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Mitos y Leyendas: The Legend of the Monkey Puzzle Tree

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  • Genny de Bernardo shares with you the legend of the Monkey Puzzle Tree of the Mapuche people.
  • A famine strikes a tribe, bringing them ever closer to the end of their existence.
  • There was a tree that bore fruit, but they were not eaten because they were considered sacred.

According to the ancient legend, since time immemorial, Nguenechén fostered the growth of the Monkey Puzzle Tree in vast forests.

Initially, the indigenous people, considering it a sacred tree, revered it with reverence and refrained from consuming its pine nuts.

Under its shade, they offered presents of meat, blood, incense, and even engaged in confidential dialogues, sharing their guilt. The fruits fell to the ground unused.

On one occasion, the region experienced a prolonged food shortage that severely affected the inhabitants, especially children and the elderly, who suffered from hunger.

The Search for Food

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The young men set out in search of food like Amancay bulbs, herbs, berries, roots, and wild animal meat, but returned empty-handed.

It seemed that their prayers did not reach God, and the famine persisted.

However, Nguenechén did not abandon them. One day, one of the young men who returned in despair found an old man with a long white beard waiting for him on his lonely path.

«What are you looking for, son?» asked the old man. «Food for the members of my tribe who are dying of hunger, but, unfortunately, I have found nothing,» replied the young man.

The Fruit of the Monkey Puzzle Tree

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«Are not the abundant pine nuts lying on the ground under the Monkey Puzzle Tree trees edible?» asked the old man, smiling. «The fruits of the sacred tree are considered poisonous, grandfather,» answered the young man.

The white-bearded old man looked at him with a smile and firmly said: «Son, from now on, the pine nuts will be a gift from Nguenechén.»

«Boil them to soften or roast them in the fire; you will have a delicious delicacy. Store them in underground silos, and you will have food all winter.»

After these words, the old man vanished into the mist. Amazed, the young man followed his advice, gathered a large number of pine nuts in his cloak, and presented them to the tribe’s chief, explaining what had happened.

End of the Famine

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Everyone gathered in assembly, and the chief shared the story, saying: «Nguenechén has descended to earth to help us.»

«We will follow his advice and feed on the fruits of the sacred tree, which belong only to him.»

From that moment, they abundantly enjoyed the pine nuts, both boiled and roasted, and celebrated the event with a great festivity.

The scarcity disappeared, and every year they harvested a large amount of pine nuts that they stored underground, keeping them fresh for a long time.


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Every day, at dawn, the Mapuche pray with a pine nut in their hand or a Monkey Puzzle Tree twig, looking at the sky in a ritual elevated towards Nguenechén:

«To you, we owe our life, and we beseech you, the great, our father, that you do not allow the Pehuén trees to perish.»

«They must multiply as our descendants do, whose lives belong to you, just like the sacred trees.»

Mitos y Leyendas bids you farewell and hopes you enjoyed the legend of the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Until next time!

Mitos y Leyendas
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