Cover image for A Pre-Columbian Bestiary: Fantastic Creatures of Indigenous Latin America By Ilan Stavans and with etchings by Eko

A Pre-Columbian Bestiary

Fantastic Creatures of Indigenous Latin America

Ilan Stavans with etchings by Eko

Coming Soon

$17.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08787-0
Coming soon

116 pages
5.125" × 7.75"
46 b&w illustrations
2020

A Pre-Columbian Bestiary

Fantastic Creatures of Indigenous Latin America

Ilan Stavans with etchings by Eko

“The imaginary and real beings described by Ilan Stavans with whimsy, wit, irony, and, most of all, wonder, emerge from the pre-Columbian and colonial Americas to remind us that even in our own decolonial times, the imaginary and the nonimaginary, the fantastic and the historical, the speculative and the real continue to coincide in the Americas on the elusive line between fact and fiction, where ‘what is known and what is hoped for intermingle.’”

 

  • Media
  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
                                                                                                                                  
An encyclopedic collaboration between award-winning Mexican American scholar Ilan Stavans and illustrator Eko, A Pre-Columbian Bestiary features lively and informative descriptions of forty-six religious, mythical, and imaginary creatures from the Nahua, Aztec, Maya, Tabasco, Inca, Aymara, and other cultures of Latin America.

From the siren-like Acuecuéyotl and the water animal Chaac to the class-conscious Oc and the god of light and darkness Xólotl, the magnificent entities in this volume belong to the same family of real and invented creatures imagined by Dante, Franz Kafka, C. S. Lewis, Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, and J. K. Rowling. They are mined from indigenous religious texts, like the Popol Vuh, and from chronicles, both real and fictional, of the Spanish conquest by Diego Durán, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, and Fernando de Zarzamora, among others. In this playful compilation, Stavans distills imagery from the work of magic realist masters such as Juan Rulfo and Gabriel García Márquez; from songs of protest in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru; and from aboriginal beasts in Jewish, Muslim, European, British, and other traditions. In the spirit of imaginative invention, even the bibliography is a mixture of authentic and concocted material.

An inspiring record of resistance and memory from a civilization whose superb pantheon of myths never ceases to amaze, A Pre-Columbian Bestiary will delight anyone interested in the history and culture of Latin America.

“The imaginary and real beings described by Ilan Stavans with whimsy, wit, irony, and, most of all, wonder, emerge from the pre-Columbian and colonial Americas to remind us that even in our own decolonial times, the imaginary and the nonimaginary, the fantastic and the historical, the speculative and the real continue to coincide in the Americas on the elusive line between fact and fiction, where ‘what is known and what is hoped for intermingle.’”
“This is a delightful book. It is a parade, in the arbitrary order of importance that the alphabet allows, of creatures throughout indigenous America, from Aztlan southward, and that show up in the range of books that Stavans references. Challenged to pronounce their names and to imagine their shapes and attributes, the reader will recognize how uncanny the continent is, both strange and familiar.”
“This alphabetic delight offers not only a brief anthology of pre-Hispanic imaginary beings but also a door to the secret links between collective imageries that appear to be distant in space and time—although they all live in people’s dreams, just like those Freudian insects called Colotls. Bestiaries have their own literary tradition in the Latin American lands (both before and after colonization), ranging from the Mayas, Incas, or Aztecs to contemporary masters such as Borges, Arreola, or Wilcock, which is one of the multiple reasons why the volume is so arresting. Ilan Stavans manages to turn deeply erudite research into personal introspection (including his own father under the form of a Nahuatl grasshopper), and vice versa, making it ‘a double bird,’ just like the Aztec flying Zulin ‘that exists by looking at the mirror.’ Only one fantastic creature seems to be omitted here: this very exquisite book.”

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, publisher of Restless Books, and host of NPR’s podcast In Contrast. He is the recipient of numerous international awards and honors, and his books have been translated into twenty languages. Among his recently published books are two Penn State University Press titles: the graphic novel adaptation of Don Quixote of La Mancha, illustrated by Roberto Weil, and The Return of Carvajal: A Mystery, illustrated by artist and illustrator Eko, whose engravings are also featured in this book.

Preface

Acuecuéyotl

Amaru

Azcatl

Camazot Tzootz

Chaac

Chachalaca

Chapulín

Chicchán

Chuen

Colotl

Coyametl

Cuetzpalin

Dzaby

Ehecatl

Hixx

Huexólotl

Huitzin

Iguana

Imix Cipactli

Itzpapalotl

Kay

Kuntur

Lama Glama

Lama Guanacoe

Mayahuel

Michin

Mictlantecuhtli

Montizon Puskat

Moyotl

Nahual

Oc

Ocelotl

Omecihuatl

Pauahtun

Tepeyólotl

Thiuime

Tlalcíhuatl Toad

Tochtli

Toci

Tonatiuh

Uturunku

Utzimengari

Xiuhtilán

Xólotl

Xtabay

Zulin

Further Readings

Index

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