In Xibalba, the land that the sun goes down into, the land whose Lords are the Lords of the Dead, there grew a tree which was a forbidden tree--none were permitted to approach it. The leaves of that tree were wide and dark; the fruits of it were round and heavy, and they grew like gourds along the branches. A princess of Xibalba said, "Why should I not go to this tree? The fruits of it must be precious." Then she made her way to the tree.
Now amongst the fruits that hung from the branches was the head of a man. And when the princess (Xquiq was her name) stood before
the tree and said to herself, "Should I die if I pluck a fruit?" a voice said to her, "Draw nearer." It was from the head that was amongst the wide, dark leaves. And the voice said, "The round lumps upon the branches and amongst the leaves are but skulls and death's-heads. Not as they are am I yet. Do you stretch forth your hand."
The princess stretched her hand forth amongst the branches and through the leaves. Then that head, striving greatly, spat into her hand. "This that I give thee is my posterity," said the head. "Now I shall cease to speak. As for thee, flee from this place into the Upperworld, and go where I shall tell thee." The princess sank down beneath the tree, and the voice told her what man the head had been upon, and told her, too, what place to go to upon the earth.
There had been two brothers whose names were Hunhun-Ahpu and Vukub-Hunapu; they were adepts at ball-playing. The Lords of Xibalba heard of their playing and sent their Owl-men to challenge the brothers to play a game in the Underworld. The brothers agreed to go. They went down a steep descent; they crossed a river in a deep gorge; they crossed a boiling river and a river of blood; they came to four roads that were red, black, white, and yellow. "I am the road to the king," said the black road, and it led the brothers to where two figures were seated on thrones. The brothers saluted them; they received no answer to their salutations, and they heard the scornful laughter of the Lords of Xibalba. Then they knew that the figures were of wood, and they were made ashamed. The game began; angrily the brothers played against the Lords of Xibalba. When that day's game was over they were brought to where they might seat themselves. But the seats they took were heated stones, and the brothers sprang up in pain and went away from them.
Then the Lords of Xibalba conducted them to the House of Gloom: there they were to take their night's rest. Torches were put into their hands, and they were commanded to keep them so that the sticks would not be black when the brothers appeared before the Lords of Xibalba the next day. The brothers did not know what to do to keep this command. They were but a short time in the House of Gloom when the torches burned out, and they were left with the blackened sticks in their hands.
When the brothers appeared before them next day, the Lords of
[paragraph continues] Xibalba said to them, "Your torches are not as we said they were to be." "Lords," the brothers said, "the torches burned themselves out." But the Lords of Xibalba had the brothers sacrificed; their heads were put upon the branches of the tree that it was forbidden to approach. The head of Hunhun-Ahpu had life still in it when Xquiq came to the tree.
She, being found there, was doomed to be sacrificed. The Owl-men were sent to slay her. Xquiq beguiled them. The Owl-men took back to the Lords of the Underworld the thickened sap of a weed as her heart; its smell was the smell of blood, and the Lords of Xibalba were made content.
The princess then journeyed towards the world from which the brothers had come--the Upperworld. She was long upon the way, and she was near to the time of her delivery when she came to the house of Hunhun-Ahpu's mother. She was not well treated for a time; the woman would not receive her as her daughter-in-law, and the woman's two sons who were in the house mocked at her. The woman, Hunhun-Ahpu's mother, told her that before she would be given shelter in the house she would have to gather maize in a field. Xquiq went into the field. The maize had all been cut, and it was left in one heap in the field. She was told that she would have to get maize without touching any that was in the heap. Maize sprang up as she went through the field, and she gathered what was wanted. Then, seeing that the Gods had helped her, Hunhun-Ahpu's mother took Xquiq into the house.
Children were born to her; they were twins, and they were wise from their birth. Their grandmother knew that they would become great heroes and great magicians. But their uncles mocked at them and strove to destroy them. Their uncles were Hunbatz and Hunchouen; they knew all the arts that were then in the world, for they were singers and flute-players, painters and sculptors, jewel-workers and smiths; also they were blow-gun shooters. But to the children of Xquiq they were cruel and envious uncles.
