Maya Culture --
Traditional Storyteller's Tales,
Maya Village Life Now; Sounds, phrases, numbers

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These animal stories are from Tales and Legends of the Q'anjob'al Maya (Yax:Te' Press, copyright 1995; reprinted here with permission). This collection is 41 tales, fables, myths and legends of the Q'anjob'al-speaking people of the Cuchumat'n Mountains of Guatemala. There are animal stories, strange encounters with Lords of the Hill, tales of deceit and wonder, and origin legends.

There may be as many as 10,000 Q'anjob'al Maya, descendants of those who built the greatest ancient civilization of Central America, scattered throughout the United States and Canada, especially in Southern California and Florida, refugees from the terror in Guatemala.

Fernando Peñalosa, who is a principal figure in Yax:Te' Press says:

"I collected these tales from my friend don Pedro Miguel Say, a Q'anjob'al Maya from Guatemala, who presently resides in Los Angeles. You might say he's an elder, although we are the same age, 70. Young people simply do not know the stories, or at least are not able to tell them. I translated the tales from Q'anjob'al Maya into Spanish and English.

A trilingual edition of the tales was first published by the Mayan self-help organization IXIM in Los Angeles, but this volume has long been out of print. I am now planning to get out a bilingual (Q'anjob'al-Spanish) edition for distribution primarily in Guatemala and in the refugee camps in Mexico, and have several other such collections in the works. "

Sr. Peñalosa may be able to provide some other traditional Mayan tales, which I'll include here, though much of his effort is devoted to translating Mayan literature into Spanish, rather than English, since that's most useful to the large Mayan population of Mexico and Meso-American countries. A catalog of Mayan publications is available from:

Fernando Peñalosa
Yax Te' Press
3520 Coolheights Drive
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275-6231
Phone (310) 377-7603; Fax (310) 377-8763

Sr. Peñalosa would like to hear from (by email or more conventional means) people interested in these writings, or in oral or written Mayan literature generally:

A Mayan Life: A Birth in the Village--By Gaspar Pedro Gonzalez, a Mayan writer who is an official of the Ministry of Culture in Guatemala. This excerpt is part of chapter 1 of the first novel ever by a Mayan writer, telling the story of life in a remote Mayan village in the Guatemalan highlands as experienced by mayans who live there. Translated by Fernando Penalosa and Janet Sawyer, copyright 1995, Yax:Te' Press

Information below--a simple pronunciation guide, numbers, and calendrics will add enjoyment to the Mayan stories. The web (and my books) on pronunciation and calendrics use a different Mayan language (Yucatec, from Mexico's Yucatán). At the beginning of the Mayan Life book, there is atmospheric writing about 13 Ajaw. This is the cyclic calender day-name Ahau in some sources here.

  • The Maya CalendarMaya calendar tables, names of days and months

  • Maya Calendar--Canadian Museum of Civilization explains this complex subject (Mayan calendrics).

  • Maya Astronomy--Archaeoastronomer shows how ancient Maya related astronomical observations--sun, moon, stars, galaxies--to time, religion and politics.

  • Ancient Guatemala--Mayans in Guatemala, brief text and pix, and a link to the author's Guatemala Today page.

  • About Pop Wuj (Popul Vuh), the most important record of traditional pre-conquest Mayan wisdom, "Secret book" written in the 16th century, after Dieago de la Landa had burnt all Mayan books but the 4 Codices that survive in European museums. (Not done yet)

Tables of Pronunciations, Phrases, Numbers

  • Yucatec Mayan, pronunciation guide, everyday phrases

    • Maya language
      --My table (above) gives contemporary pronunciation and vocabulary, this Canadian Museum of Civilization page explains the glyphics of archaeologists working with the ancient languages.

  • Number Glyphs and words for base-20 numbers 1-20

    • Maya numbers--My table (above) gives their names and glyphs; this Canadian Museum of Civilization page explains a bit more about the base-20 number system.


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ART CREDIT: The Jaguar Dancer is an inlay or mosaic of jade, turquoise and other colored stones found at the ancient Palenque city site (see Maya site map page). It was traced by an anthropologist, then used as one of a set of Maya designs in black-and-white prepared by Doug Bradway, Anwesasne Notes layout editor from 1972-77. Like the others, I traced it in FreeHand and colored it (with no reference to the reality of what kinds of stones were used where) then converted the vector to a raster file for these pages.

Page prepared by Paula Giese. Text and graphics copyright 1995, 1996. Mayan Tales copyright Yax:Te' Press, 1995. Novel copyright Yax:Te' Press, 1995.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 06, 1996 - 2:05:43 AM