Popol Vuh Pre-Discussion

Popol Vuh (pp 1746-1759)


  • the epic was written in Guatemala 16th Century
  • it is very formal in its writing (use of coupling lines)
  • author unknown
  • most likely the author was male and uses “we”
  • ideas borrowed from Mayan oral tradition
  • Part I describes the failed attempts of human creation
  • the fourth attempt of humans was the one that was successful
  • Part IV is the “start” of history with the successful attempt of humans
  • Part II: human arrogance
  • Part III: the scourge of death

Part I

  • lots of use of the word “we” in the first paragraph
  • strong nationality (Quiche)
  • as it is said (correlation to “amen”)
  • this is an account of creation
  • it begins only with a sky and the earth is all sea
  • three names of the god (correlation to trinity?)
  • god confers with the “plumed serpent” to create humanity (and bushes, etc.)
  • first formation of earth by word “earth”
  • they looked back and said it was pleasing
  • worry about the humans, comes at the end of Part I but is not discussed in length at all

Part 2

  • Twin god heroes introduced: Hunahpu & Xbalanque (not human)
  • saw the evil of Seven Macaw (he self-magnifies himself)
  • Hunahpu blow-darts Macaw, and breaks his mouth
  • Macaw tears an arm off Hunahpu (end first battle)
  • he hangs the arm over the fireplace for them to “come and get it”
  • they go and ask their grandparents to help them
  • the grandparents act cordial and say that they are just boys and to pardon them
  • he “fixes” his teeth and eyes, but he soon dies
  • the jewels had made Macaw arrogant
  • Hunahpu got his arm back
  • they did this for the “Heart of the Sky”

Part 3

  • One Hunahpu is father of the god twins
  • Xibalba: (Dark House) the underworld
  • a test of games awaits them
  • the tests:
  1. darkness
  2. deep chill (hail)
  3. jaguars
  4. bats
  5. razor blades
  • they were killed by the one and seven Death for finishing the cigars and torch
  • One Hunahpu was decapitated and head mounted on a tree that ended up giving life
  • Everyone in Xibalba was forbidden from the tree (Genesis?)
  • a maiden and daughter of a Blood Gatherer (only mentioned about 50 times in 2 pages)
  • she goes to earth and conceives Hunahpu and Xbalanque
  • she has to flee Xibalba to have her children
  • they went to the underworld
  • they burn the house, but is repaired with no death
  • sacrifice is required, they tear out a human heart, yet he continues to live
  • the lords want more
  • they kill themselves and come back to life…
  • one and seven death want the god twins to sacrifice them, they did not come back to life as they had thought
  • all the other lords walked to their deaths “like ants”
  • Hunahpu and Xbalanque killed the tyrants

Part IV

  • beginning of humans
  • light is born
  • white and yellow corn brought about
  • animals showed them all the staples they needed for food
  • humans were created by sacrifice and genius alone (not by the gods?)
  • they were handsome, “perfect” vision
  • intense knowledge
  • the four humans thank the god
  • mention of the four corners of earth
  • bearer takes their knowledge for they knew too much
  • they feared with too much perfection came the power to be equals
  • the bearer takes away perfect vision
  • the humans lost the means of understanding
  • they received wives while they slept
  • they were happy
  • the sun then first appears
  • when the sun came up, all were happy

Part V

  • they praise the god and ask to be lead on the “green path”

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