The Jaguar (Báalam) and The Skunk (Zorrino) A Mayan Folktale

2019 History Kirby Vickery September 2019

By Kirby Vickery on the September 2019 Edition

A lady Zorrino (Skunk) had a small son named Tak Zóachil, which he shortened to ‘Tak’, and an even smaller daughter named Ti’ Tu’. As luck would have it, this young skunk was baptized by his mother’s good friend and compadre, a gentleman Báalam (Jaguar).

One day, it came time for Mr. Jaguar to go hunting and he decided that he would like to take Tak with him. So he went to ask permission. He told Mrs. Skunk that he wanted to take his Ahijado (godson) with him to start teaching him how to hunt for food.


She replied, “I appreciate you taking such an interest in your godson but he is way too young and small to be taken out on a hunting trip.” But the little one spoke out earnestly, “No mother, I had better go. What my Padrino (godfather) says is true. I need practice if I’m going to learn to hunt.”

“But,” she cried, “If you go, you’ll be far away.”
But the Tak was not to be put off and said, “I’m going, I’m go-ing. Come on, let’s go.” And so, they set off, with Mr. Jaguar telling the young skunk that they were headed down toward a river to pick up some good game trails.
As is typical of youth, universally, the young Skunk kept asking, “When are we going to get there?”

“Soon.” Mr. Jaguar told him. “You want to stay close and don’t get lost.” Then they came upon the river.

“This is where we’re going to eat. You come on over here while I sharpen my knife,” said Mr. Jaguar.

“All right,” said the little skunk, looking at his godfather as he sharpened his claws, which he called his “knife.”

“I’ve sharpened my knife. Now you’re going to be on guard, because I need a nap. When you see them come, wake me up,” said Mr. Jaguar.

“All right, Godfather” said the little skunk. Then Mr. Jaguar told him: “Don’t shout. Just scratch my belly when they come so I won’t alarm them. Oh yeah,” he added, “don’t wake me up if just any little old animals without antlers come along, only when the one with big antlers gets here.”

“All right,” said the little skunk. Then the one with the big antlers came, and the skunk awakened Mr. Jaguar by scratching his belly, and pointed out the deer to Mr. Jaguar, who then attacked the animal with big antlers.

“All right, my godson, we’re going to eat this meat,” said the Jaguar. “All right,” said the little skunk. And so they ate and ate. “Now we’re going to take whatever leftovers there are to your mother, since we are full. Your mother will have meat to eat, just as we did,” said the Jaguar.

When they came back to the mother’s house, he told her, “Look at the food here. Look, we’ve brought you some food that we hunted. Eat your fill of the meat, comadre.” the Jaguar said and then turned and left.

“All right,” said the skunk, and the family ate the meat until they were all full. They were so full that Yuum Zorrino (Papa Skunk) suggested that they all go out for a long walk.

Ti’. (champaalo’ zorrino)

This was a good thing except when they got back they discovered that little Ti’ wasn’t with them and was probably lost in the woods.

Yuum (father) set up separate search areas for them and Tak was the last one back. But, when he finally showed up, he was followed by Ti’ and everyone was very happy.Later on, when mother skunk was putting the youngsters to bed, she asked Tak if he had to use any of his new found hunting skills with the Jaguar to find Ti’.

To which he replied, “No mother, I didn’t have to at all, be-cause Ti’ Tu’ (In stinked).
[Yes, I know the word is: ‘Instinto,’ but I hope you don’t hold it against me.]

A young Báalam getting a real lesson in life.

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