The Legend of El Chonchón in Chile

If anyone has ever told you they were all ears, be thankful that you weren’t in Chile.  In this South American country, the legend of El Chonchón has turned these humble organs into a creature that can make your skin crawl.  its cry means death.   The other name for this evil spirit is Tue-Tue, after the warning sound that it makes while flying on moonless nights.

Almost as frightening as the call of El Chonchón is its appearance. Simple, but scary: a human head with huge ears, which it uses as wings to fly.  Terrifyingly, its body stays at home. The creature also has feathers and claws, making it a species of horrific bird.

Not content to be horrible to look at, the Chonchón also has a bloody habit. It stalks the sick, flying near their rooms doing battle with their spirits; if it wins, it sucks the sick dry.

The Origins of  El Chonchón

El Chonchón is one of the Latin American myths and legends that are part of indigenous mythology, specifically Mapuche.  This group of indigenous people is from the south-central part of Chile, as well as southwestern Argentina.

The name Mapuche refers to a number of groups who share a common language and social structure which together make up about 80% of the indigenous people in Chile.

As such a large group of people, it is not surprising that they have a complex and established set of beliefs, with a mythology that talks of the different spirits and gods in their culture.

Mapuche legends have made their way in broader Chilean culture – the group is 9% of the population of Chile. In fact, the legend of El Chonchón has since been incorporated in Chilean folklore and even that of parts of Argentina.

Importance of El Chonchón

El Chonchón stalks the ill, doing battle with their spirits.

El Chonchón stalks the ill, doing battle with their spirits.

More than simply a legend, El Chonchón has a relationship to important figures in Mapuche mythology.It is considered the transformation, representation, and servant of a kalku (calcu), a Mapuche witch that performs black magic and has the secret to flight.

The transformation of a kalku into a Chonchón is due to the application of a special magical cream that it puts on its neck, massaging it until the head loosens and is able to fly on its own.

Some versions have the witch saying, “Sin Dios ni Santa María (With neither God nor Holy Mary),” adding an element of Catholic Hispanic religion to this indigenous tradition.

Other post-colonial additions include the saying of certain prayers to provide protection from the creature or to make it fall to the ground, thereby associating the creature with witchcraft which served the Devil.

The Legend of El Chonchón may be based on a local bird, with the most mentioned being the mochuelo and the queltehue.

Have you heard of El Chonchón? Tell us about it in the comments!

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