk.
“I’m sorry but I’m going with Mr Jaguar. Come on, let’s go,” said the baby skunk.
So they set off on a long walk. “We’re going all the way down to the river. That’s where we’re going,” Mr Jaguar explained to the little skunk, who was his godson.
“When are we going to get there?” asked the little skunk. “We’re getting close. Follow me so you won’t get lost,” said Mr Jaguar. “All right,” answered the little skunk. They finally came to the river. “This is where we’re going to eat,” said Mr Jaguar to the little skunk. “All right,” said the little skunk.
“Come on over here. I’m going to sharpen my knife,” said Mr Jaguar. “All right,” said the little skunk, looking at his godfather. Mr Jaguar sharpened his claws, which he called his “knife.”
“I’ve sharpened my knife alright. Now you’re going to be on guard, because I am going to sleep. When you see them coming, wake me up,” said Mr Jaguar.
“All right,” said the little skunk, “all right, godfather.” Then Mr Jaguar told him: “Don’t shout. Just scratch my belly when they come. Scratch my belly, so I won’t alarm them. But don’t wake me up if a little animal without antlers come along, only when the one with big antlers gets here. That’s when you’ll wake me up.”
“All right,” said the little skunk. Then, the one with the big antlers came, and the skunk awakened Mr Jaguar. He scratched his belly, and pointed out the deer to Mr Jaguar, who attacked the animal with big antlers. He went after him and seized him.
“All right, my godson, let’s eat. We’re going to eat meat,” said the jaguar. “All right,” said the little skunk. And so they ate and ate. “Now we’re going to take whatever leftovers there are to your mother,” said the jaguar. “Since we are full, we can take something to your mother. Your mother will have meat to eat, just as we did,” said the jaguar.
And when they came back to the mother’s house, the baby skunk told her mother: “Look mother, we’ve brought you some food, the food that we hunted”.
“Eat your share of the meat, comadre,” the jaguar said to Mrs Skunk.
“All right,” said the skunk, and ate the meat. “I’m full,” she said. “It’s good that you’re satisfied. I’ve seen that you are, so I’ll be leaving now,” said Mr Jaguar to Mrs Skunk. And so he left.
After the jaguar left, the little skunk stayed with his mother. When they ran out of meat, Mrs Skunk said to her son: Dear, our meat is all gone.” “Yes, the meat is all gone. I better go and get us some more food,” said the little skunk. “How can you, son? Do you think you’re big enough? You’re very small. Don’t you think you’ll be killed?” asked Mrs Skunk.
“No, mother, I already know how to hunt, my godfather taught me how,” replied the little skunk. “I’m leaving now.”
He left, and Mrs Skunk was very worried. Her son came once more to the river, the place to which he had come with his godfather to get the meat.
“This is how my godfather did it. Why shouldn’t I be able to do the same thing?” said the little skunk. “This is how you sharpen a knife,” said the little skunk. He sharpened his “knife.” “This is the way my godfather did it. I’m not going to hunt the little animals, I’m just going to hunt the one with the great big antlers. I’m going to hunt one for myself just like the one I ate with my godfather. I have my knife here and I’m going to sleep for a little while.”
The little skunk lay down to sleep, but then he awakened. He was waiting for the one with the big antlers, and when he came, he attacked him, thinking he was as strong as his godfather. But he just hung from the neck of the one with big antlers. His claws had dug into his skin. He was hanging from his neck and was carried far away. Then, the baby skunk fell on his back, and he was left lying on the ground with his mouth wide open.
Since the little skunk did not come back home to his mother, she wondered: “What could have happened to my son? Why hasn’t he come back yet? Something must have happened to him. I better go and look for him.” And so Mrs Skunk went as far as the bank of the river.
She was looking everywhere for her son, but couldn’t find him. She began to cry when she found the tracks where the one with the big antlers had come by running.
“They must have come by here,” said Mrs Skunk, and began to follow the tracks. She came to the place where her son had been left lying on his back. When the mother caught sight of him, she noticed that his teeth were showing and shouted at him:
“Son, what are you laughing at? All your teeth are showing,” she yelled at him from a distance. When she did get close she told him:
“Give me your hand. I’ve come to get you, but you’re just lying there laughing in my face.” But when she tried to help him up, she noticed that he was dead, and she began to cry.
The Yucatan Times