Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Desceliers 1546 map and its monsters


Desceliers 1546 map

Detail of Desceliers 1546 World Map showing Patagonia. From [1]

Patagonia Dragon

Detail of Desceliers 1546 World Map showing a dragon(?). From [1]

Patagonian griffin

Detail of Desceliers 1546 World Map showing Griffins(?). From [1]

The incomplete world map drawn in 1546 by Pierre Desceliers (1487-1553), is contemporary to Thevet's Succarath. Its formal name is Faictes a Arques par Pierre Desceliers presbe 1546 and you can see it online Here [1].

The map shows, in Patagonia, some strange animals which we have reproduced above. One of them appears to be a dragon while the other two are a pair of griffins, one of which is feasting on some animal that it has hunted.

Dragons are mentioned in several myths regarding Patagonian creatures, griffins on the other hand are only mentioned in one XVIth century chronicle.

For instance, the mythical Nguruvilú (also known as Nirribilo, Ghyryvilu) was described in 1810 by Jesuit priest and naturalist, Juan Ignacio Molina as a reptililan “Dragon”:"in certain Chilean lakes, an enormous fish or dragon can be found".[2]

In the late 1800s, Federico Barberá, a military commander in the Argentine war against the Puelche natives, wrote that their word Yhuayfilú described a "Dragon (or fabulous monster)”.[3]

the Mapuche “Cherruv” or “Cherrufe”, which had many different representations and for some tribes it was “sphinx that blends the head of a man to the body of a “Culebrón”. Or, according to Guevara a hydra-like being: “a seven headed monster, a dragon that spews fire […] and lives close to volcanos”.[4]

The “Culebrón” (from the Spanish word for “big snake” or “dragon”), which the natives called “Füta Filu” (big snake) had differing appearances depending on the tribe and region. However most agreed that it was a fat stout snake with a mane of stiff hairs along its back.

Another mythical Mapuche being, "Epunamun” was depicted by Father Ovalle in his "Histórica Relación" as follows: “their Epunamon [sic] appeared to them in the form of a terrible dragon, casting fire out of his mouth, and his tail curled up”.[5]

Click for more information on Culebrón and Epunamun Here.

Outside of Patagonia, in the XVth century, there were reports of a gigantic “condor-griffin” (the latter is a fantastic creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle). Cieza de León, a Spanish conquistador and chronicler noted that in Perú (1540s) there were “some very big condors that almost look like griffins; some attack lambs and small guanaco in the fields”.[6] Perhaps this creature extended its range into Patagonia.


[1] National Library of Australia. World maps. Early works to 1800. Facsimiles. Australia. Discovery and exploration. Call Number: MAP RM 567.
[2] Molina, J., (1986). Ensayo sobre la historia Natural de Chile. Santiago: Ediciones Maule pp. 233.
[3] Barbará, F., (2000). Manual de la lengua pampa. B. Aires: Emecé. pp.59.
[4] Guevara, T., (1925). Historia de Chile: Chile prehispano. Santiago: Balcells. Chap. I.
[5] De Ovalle, A., (1646). Histórica Relación del Reyno de Chile…. Roma: Francisco Caballo. pp. 200.
[6] Cieza de León, P. Ballesteros, M. [Ed] (2000). La crónica del Perú (1553). Madrid: Dastin S. L. pp. 367-368.

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

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