Context: S is a Peruvian man in his early 60s. S spent around the first 13 years living inside of Peru before moving to Germany where he lived until his late 20s when he moved to California. Although having lived in California for most of his life now, he still has a close connection to Peru and Germany through his family.
S: “While I can’t think of much Peruvian folklore, there is one story that comes to mind about the story of the echo.”
Intv: “Okay, I don’t think I know this story.”
S: “Okay, well it goes something like this, There was this Prince, who was always lying. He was always getting in trouble, and lying to everyone until one day the King died. So this Prince becomes the new King. As he became King his behavior just got worse, he would send people away on jobs and when they would come back he would act confused and say he never sent them to do such a thing. But what could the people do? He was the King. Until one day, the King calls upon the high priest. This high priest knew he was going to be set up by the King, so before speaking with him, the priest went to pray to the gods, and the god of the jungle came and asked him about his problem. The jungle god then directs the high priest to a very specific tree deep in the heart of the jungle, and the high priest will cut the tree down and use the wood to make a very special box. After the priest made the box the jungle god told him ‘when you speak to the King, make sure you hold the box open the whole time. And make sure when the order is given to you and when you return it is a huge event in which everyone will be there. So the priest goes to the King, and holds open the box while he receives his mission. Then he was off. When he returned, the high priest gathered the whole town before alerting the King of his return. When the King came to see the commotion he asked ‘what’s going on?’ The high priest responded by telling him about the job that the King sent him on. The King replied saying ‘I never said any such thing, I never told you to go and do such a thing.’ Then the high priest opens the box and the King’s order comes back in the exact same words and in his exact voice. In a fit of rage the King grabbed the box and ran out to the mountains where he threw the box out. When the box landed it splintered in hundreds of directions all across the world and wherever you hear an echo, supposedly that’s where a piece of the box resides.”
Intv: “Oh wow! That’s a great story! Was this told somewhere specifically? Or all across Peru?”
S: “This is a tale from the Amazonians, so it’s probably from Colombia.”
Analysis: A wonderful legend that perhaps originated as an explanation for something that at the time we couldn’t originally understand or fathom. In these moments it’s fascinating to see how for hundreds potentially thousands of years people used folklore as a pseudoscience of sorts. Legends being used to explain earthly phenomena can be seen across different cultures around the world. Another example of one of these that I particularly enjoy is the Origin of the Earthquake from Norse mythology. See All the Mountains Shake: Seismic and Volcanic Imagery in the Old Norse Literature of Þórr. Scripta Islandica, Pg 102-110. For more information on the origin of the earthquake in Norse mythology. Taggart, Declan. “All the mountains shake: Seismic and volcanic imagery in the Old Norse literature of Þórr.” Scripta Islandica: Isländska Sällskapets Årsbok 68 (2017): 102-110.