The Story of the Cougar and the Mirror

The cougar first tears apart its victim, then it drinks the blood eating the heart and leaves the remains for the buzzards. Nothing can compete with the strength of the cougar. There is no animal that confronts it nor man that does not flee from it. The only thing that can defeat the cougar is a force equally brutal, bloody, and powerful. Only the cougar itself could defeat the cougar.
When we understood that only the cougar could defeat the cougar we began to think about what to do so that the cougar would confront itself. The oldest of the old in the community said that it was necessary to understand the cougar and they named a young man to go understand it.
They put the young man in the heights of a ceiba tree and at the base of it they put a bound calf. They left. The young man had to observe what the cougar did with the calf, wait for it to leave, and return to the community to tell what he had seen. That’s what he did, the cougar arrived and killed and tore up the calf, then it drank its blood eating the heart and left when the buzzards circled waiting for their turn.
The young man went to the community and told what he had seen, the oldest of the old thought a while and said: “May the death that the killer gives be its death,” and they handed the young man a mirror, some nails for ironwork, and a calf.
“Tomorrow is the night of justice,” said the old ones and they returned to their thoughts.
The young man did not understand. He went to his hut and was there for a good while looking at the set. He was there and his father arrived and asked him what had happened to him; the young man told him everything. The young man’s father remained in silence together with him and, after a while, talked. The young man smiled while he listened to his father.
The next day, when the afternoon was already turning golden and the gray of the night let itself fall over the tops of the trees, the young man left the community and went to the foot of the ceiba tree carrying the calf. When he got to the foot of the mother tree, he killed the calf and took out its heart. Then he broke the mirror in many little pieces and stuck them in the heart with the blood, then he opened the heart and put in the ironwork nails. He returned the heart to the calf’s breast and with stakes made a framework to keep it standing up, as if it were alive. The young man went up to the top of the ceiba tree and waited there. Above, while the night let itself fall from the trees to the ground, he remembered the words of his father: “The same death with which the killer will kill itself.”
The night was already complete in the time of below when the cougar arrived. The animal approached and, in one leap, attacked the calf and tore it up. When it licked the heart, the cougar doubted whether the blood was dry or not, but the broken bits of mirror wounded the cougar’s tongue and made it bleed. So the cougar thought that the blood from its mouth was that of the calf’s heart and, excited, bit the entire heart. The ironwork nails made it bleed more, but the cougar continued thinking that the blood that it had in its mouth was the calf’s. Chewing and chewing, the cougar wounded itself more and more and bleed more and chewed more and more.
The cougar was like that until it bleed to death.
The young man returned with the cougar’s claws as a necklace and showed it to the oldest of the old in the community.
They smiled to themselves and told him: “The claws are not what you should keep as a victory trophy, but the mirror.”

Originally published on July 17th, 1998.

English translation copyright © 2014 by Henry Gales. All rights reserved.

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