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Comparative American Ethnoliterature: The "Challenge" Motif

Author(s): Enrique Ballon-Aguirre and Jose Ballon-Aguirre

Source: Poetics Today, Vol. 16, No. 1, Loci of Enunciation and Imaginary Constructions: The
Case of (Latin) America, II (Spring, 1995), pp. 29-51
Published by: Duke University Press
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Enrique Ballon-Aguirre
Languages and Literatures, Arizona State
and Jose Ballon-Aguirre
Spanish and Latin American Literature, Ohio Wesleyan

Abstract This essay describes the discursive organization of the "challenge,"

a motif previously studied by A. J. Greimas as a recit. Here, the narrative unit
examined is an Andean ethnoliterary motif. An analysis of the objects in this
text allows us to establish the difference between re6nimos,tecnemas,and zoemas.

The objects of culture produced in the Americas are frequently stud-

ied by using three norms to "apprehend" them: (1) a temporal one,
such as a specific moment in history or prehistory; (2) a spatial one,
such as an area delineated by the borders of a country or by an ethnic
group; and (3) an academic one, such as the disciplinary boundaries
of a given institutionalized field of knowledge. These three criteria,
regardless of how tenuously they may be employed, reveal an impor-
tant commonality: they all originate in a confining cognitive point of
view which tends to resist any perspectives beyond the given spatial,
temporal, or academic zones. For instance, when one mentions "Latin
America" or "Latin American" culture, one is usually referring ex-
clusively to cultural phenomena observed south of the Rio Grande
(see Instituto 1990: 19) in societies where the prevalent dialects are
those of the Romance languages. Thus, large populations in Haiti,
in Quebec province, and in the American Southwest are automati-

Poetics Today 16:1 (Spring 1995). Copyright ? 1995 by The Porter Institute for
Poetics and Semiotics. CCC 0333-5372/95/$2.50.
30 Poetics Today 16:1

cally excluded. Such an approach inhibits research in linguistics and

in comparative mythology at the continental level and diffuses the
parameters of analytical coherence. Thus an effort should be made to
depart from traditional literary history and criticism, where analogi-
cal and intuitive principles are applied without offering the reader a
regulatory frame of reference within which to evaluate the results. For
instance, in current historical periodizations and genre differentia-
tions, only the official literary production of Latin American Spanish-
speaking communities is considered. This approach marginalizes, or
simply ignores, literary works in ancestral languages and the diglossic
literature produced by societies that are defined by their multilingual-
ism and pluriculturalism.
A healthy reaction against this analytical fragmentation is repre-
sented by the interdisciplinary studies of the Centro de Investiga-
ciones sobre Mexico, America Central y los Andes (CERMACA). Al-
though devoted to only three areas, these interdisciplinary studies
nevertheless break through the territorial and academic confinement
which seems to prevail in current analytical discourse. Nathan Wachtel
(1988: 50) describes the Center's guidelines as follows:
1) Not to recognize disciplinaryboundaries and to promote cooperation
among sociologists,anthropologists,and archaeologists;2) not to recognize
geographicalboundariesby developingteamworkprojectswith experts on
the Andes, Mesoamerica,and, if possible,WesternEurope(mainlyMediter-
ranean Europe, southern France,Italy,Spain);3) not to recognize chrono-
logical boundarieseither, since each study group is formed by specialistsin
the pre-Columbian,colonial, nineteenth-century,and contemporaryperi-
ods. (Our translation)
In another fresh, integrative direction, Latin American comparative
literature studies have been effective in presenting intertextual find-
ings in various sociocultural areas, especially when these findings are
accompanied by a description of the formal correlations which allow
a homogeneous examination of the given textual planes. This can be
seen in the interpretation and explanation of myths, or "matrices of
intelligibility" (Levi-Strauss 1976: 16), beginning with minor units of
narrative, such as the minimalmythicalrecit. The analytical procedures
in this field have varied considerably, from the formal description of
minor narrative enunciates (e.g., veni, vidi, vici) to innumerable cate-
gorial schemes (which describe, on the plane of content, the minimal
properties of general narrative), such as the well-known diagram of
the Narrative Program.1