They would not have the youths grow up into men; they would not have them become heroes and magicians whose deeds would be greater than their own. They took the twins into a forest, and they would have sacrificed them there. But the youths transformed them
into monkeys: in the trees they stayed. But even as monkeys, Hunbatz and Hunchouen are prayed to by the singers and flute-players, by the painters and sculptors, by the jewel-workers, smiths, and blow-gun shooters to this day.
After this the twins (Hunahpu and Xbalanque were their names) fashioned magic tools for themselves, and with these tools they cleared a field, pulling up the trees and cutting the vines away. The tools worked by themselves while the twins went hunting in the forest. When they came back at the end of the day they found the field ready for sowing. But when they went out of their house the next day they saw the trees growing and the vines flourishing as before. Again they set their magic tools to clear the field, and again they went hunting. And when they came back the field was once more cleared and ready for sowing. They did not sleep that night; they stayed outside their house and watched the field to see what would happen in it. And they saw that when darkness fell all the animals came into the field: the puma came and the jaguar; the hare, the rat, and the opossum; the deer, the coyote, the porcupine, and the peccary; also the birds came into the field. They called upon the felled trees and the cut vines to grow and flourish again. They lifted the tree-trunks and put them back upon their stumps, and they joined the cut vines together. This they did going through the whole of the field, and when the dawn came the twins found their field with trees and vines growing and flourishing in it.
Then they gave chase to the birds and the animals. The birds flew high above their heads. The animals fled swiftly away from them. They caught the deer and the rabbit by their tails. The deer and the rabbit pulled away from them leaving their tails in the brothers' hands. To this day these animals are without their tails. The rat was the only creature the brothers were able to catch and hold. The rat begged mercy from them. It declared that it would reveal a great secret to the brothers if they would spare it its life.
They spared the rat its life, and the rat told them where their grandmother had hidden the ball, the gloves, and the ring which their father and their uncle had used in the days when they played ball. Their grandmother had hidden these things away, fearing that the twins should find them, and become players, and be led to their destruction
as their father and their uncle had been led to destruction. Now when they found the ball, the gloves, and the ring, the twins began to play the game; every day they played ball, and soon they forgot everything else except this game.
Now as they went over the world playing games against all sorts of people, they heard of the Earth Giants. There were three of them, and the three were proud and boastful. They gave no reverence to the Gods, for one of them would say, "It is I who am the sun," and another would say, "It is I who move the earth," and the third would say, "I can shake the sky and overturn the ground." The twins when they heard of this insolence resolved that they would leave off playing their game of ball until they had rid the earth of these Giants.
Vukub-Cakix was the first of them. Every day he would say to the whole of creation, "I am above all created beings; I am their sun; I am their dawn; I am their moon. Of silver are the balls of my eyes, and my teeth shine like the sky at noon. My nostrils are like the moon. Of silver is my throne, and the earth lives when I step upon it. I am the sun, I am the moon, I am the bringer of all pleasantness." All this he would say when he came to the tree on which grew the fruit that nourished him; at dawn he used to come to it. Wonderful was the tree that Vukub-Cakix owned.
The brothers came to the tree. They hid themselves in the branches. When the Giant came to the tree, Hunahpu blew a dart at him with his blow-gun. It pierced his jaw. Then the Giant raised up his arms and caught Hunahpu in the tree. He tore his arm off. Then carrying the arm, and roaring in pain, the Giant went back to his house.
Now the twins had to get back the arm that had been torn off one of their bodies. Also they had to destroy Vukub-Cakix. So they changed their appearance and they went to the Giant's house as physicians. They saw where Hunahpu's arm was being held before a fire; the Giant's wife was holding it there, and she was chanting spells over it, so that the arm might become withered and never join with the shoulder again. And they heard Vukub-Cakix crying because of the pain in his jaw.
They told him they could cure his pain. "It is not because of the dart shot through your jaw that you suffer," they said, "but it is because there are worms in your teeth. We will take your teeth out, and
your jaw will be well again." "It is by my teeth alone that I am king," the Giant said. "All my beauty comes from my shining teeth and my shining eyeballs." "We will give you more shining teeth in their place," the brothers said. The Giant then consented, and he let the brothers tie him to the roots of trees. They drew his teeth out. They took away the gleam of his eyes. And then the Giant, Vukub-Cakix, died where he was tied.
