General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Oct 2019/1 Reed
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Hunahpu & Xbalanque, Hero Twins of Popol Vuh book cover

RESOURCE REVIEW: Hunahpu & Xbalanque, Hero Twins of Popol Vuh

We’ve come across some great adaptations of the role of the Hero Twins in the Popol Vuh (the classic Maya creation myth), from web resources to books for children to Powerpoint downloads (see our Maya Links page, and Teachers Page), but for us this is the best retelling of the ‘full’ story of the Hero Twins, written by an expert educator based in Mexico who was fortunate enough to access the personal diary of an obscure writer from Veracruz, Mexico, Armando Hernán de Antigua, who managed to put down on paper, in 1864, the story of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, as told to him by a Quiché Maya shaman... (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

‘Supernatural beings’: the Hero Twins, depicted by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in 1957
‘Supernatural beings’: the Hero Twins, depicted by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in 1957 (Click on image to enlarge)

The book, published by Senderos Books (Vancouver, Canada, 2019) has been very carefully researched, and is a delight to read. The author tells the tale in a lovely, appealing way and the story unfolds at an attractive - almost ‘racy’ - pace: even if the reader knows the basics of the story in advance, (s)he will constantly be in a hurry to find out what happens next…
At 225 pages long, the book is of standard novel length. It sports a beautiful front cover design by Steve Radzi but otherwise lacks illustrations; needless to say, the text is more than strong enough to carry the story on its own merits. It is, in the author’s introductory words, ‘a real fairy tale, that a Mayan grandfather would have told his eagerly listening grandchildren - somewhere in the shade of the majestic ceiba tree - in very, very ancient times.’

Ceramic ballgame model from West Mexico
Ceramic ballgame model from West Mexico (Click on image to enlarge)

By grounding the story in the journal of Armando Hernán de Antigua, the author, Karel Baresh, has produced a unique book, infused with the ‘mellow, melodious voice’ of the Maya shaman Don Hun Batz. The entire family of the Hero Twins - from the celestial grandparents Xmucane and Xpiyacoc to grandchildren One Monkey and One Artisan - are introduced carefully first, followed by the birth of the Twins and the story of their adventures in the underworld Xibalbá and their challenges from and battles with its rulers. The climax, of course, is the playing out of the ritual ballgame...

Image sources:-
• Diego Rivera’s Popol Vuh illustrations: public domain
• Ceramic ballgame model: courtesy of Eric Taladoire.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Jul 15th 2019

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