Myths about monstruous animals and weird beings have permeated and haunted all cultures around the world since the dawn of mankind; examples can be found in North America’s Bigfoot, Scandinavian trolls and in the Australian Aboriginals’ Yahoo.
These Little People, Giants, Wild Men and monsters may just be the product of the universal unconscious mind that binds human cultures across the chasm of space and time, or they may be based on some hidden aspect of reality till undiscovered by science.
Even within the safe embrace of our Western XXIst century society we may still feel a shudder of apprehension during dark nights or while trekking in thick gloomy forests. The world is evidently still full of monsters that captivate our imagination and awaken our deepest fears.
Modern technology has done little to abate this irrational dread and perhaps has made us even more aware of our vulnerabilty to the mysteries lurching in the dark.
The Southern tip South America, Patagonia, also has its share of legendary beasts and mysterious monsters. Patagonia’s wonderful yet lonely scenery, from its barren steppe to its shady forests, crystal clear lakes and frozen Andean peaks, raises disquieting questions in the minds of those who venture into it:
Are there any mysterious creatures lurking in the depths of those seemingly peaceful mountain lakes or lying in wait within the damp somber woods?
Are we being watched by some unknown beings while we stroll along the lonely sunlit mountain paths?
This blog will look for answers to these and other questions focusing on the subject with healthy skepticism and a certain reluctance to belief without substance.
Objectivity requires us to be wary of wishful thinking and the evidence that I will provide, though circumstancial and perhaps inconclusive, is reasonable and well documented from a wide variety of sources.
Patagonia which was until quite recently unknown and considered the uttermost part of the Earth is still a vast and virtually empty land.
Spanish conquest had left it alone in splendid isolation for nearly three centuries, lacking easy gold or tame natives, its inhospitable geography and tough climate rendered it useless to them.
Their “Conquistadors” and explorers did not venture far inland, they merely reconnoitered its fringes or sailed past its bleak coasts en route to the riches of Asia, only sporadically meeting whatever natives came down to its shores to trade furs and feathers for European goods.
To enlighten those back in Europe, Bestiaries were written taking Indian tales, hearsay and myth as factual; colonial naturalists wrote tracts about mysterious creatures as if they were a confirmed fact. Cartographers and navigators drew them into their maps to show what to expect when exploring the region.
This isolation and lack of interest means that there are very few original sources that document the natives’ “real” beliefs and their tales of the monsters that peopled their world.
The chronicles of the few missionaries who dared to enter the Patagonian wilderness in an attempt to convert the “Indians” provide a sketchy record of their now extinct customs during the period spanning from the late XVIIth century to the early XIXth century.
South American independence wars, civil strife and turmoil delayed scientific exploration of Patagonia until the last years of the XIXth century when Victorian gentlemen penned unclear and perhaps biased notes on the free roaming Patagonians during the dying days of their ancestral cultures.
Regrettably this was a period of chaos for the natives; alcohol and disease brought by Western men were taking their toll on them. Subsequent military conquest and war led to the final destruction of their cultures. In less than fifty years, their way of life that had lasted for millennia disappeared forever.
The surviving natives, scattered across their former territories, were highly acculturalized and absorbed by western civilization. Their myths about strange forest and lake beings, giants and dwarves, monsters and wild creatures vanished with their ancient knowledge, irrevocably lost.
Only later, during the mid XXth century, would anthropologists and sociologists approach the last reluctant elder natives in an attempt to document their fading childhood recollections before they died.
It is on these three types of sources, the Missionaries’ chronicles the explorers’ travelogues and the anthropologists’ papers that I have pieced together the monsters portrayed in this blog.
Several publications have dealt with Patagonian cryptozoological creatures, most of them focusing on a few well known yet evidently apocriphal examples such as "Nahuelito"; others deal with European tales recently incorporated into the Patagonian lore such as gnomes and elves, ignoring the genuine native dwarves such as yosi and trauco.
I, on the other hand have preferred to emphasize the many lesser-known and even obscure mysterious beasts that abound in the native myths and in forgotten and scarcely read travelouges, historical accounts or journals.
These Patagonian creatures have walked through the forests of my mind for over three decades, now I want to share them with you. Perhaps under the veil of mythology lies a solid reality, a truth waiting to be found and proven by science.
My purpose is to introduce readers to the rich variety of bizarre creatures that Patagonia harbors, and I hope that this blog will answer some questions and provoke others; that it challenges readers to conduct further research on their own.
Please read and enjoy it with a skeptical yet open mind.
Austin V. Whittall
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©