1. The semiotictermsand their definitionsappearin A. J. Greimasand Joseph

Courtes(1982, 1986).
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 31

The formal organization of motifs (defined as mobile recits which

migrate from one narrative unit to another either within a cultural
universe or outside of it) has become a fruitful field of study thanks to
the contributions made by, among others, Joseph Courtes (1986, 1989,
1991), Claude Calame (1990), and Claude Bremond.2 In this essay, we
intend to proceed in that direction, focusing on the "challenge motif,"
a micro-recit that has traditionally been considered a manipulation-
recit in the Indo-European narrative corpus (see Greimas 1982). We
will also analyze this motif within the context of other motifs found in
Latin American ethnoliterary texts. It is particularly important that
our corpus/context be a non-Indo-European one because, as we shall
demonstrate, it modifies the apothegm that is held to be universally
valid for the r6cits of challenge: "It is unthinkable that a knight could
challenge anyone who is despicable" (ibid.: 44). In the Amerindian
corpus, this apothegm becomes a relative enunciate because "despi-
cable" characters are in fact challenged, although they embody an
implicit divine competence.
As mentioned in an earlier study (Ball6n-Aguirre 1983), the obser-
vation and description of motifs cannot be accomplished, nor their
typologies established, outside of the texts in which they are inscribed.
In fact, a motif creates a relation of invariance and variance with the
surrounding text which contains and contextualizes it. If we consider
the micro-recit narrative structure (with its own processes) to be in-
variable, the motif then appears variable, and vice versa. Therefore,
the motif cannot be fully autonomous from the narrative articulations
on the structural level, but can be defined only in relation to them.
Aside from its relative autonomy, the motif can be distinguished
from the functional signification that it attains in connection with the
major narrative (or "occurrence text") in which it is inscribed. It is also
possible to delineate and analyze the motif as an invariable figurative
unit in itself, unaffected by its various contexts and isolated from the
functional secondary significations (narrative functions and discursive
variables) acquired within a larger narrative unit. In this sense, the
motif can be considered a consistent narrative segment, substantive
enough to be studied by itself.
Turning now to the micro-recit, we can see that it also functions as
a transtextualdiscursiveconfiguration,possessing a self-reliant semantic-
syntactic organization and capable of being inscribed in longer discur-
sive units. Thus the evaluation of a series of discursive configurations

2. See Communications 39 (Paris: Seuil, 1984); see also Le Conte, pourquoi? comment?
Actes desJournees d'etudes en Litterature orale (Paris, 23-26 mars 1982) (Paris: Centre
National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1984), and Leon and Perron (1987).
32 Poetics Today 16:1

navigating in a given sociocultural universe may allow us to establish a

typology of the sociocultural stereotypes which define it. In this essay,
we intend to contribute to the formulation of such a typology.3