They snatched Hunahpu's arm from the Giant's wife as she was still uttering spells over it. It was unwithered yet, and they joined it to Hunahpu's shoulder. And then they went forth to destroy the second of the Earth Giants.
This was Zipacna. He shook the earth, making men's houses fall down. The twins came upon him when they had with them a great host of youths. They beguiled Zipacna so that he went down into a great and a deep pit. Then Hunahpu and Xbalanque and all who were with them hurled trees down upon him. After a while the Giant ceased to stir in the pit. They filled it up with stones; they built a great house on it; they went within the house and made merry over the death of Zipacna, the Giant who made the earth shake. But as they were making merry Zipacna rose beneath the house; he flung it down; he took the hundreds of young men who had been the brothers' helpers and he flung them up into the sky. There they stayed; they have become the Four Hundred Stars.
But Hunahpu and Xbalanque the Giant was not able to catch. And when he went away they followed on his tracks, and once again they planned his destruction. Zipacna loved to gorge himself with great crabs that came up from the sea. The brothers formed a crab out of wood--the greatest crab that had ever been seen in the world--and they placed it in a deep ravine. They came to where the Giant was, and, saying that they were hunters, told him of a crab so great that they had been frightened by the sight of it. The Giant went to where he could see it. Deep down in the ravine he saw what seemed to him to be the world's greatest crab, and he climbed down the face of a cliff to come to it. And when he was down in the ravine the brothers hurled mountains upon him-mountains of such weight that not even he could get from under them. And so Zipacna, he who shook the earth, was destroyed by Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
Then, as the twins went through the world, playing the game of ball and challenging others to play against them, they came upon the last of the Earth Giants. This was Cabrakan. He tore through the forests and he made the skies shake. They came upon him as he was wallowing in his lair on the ground. "How strong art thou, O Cabrakan?" said the brothers to him. "We have heard it said that thou couldst shift a mountain as great as this one." "I will shift it while you watch me," said Cabrakan. "Eat first, O Cabrakan," said the brothers, "We will kill and cook a bird for thine eating." So they killed a great bird, and they put the bird in the earth to bake. But they put poison in the mud they encrusted the bird with. The Giant watched their cooking; he ate of the great bird greedily, and when he had licked up the scraps of flesh and crunched all the bones, he started to shift the mountain. But no sooner had he grasped the top of it than he fell down dead into the ravine that was near the mountain.
And so the Earth Giants who had disturbed the world, Vukub-Cakix, Zipacna, and Cabrakan, were destroyed by the hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. But the Lords of the Underworld had heard their movements as they went up and down on the earth, playing their game of ball. "Who are these who make such play with the ball?" they said to one another. "Do not the withered heads of Hunhun-Ahpu and Vukub-Hunahpu hang amongst the branches of our tree? Who, then, are these who play on the earth as they once played?" Then the Lords of the Underworld sent their Owl-men to challenge the brothers to play a game of ball in Xibalba.
They went down into Xibalba. They went down a long descent; they crossed a river in a deep gorge; they crossed a boiling torrent; they crossed a river of blood; beyond the fourth river they came upon the four roadways-the black, white, red, and yellow roadways.
They had heard from their mother and their grandmother how the Lords of Xibalba had received their father and their uncle, and the brothers resolved to use all the craft they had against them. So when the black road said, "I am the way to the king," they did not go upon it at first: they took an insect named Xan and sent it upon the road. And Xan came first to the images that were seated upon thrones: it pricked each of them; they did not move. Then Xan went where others stood: it pricked a leg of each and each gave a cry. "What is it, Hun-Came?"
one was asked. "What is it, Vukub-Came?" All the names of the Lords of Xibalba were uttered--Xiquipat, Ahalpuh, Cuchumaquiq, Chamiabak, Abalcana, Chamiaholom, Patan, Quiqxic, Quiqrixgag, and Quiqurc. And having heard the names, Xan went back to the brothers, told them the names it had heard, and described where the images of wood were seated.
