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  Tehuelche legends
The Calafate |  Perito Moreno Glacier |  The Chaltén  |  The Flamingo
Elals inventions
The tehuelches say that the Patagonia was only ice and snow when the swan flew across it for the first time. It came from beyond the sea, from the divine island where Kooch had created life and where Elal was born, who was carried upon its white back and deposited at the top of Chalten mountain (today known as the Fitz Roy, in the mountain range of Santa Cruz).
They also say that behind the swan flew the rest of the birds, that the fish followed them from the water, and the land animals crossed the oceans one upon the other. That way the new land was filled with guanacos, hares and foxes; the duck and the flamingos occupied the lagoons and CHINGOLOS, Chorlos and condors crossed the naked Patagonian sky for the first time. That’s why Elal was not alone in the Chalten; the birds brought him food and gave him shelter between their soft feathers. For three days and three nights he stayed at the top contemplating the frozen desert that his heroic presence would transform forever.
When Elal started to descend from the mountain he was met by Kokeshke (cold) and Shie (Snow). The two brothers, that until then dominated Patagonia, attacked him furiously, helped by the ice and by Maip, the killer wind.
But Elal scared everyone by picking up two stones and striking them together, and that was his first invention: The Fire. They say that Elal had always been wise; since he was a child he knew how to hunt with a bow and arrow that he himself had invented. That he scared the sea away with his arrows to gain more land, that he created the seasons, tamed the beast and ordered life; and that one day, while modelling clay statues he created men and women: the Tehuelches.
To them, the Chonek he confided the secrets of hunting; taught them to recognize different animal tracks, to follow their traces and set up decoys; to manufacture their own weapons and to light a fire. Also to manufacture “quillangos” (a kind of blanket made from guanaco skins), to prepare the leather until it was smooth and waterproof to build their tents… and many, many other things that only he knew.
They say that even the moon and the sun are where they are because of Elals’ work, that he banned them from earth because they did not want to give him their daughter as his wife. That the sea grows with the new moon because the girl, abandoned by the hero in the ocean, wants to reach the sky from where her mother calls her. Also that if it weren’t because once upon a time, a long, long time ago when men and animals were the same thing, Elal, punished a couple of seals, desire and death would not exist.
Finally Elal, the wise one, protector of the tehuelches, gave all his works as finished.
It is said that one day, just before dawn, he gathered the Chonek to say good-bye and give them the last instructions. He announced that he was leaving, asked them not to yield honours but to pass his teachings on to their children, and these to theirs and so on; for the secrets of the Tehuelches never to die. And when the sun was rising over the horizon Elal called the swan, his old companion. He climbed on to his back and indicated with a gesture towards the burning east. Then the swan backed off the cliff, ran a stretch and flew away over the sea.
Leaning over the bird that was carrying him, and caressing his neck, Elal asked him to let him know when he got tired. When the swan complained, Elal shot an arrow downwards and with each bowshot an island arose from the waters for them to rest on. They say that various islands can be seen from the Patagonian coast and that on one of them very far, were no live man can go, lives Elal.
Sitting in front of bonfires that never burn out, he listens to the stories told by the resurrected Tehuelches that arrive every now and then to stay with him, guided by the magnanimous Wendeunk (Spirit that carries the account of the actions of the tehuelches and conducts them, after dead, to meet Elal).


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