The Corpus
The original narrative body or mass to be examined here comes from
chapter 5 of Ritos y tradicionesde Huarochiri,which is considered the ur-
text of Andean ethnoliterature (Taylor 1987: 103-15, lexies 64-114).
We have constituted the corpus following the guidelines that have al-
ready been established for the semiotic (Ball6n-Aguirre 1987) and
the semantic (Ball6n-Aguirre, Cerr6n-Palomino, and Chambi-Apaza
1992) regulation of this type of discourse. Next, we will briefly outline
the "occurrence text," or narrative context, from which this micro-
recit is taken.
The macro-recit in chapter 5 develops the following plot. Huatia-
curi, a poor, humble man (described as such because he subsists en-
tirely on "papas huatiadas," potatoes buried underground and baked
with hot rocks), who is also the son of the god Pariacaca, overhears in
a dream a conversation between two foxes and learns that a powerful
man, Tamtanamca, is very ill. In his dream, Huatiacuri also discovers
the cause of this man's illness: his wife's love affair. Huatiacuri goes
to see Tamtanamca, but is not well received. In spite of this, Huatia-
curi offers to cure Tamtanamca on the condition that he be allowed to
marry the man's younger daughter (since his elder daughter is already
married to a wealthy man). When Tamtanamca agrees, Huatiacuri
cures him, revealing his wife's love affair; immediately thereafter, Hua-
tiacuri destroys a serpent and a frog who were undermining this man's
house. Tamtanamca then fulfills his promise and gives his daughter
to Huatiacuri in marriage. However, when the affluent husband of
Tamtanamca's elder daughter hears about the marriage, he becomes
enraged, refusing to accept Huatiacuri as his new brother-in-law:
1. Asi, un dia, ese hombre le dijo a Huatiacuri:"Hermano,vamos a
competir en distintas pruebas.CC6mote atrevistet6, un miserable,
a casarte con la cunada de un hombre tan poderoso como yo?" El
pobre acept6 el desafio y fue a contarle a su padre lo que el otro
le habia dicho. "Muybien,"le dijo su padre, "cualquiercosa que te
proponga, ven en seguida a verme."
2. He aqui la primeraprueba.Un dia su cunadole dijo:"Vamosa medir
nuestras fuerzas bebiendo y bailando."Huatiacuri,el pobre, fue a
contarseloa su padre.
3. Este le dijo: "Vetea la otra montana,donde convirtiendoteen hua-
naco, te echarascomo si estuvierasmuerto;entonces, por la manana
3. The numberof Americanethnoliterarystudiespublishedhasgreatlyincreased
in recentyears(see Ball6n-Aguirre1986, 1989b).
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 33

temprano, un zorro y su mujer, una zorrina, vendran a verte; la zo-

rrina traera chicha en un poronguito y traera tambien su tambor;
al verte, creyendo que eres un huanaco muerto, pondra estas cosas
en el suelo, el zorro hara lo mismo con su antara, y empezaran a co-
merte; alli te convertiras de nuevo en hombre y, gritando con todas
tus fuerzas, te echaras a volar; ellos huiran, olvidandose de sus cosas y
asi iras a la prueba." Estas fueron las palabras de su padre, Pariacaca.
4. Entonces, el hombre pobre hizo todo conforme a sus instrucciones.
Al empezar la competici6n, el hombre rico fue el primero en ha-
blar. Aproximadamente doscientas mujeres bailaron para el; cuando
acab6, Huatiacuri, el pobre, entr6 solo con su mujer, los dos solitos.
Cruzaron el umbral y bailaron acompanados por el tambor de la zo-
rrina; entonces, en toda la regi6n la tierra tembl6. De esta manera,
Huatiacuri venci6 en todo.
5. Despues empezaron a beber. Como suelen hacer ain los huespedes,
que en las asambleas se sientan en el sitio mas alto. Tambien Hua-
tiacuri y su mujer fueron a sentarse solos en el puesto de honor.
Entonces, todos los hombres que estaban sentados alli, vinieron a
servirle chicha sin dejarle respirar. Huatiacuri bebio tranquilamente
todo lo que le sirvieron. En seguida le toc6 a el; empez6 a servirles la
chicha que habia traido en su poronguito. Los demas, cuando vieron
lo pequeno que era el porongo para saciar a tanta gente, se rieron a
carcajadas. Pero apenas se puso a servirles, yendo de un extremo a
otro de la asamblea, cayeron todos sin sentido.
6. Como Huatiacuri habia vencido en esta prueba, al dia siguiente el
otro quiso desafiarlo de nuevo. Esta vez, la competicion consistia en
ataviarse con las mas finas plumas de casa y cancho. Nuevamente,
Huatiacuri fue a consultar a su padre. Este le dio un traje de nieve.
Asi venci6 a su rival deslumbrandolos a todos.
7. El otro le desafi6 a traer pumas. Quiso vencer trayendo lo que po-
seia. Segin las instrucciones de su padre, el hombre pobre fue muy
temprano a un manantial de donde trajo un puma rojo. (Cuando
se puso a bailar con el puma rojo, apareci6 en el cielo un arco iris
semejante a los que vemos de nuestros dias.)
8. Entonces, su rival quiso competir con el en la construcci6n de una
casa. Como ese hombre tenia mucha gente a su servicio, casi acab6
en un solo dia la construcci6n de una casa grande. El pobre no co-
loc6 mas que los cimientos y pas6 todo el dia paseando con su mujer.
Pero por la noche, todos los pajaros asi como las serpientes, todas las
que habia en el mundo, construyeron su casa. Entonces, cuando al
dia siguiente su rival la vio ya acabada, se asust6 mucho.
9. Desafi6 a Huatiacuri a una nueva competicion: esta vez debian techar
las casas. Todos los huanacos, todas las vicunas traian la paja para
el techo del hombre rico. Huatiacuri esper6 encima de una pena el
paso de las llamas que llegaban cargadas con paja. Contrat6 la ayuda
de un gato montes y, asustandolas, destruyo e hizo caer todo. Asi
venci6 en esta prueba.
10. Despues de haber ganado en todo, el pobre, siguiendo el consejo de
34 Poetics Today 16:1

