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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chelep, the hairy Patagonian dwarf

orangutan - Chelep
Orangutan, from an old engraving.

Some more information on the intriguing subject of Patagonian dwarves. In previous posts, I have written about the different kinds of dwarves that have been reported in Patagonia. Today we will look into the Chelep, a dwarf that was likened to an orangutan.

Chelep, monkey like dwarf.

Chelep is an interesting creature and shares several features with the Fuegian Yosi and the Chiloé Island Trauco. Both of which are dwarfish, hairy, carry sticks or clubs, and very monkey-like.

Chelep may also be the origin of the myth regarding the “first men” or Tachwull .

The source on Chelep is a diary written by a Santiago Dunne, a Chilean government official in 1845, at Punta Arenas. He jotted down reports from a man named Centurión, who was not a native, but lived among them.

Below I will quote extensively from this diary (I have translated it from Spanish to English respecting the style of Dunne):

“that between the Negro and the Santa Cruz Rivers, along the inland road which is where the Indians travel, there are two places where there are many stone homes painted with various colors, and which are inhabited by a race that as described by the Patagons [Aonikenk] have a lot of resemblance to the orangutans: these sites are [not] along the same road but [towards] the Andes. Small size, hairy body and a club or baculus always in their hand. The cover with a short guanaco fur in the same way those [natives] of Tierra del Fuego do.
The Patagons call them Chelep. Most of these groups of Indians have visited those places and have been in the same homes, but have never been able to take one of their inhabitants despite that they have seen them and ran very close to them and even been hit by stones thrown by them; which has led them to take them for witches and they do not go to their caves because they must not be other than [illegible] in great numbers.
It should be noted that the Patagons [Aonikenk] only when they go to the Negro River, which does not happen frequently, is when the chelep see them arriving, because they have always done so during daytime, run away and get lost in forests [*] abandoning their lodges in which can be found bones and guanaco hides and that sometimes those that have slept close to such homes, have been robbed and some of their horses killed”
. [1]

[*] though the Spanish word “montes” can also mean “mountains”.

More on the Chelep. A close encounter.

Centurión, Dunne’s informant had not been to the Chelep’s country, but his wife had, and she told Dunne the following:

She was at those homes only accompanied by her elder sister, because all the others that were going with her [to the Negro River] had gone out to the fields, far away […] while alone with her sister, the dog that they had with them began to bark and then they saw coming towards them a woman carrying a child and her club; this frightened them and her companion hid among a pile of hides that were there, but that she could not do the same, she pretended to be dead;
The new arrival saw her and with the tip of her club moved her but the child she carried in her arms cried every time she touche her and that at last she left her without harming her and only to the dog, which had bothered her, clubbed it.

What kind of creature is the Chelep? a Homo erectus?

Dunne wrote that the natives frightened their children with these stories, but he believed that they may have some truth behind them, and that the Chelep were probably some "lost" tribe of the Tehuelche group.

However, their pre-human appearance, their monkey-like features may indicate some kind of non-human homind (i.e. a homo erectus or, if tiny and dwarfish, even a variety of Flores Island "hobbit") in southern South America. The cross cultural similarities (the creature appears under different names among all the Patagonian natives from Tierra del Fuego to Central Chile) also support this idea.

See this Map for a clear idea of where the different varieties of Patagonian dwarves lived.


[1] Martinic Mateo, (2005). De la Trapananda al Aysen: una mirada reflexiva sobre el acontecer de la Región de Aysen desde la prehistoria hasta nuestros días . Pehuén. pp. 29.

[2] Martinic Mateo, (2000). Informaciones Etnográficas extraidas del diario inedito de Santiago Dunne, Secretario de la Gobernación de Magallanes (1845). Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia: Serie Ciencias humanas, Vol. 28., Instituto de la Patagonia. Pp. 49 -50

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

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