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     Land of winds > Traditions > Legend | Issue 14 (Mar.-Apr. 2013)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Myths of the quena

Myths of the quena

There are several South American legends featuring the quena as the main character besides the famous story of the Manchay puytu (and its many variants).

According to one legend set in the Imperial Cuzco, the sound of the quena was the only one that succeeded in stopping the misdeeds of a devil or supay known as Nakaq or Nakacc. In the tale "El alma de la quena" (literally, "the soul of the quena"), by the Peruvian writer Abraham Valdelomar, the sound of the instrument is the materialization of the player's sorrow. Something similar happens in "La leyenda de la quena" (literally, "the legend of the quena"), written in 1938 by the Chilean narrator Ester Cosani, one of the earliest figures of children's literature in her country.

Many versions of the legend of the quena are just a copy of one of the variants of the Manchay puytu, as happens with those found in north-western Argentina, which usually include a forbidden love and a flute made from the tibia of one of the lovers who died tragically.

In the coastal region of Ecuador, however, there are much funnier versions, such as the one that tells the origin of all flutes (including the quena): the story goes that a reed, which got tired of the wind playing dirty tricks on her, swallowed on of his fringes. Struggling to escape, the lick of breeze began to produce sounds that reached the ears of a herder who was not far off.

The quena appears in many other Andean legends, such as that of Acoitrapa and Chuquillanto (collected by the chronicler Martín de Murúa), or the legend of the yaraví. In all of them, the Andean aerophone provides the account with the "melancholic" touch that characterizes the Latin American romantic nationalist literature under whose influence these stories were created and spread.

Article. "Manchay Puytu: leyendas de la quena en la literatura y el teatro", in Cantera de Sonidos [es].
Article. "El alma de la quena", by Abraham Valdelomar, in Wikisource [es].
Article. "Leyendas indígenas del área de montaña: noroeste argentino". Leyendas del noroeste argentino [es].
Book. "Leyenda de la cierva plateada y otras leyendas", by León Serret. "El origen de la flauta", in GoogleBooks [es].
Article. "La leyenda de Acoitrapa y Chuquillanto", in Nosotros... de este lado [es].

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