Mythology of Chiloe, Chile
Many societies seem to have a mythological ogre-like creature in their cultural histories. The Germans have the Erlking, the Scandinavians have the Troll, and the English have Simon Cowell. But none seems as scary as the deformed dwarf from the mythology of Chiloe.
Chiloe is an archipelago towards the south of Chile. Separated by water from the populous north and desolate Patagonia in the south, it has been isolated from the rest of the country and the rest of the world. Through its isolation it has developed a unique culture, within which are the tales of the creatures that inhabit the land.
My introduction to the mythology was at the bus station in the town of Ancun, where paintings of the creatures adorn the wall. You can’t help but notice Trauco, the twisted and ugly dwarf with a cone for a cap. His story is quite graphic, and is designed to create fear amongst the people. He lives in the forest and likes to attack women to steal their virginity. Even though he’s ugly, can only grunt for communication and has stumps for feet, he has the power to inspire erotic dreams in young women. He uses this power to lure them to the forest where he then ravishes them. Charming.
Don’t rest easy, men, there’s a temptress after you too. Fiura is an ugly little witch who also lives in the woods. Dressed in moss and cursed with foul breath, she has a penchant for single men. She casts a spell over them and, once she’s had her way with them, turns her victims insane. (Remind anyone of ex-lovers they know?)
Chile’s religion and myths
The mythology of Chiloe seems to fit comfortably with the devout Catholicism of the region. The people here embrace the Spanish and their religion more than most people in Chile and, when the war for independence was being fought here in the early nineteenth century, they actually gave support and refuge to the Spanish soldiers.
These days it’s a very rural part of the country, and area where agriculture and the community of faith are the fundamentals of daily life. It’s also a charming area to visit. Coming from the north of Chile, travellers must cross to the islands of Chiloe on a ferry, through waters filled with seals that happily play near the boat.
Once on the archipelago itself, there are vast stretches of green grasslands – home to the large herds of cows that are the region’s main export. The occasional towns and villages are the commercial centres for these farms and trucks and workers from the nearby lands fill the streets.
There’s been an increase in tourism here recently, but Chiloe is still an area very much off the beaten track for most travellers in Chile. Its isolation makes it a difficult place to get to but that remoteness just adds to its charm. It’s definitely worth a visit – if you’re not scared of trolls or witches, that is.
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