Friday, February 7, 2020

8 Mexican Folktales and Mythical Creatures to Use in Your Stories

Hola, guey!

If you're part of my Torn Universe group or subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I'm currently working on a few Space Opera stories that center around Mexican world-building. I've been having a TON of fun with it. I'm a quarter Mexican, so it's been awesome to connect with the Mexican culture and also learn about the etymology of things I've heard about from family members.

One of my favorite parts of the Mexican culture has been all of the folklore and mythological creatures. This is unsurprising given my fascination with spooky monsters and underused mythical beasts.

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite folklore and mythological creatures with you, so get ready for some chido tales:

8 Mexican Folktales and Mythical Creatures to Use in Your Stories



Alebrije 

Source: JillianLambertArt 


I love these. Alebrije are like snowflakes in that every single one of them is a unique shape, size, and pattern. At first glance, Alebrije are just Mexican folk art, but the background is much richer than that. The original artist (Pedro Linares) saw visions of alebrije when he was close to death and, upon recovery, started re-creating these mythical animals. They now have taken on multiple meanings in Mexican culture: Some people think that each person is matched with a alebrije at birth (thus explaining why each alebrije looks different: It's because they're a mirror of a person's soul). Some see them as symbols as Oaxacan pride, as Oaxaca is known for being the place to go to create and buy alebrije carvings. 

Regardless of the meaning, they are straight-up beautiful. And, because their purpose is so ambiguous, they make for a great blank-slate for either world-building, a character, or a magic system. I'm a fan. 

Huay Chivo

Source: Nimrais

This creatures is basically what would happen if a chupacabra and a minotaur had a baby. It's part person, part goat(ish), usually has horns, and always has red eyes.

Despite looking like it will eat you as a snack, Huay Chivo actually doesn't consume people, only their livelihood. He's rude, but he's not a murderer. 

Duende

Source: Wiki

Duende is probably one of the most difficult words to translate. Talk to any Mexican and they'll each give you very different definitions of what it means (or stare at you blankly, as it doesn't seem to be a commonly used term).  My grandparents told me that it was the Mexican equivalent of Mr. Nobody: It's a little house spirit that goes around making mischief while nobody's looking. If you ever do something wrong (break a glass, stain a rug, etc), you can just say the Duende did it.

However, other people say that Duende like to live in children's bedrooms and clip their toe nails (because that's a normal thing, apparently), but sometimes mess up and chop off the child's entire toe. Yeah. I...have no explanation for this.

Still others say that duende is a type of emotion linked to passion and art. It's what gives you chills when you hear good music or watch a beautiful dance.

So. I guess pick your favorite version and run with it...? 

La Llorona

Source: focusnm

Ah, one of my favorites. La Llorona is a cheated-on woman who either intentionally or accidentally drowned herself and her children. She now lives in bodies of water while wailing loudly and luring children to their deaths.

If you want to keep your children from drowning, telling them this story is certainly one way to do it. Though you may end up giving your kids aquaphobia, so maybe don't do that.

La Llorona's story is definitely a very creepy one. However, it also is told from multiple angles (such as La Llorona just being lonely and not actually intending to hurt anyone), so it makes for great writing material. 

Chaneque

Source: Canijochaneque

Legendary creatures of Mexican folklore, the Chaneque are sprite-like beings that guard nature with a  vengeance. They protect specific parts of nature (trees, meadows, riverbeds, etc) and attack any intruders by scaring them so badly that their souls leave their bodies. The only way to retrieve your soul after such an attack is to perform a specific ritual. If you don't? You'll get sick and die very soon.

Of course you could just respect nature in the first place and the Chaneque will let your soul stay in your body where it belongs. They're nice like that.

Quinametzin

Source: Roque Leão

Did somebody say "Ancient Aztec Giants"? Yep. I did. That's what Quinametzin are. They stand about ten feet tall and are credited for a lot of the impressive architecture in ancient Mesoamerica, such as Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of Cholula (which, by the way, is the largest pyramid in the world. Take that, Egyptians! Just kidding. Though...why did we never learn about this in school??).

However, the Quinametzin messed up and angered the gods, so the gods just...killed them. All of them. Yeah. Seems a bit dramatic, but okay. 

Nagual

Source: LeonelSaberTooth

This one is complicated. At its core, nagual is the term for a person who can shape-shift into a human. The superstition is that the nagual made a deal with the devil to gain this ability, but, like most folklore, this isn't the sole view. Tonalism and brujos come into play for the other versions, so feel free to look that up if you're interested.

However, the deal-with-the-devil is my personal favorite version because I think it would make a great story. After all, let's be honest: Who in their right mind would go to El Diablo so they can shift into an animal? It's not that great of a skillset...? Why risk that? What happened to make you think that's a good idea?? I must know.

Chupacabra 

Source: LuxDani

You've probably heard of this one before, but it's a good one so I can't not mention it. Sure, it technically originated in Puerto Rico and not Mexico, but Mexico has folktale about them, so I'm just going to go with it.

The word chupacabra literally translated to "goat sucker," a very fitting name considering that chupacabra's sole source of food is goat blood. Chupacabra have spines along their back, long teeth, and leathery or snake-like skin.

Oh. And sometimes they hop around like kangaroos. Because why not?

And there you have it. Which of these is your favorite? Did I miss any that you love? Leave a comment below!

Related articles:
12 Unusual, Frightening Mythical Monsters to Use in Your Fantasy Novel
10 Little-Known Weapons to Use in Your Speculative Fiction Stories
12 Horrifying, Unbelievable Sea Creatures to Use in Your Writing

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3 comments:

  1. Whoa! These are a bunch of cool and creepy-looking critters! Thanks for sharing about them, Hannah. I would have never known otherwise.

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