Then the twins went on the black roadway and came to where the Lords of Xibalba stood beside the images of wood. The images they did not salute. They saluted the Lords of Xibalba, each according to his own name. Then were the Lords alarmed; they knew not what sort of men they had to deal with. They motioned the brothers towards the seats that were heated stones; but they would not seat themselves. "These are not our seats," they said.
Then they began to play the game of ball against the Lords of the Underworld. The night came before the game was finished. Then the brothers were brought to the House of Gloom in which they were to rest until the next day when the game would be played again. Torches were put into their hands, and they were commanded to appear before the Lords of Xibalba next day with torches that were not blackened.
When they went within the House of Gloom they quenched their torches. They covered them with red paint. When they came out of the House of Gloom their torches were unblackened. "Who are you?" cried the Lords of Xibalba. "Whence do you come?" "Who can say who we are, or whence we come?" the brothers answered. "We ourselves do not know." Again the game was started, and the brothers played against the Lords of Xibalba. And now the game was coming to its end, and they of the Underworld were becoming more and more anxious about ways of bringing to destruction the two who had come to them from the world above.
They sent them to the House of Cold; there the brothers kept the warmth of life in them by burning knots of pine which they found under the dust. They sent them into the House of the Jaguars, and there they fought off for the whole of the night the fierce beasts that snarled all round them. They sent them to get flowers from Vukub-Came's garden, a garden that was guarded by poisonous snakes; the ants aided them, for all creatures were ready to help the brothers in the game they were playing against the Lords of the Underworld;
the ants brought the flowers to them; the brothers filled four vases with flowers and presented them to the Lords of Xibalba.
The game was begun again, and at the end of the day Hunahpu and Xbalanque were sent to the most dread place of all; they were sent into the House of the Bats. All night they lay in the cave, the bats hovering over them. They lay flat upon their faces. But Hunahpu lifted his head. Then a great bat swept down and sheared his head off. And Hunahpu would have bled to death if a tortoise had not come and fixed himself to where the head had been. The tortoise held to his neck, giving him something like a head. Next morning the Lords of Xibalba came crowding around the cave, demanding that the brothers come forth and play the finish of the game. As they stood before the cave-mouth a rabbit sprang up at their feet. The Lords of Xibalba, thinking that this was the ball that the brothers had thrown, ran after the rabbit. Then Xbalanque looked around the cave that now was lighted. And on a ledge he found Hunahpu's head. He took the tortoise off and put the head upon Hunahpu's neck. It fastened itself there, and when the Lords of Xibalba came back from their chase of the rabbit, the brothers were ready to play the finish of the game with them.
They played; they won over the Lords of Xibalba. Then the brothers told them that they would show themselves to them as wonder-workers. They had themselves killed and their bones ground to powder. Then they transformed themselves into fishes and swam away. They came back as beggars and stood once more before the Lords of the Underworld. They burned down houses, and immediately they built them up again. They killed a dog belonging to one of the Lords and immediately restored it to life and movement. They killed each other, and brought each other back to life again. The Lords of Xibalba cried, "Do the like with us. Make us, too, know death, and life after death." "Can death exist for you, Lords of Xibalba?" the brothers cried. "Let us know death, and life afterwards," they continued to cry.
They had consented to death. The brothers slew them, but they did not bring them back to life again. They left them lying under the branches of their own forbidden tree. Then Hunahpu and Xbalanque declared who they were. "We are the avengers of the deaths of our father and our uncle," they cried. They took their withered heads from amongst the dark leaves, and they buried them with honours. Then to
all who were left in Xibalba they said, "Your state and your power are gone from you. No more will you rule over any creatures. Go forth from where you ruled, and make things of clay; make pots and maize-grinders. The beasts that live in the wilderness shall be your prey and your helpers, but all that is pleasant, all that is cultivated, shall be far from you. Only the bees shall be yours to care for and to rule over. O ye wicked, cruel, dismal ones, go forth and fulfill your dooms." So the Twin Heroes said, and they who had lorded it in the Underworld went forth and took up their menial tasks.