Maripill; its name derives from the Mapuche words “mari”= ten and “pill”= short form of “pillán” which, was a spirit that the Mapuche believed lived in the Andean volcanoes but was also found in lakes and streams.
Maripill lives in the northern Patagonian lakes and is a very large and ugly animal; whose back is jagged like a saw, and it uses it to tear the cattle apart by running under their bellies very quickly. It uses its clawed hands to grab the children who venture close to the water.
Apparently at one time it “lived in rivers [that later dried up][…] big rivers that long ago came down from the mountains on the west [the Andes]”. This interesting bit of information points towards a relict animal from more humid (and perhaps warmer) climes.
According to others, it has a dragon-like appearance: tall like a horridly shaped horse, with a long neck topped by a lizard head; its mouth is long and full of strong fangs, its arms long and clawed.
Maripill is so strikingly similar to a mythical Mapuche beast, the Nguruvilú (we will post later about Nguruvilú)that one may be tempted to think it is the same creature, yet it bears a different name so it may be some other being.
Perhaps the “volcanic” pillán may offer an explanation.
Llaima volcano monster
Llaima volcano (38°41 S, 71°43’ W) in northern Chilean Patagonia is one of South America’s three most active volcanoes and has erupted nearly fifty times since 1640.
This volcano was not only home to a deformed dwarf, Quetrunamun (we have posted on it Here), another monster was seen here during the 1640 eruption.
According to historian Ovalle , during that eruption, there was an apparition by the volcano of a “fierce beast full of convoluted antlers on
its head, giving horrifying groans and dreadful sounds”; below is the image published in his book:
From: ; “Indi prodigijs Montis igniuomi, Amnis arborem, mostrum”.
Ovalle represented the beast as a horned being that lacked arms, had bird (dinosaur?) like hind legs and a prehensile tail; it even seemed covered with scales or feathers.
The horned head is jagged like a saw, and its volcano habitat may mean that this monster was a Maripill.
There were other very similar large reptilian creatures in Patagonia (the hairy snake, Culebrón and the dragon-like Epunamún), we really do not know what they could have been.
See our posts on Culebrón and Epunamun.
The Llaima volcano creature closely resembles a Harpy (except that it lacks wings - or are they folded in the engraving?). There were reports of harpies in Chile and Perú in the XVIIIth century. See my post on the Chilean Harpy.
 Latcham, R., (1924). Op. Cit. pp. 352.
 Stieben, E., (1951). Hualicho Mapu (Leyendas, cuentos y relatos de la Pampa misteriosa). B. Aires: Albatros. pp. 91+
 Colombres, A., (2001). Op. Cit. pp. 160.
 de Ovalle, A. Op. Cit. pp. 303+
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©