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, December 1, 2009

"Maripill" and the Llaima volcano monster


Maripill; its name derives from the Mapuche words “mari”= ten and “pill”= short form of “pillán” which,[1] 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]”.[2] 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.[3]

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
”;[4] below is the image published in his book:

Llaima Volcano monster

Llaima volcano monster.
From: [4]; “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.


[1] Latcham, R., (1924). Op. Cit. pp. 352.
[2] Stieben, E., (1951). Hualicho Mapu (Leyendas, cuentos y relatos de la Pampa misteriosa). B. Aires: Albatros. pp. 91+
[3] Colombres, A., (2001). Op. Cit. pp. 160.
[4] de Ovalle, A. Op. Cit. pp. 303+

Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters


  1. it seems a bit like a spinosaurid, they ate fish so living in or near a river seems probable. some dinosaurs are known to have horns like the spinosaurid irritator challengeri, I would also point out that baryonyx another spinosaurid had long strong arms so the same might be present in this creature, the only real problem that I see is that it is depicted as a small animal. I know dinosaurs have been extinct for 65mya but it's a possibility. but in my opinion the drawing itself seems to be more fanciful but the acount itself seems trustworthy if so it would put my idea question in doubt seeing as half my conclusion is based off it :/ also I would love to chat with you about your ideas and theories, if you want please email me at

  2. After watching the tv series "Primeval" I began to wonder if some of these or all of these creature sightings are animals from other times both in the past and future. The way they reoccur then vanish without a trace. Though I know it is an extraordinary answer it still might have some validity.


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