su padre, dijo a su rival: "Hermano, tantas veces ya he aceptado tus

desafios; ahora te toca a ti aceptar el desafio que voy a hacerte yo."
El hombre rico acept6. Entonces, Huatiacuri le dijo: "Ahora vamos
a bailar vestidos con una cusmay huara azul y de algod6n blanco." El
otro acept6.
11. El hombre rico bail6 primero como siempre solia hacer. Mientras
bailaba, Huatiacuri entr6 corriendo y gritando. El hombre rico se
asust6, se convirti6 en venado y huy6.
12. Entonces, su mujer se fue tras el: "Voy a morir al lado de mi marido,"
dijo. El hombre pobre se enojo mucho. "Vete, imbecil; vosotros me
perseguisteis tanto que tambien a ti te voy a matar" le dijo y, a su vez,
se fue tras ella. La alcanz6 en el camino de Anchiococha. "Todos los
que bajan o suben por este camino veran tus verguenzas" le dijo y
la coloc6 boca abajo en el suelo. En seguida se convirtio en piedra.
Esta piedra, parecida a una pierna humana completa con muslo y
vagina, a6n existe. Hasta hoy, por cualquier motivo, la gente pone
coca encima de ella. Entonces el hombre que se habia convertido en
venado, subi6 al cerro y desapareci6.
13. Antiguamente el venado comia carne humana. Despues, cuando los
venados ya eran muchos, un dia, mientras bailaban una cachua di-
ciendo: "'C6mo haremos para comer hombres?" Una criatura se
equivoc6 y dijo: ".C6mo van a hacer los hombres para comernos?" Al
oir estas palabras, los venados se dispersaron. A partir de entonces,
habian de ser comida para los hombres. (Taylor 1987: 103-15)
1. Thus, one day, this man said to Huatiacuri: "Brother, let's compete in
different contests. How did you, a wretched man, dare to marry the
sister-in-law of a powerful man like me?" The poor man accepted the
challenge, then went to see his father and told him what his brother-
in-law had just said. "Very well," responded his father, "no matter
what he proposes, come see me right away."
2. Here is the first test. One day his brother-in-law told him: "Let's test
our strength [in] drinking and dancing." Huatiacuri, the poor man,
went to see his father.
3. His father said: "Go to the other mountain, where you will turn into
a huanaco [i.e., guanaco, an Andean animal related to the llama] and
lie down, pretending to be dead; then, early in the morning, a fox
and his mate, a vixen, will come to see you; the vixen will bring chi-
cha [fermented maize drink] in a poronguito [small jar] and also a
tambor[drum]; upon seeing you, thinking you are a dead huanaco,
she will put her things down on the ground, and the fox will do the
same with his antara [cane flute], as they prepare to devour you. In
that moment you will turn into a man, and, screaming with all your
strength, you will fly up; they will flee, leaving their things behind
for you to take to the contest with you.4 These were the words of his
father, Pariacaca.

4. Diego Gonzalez Holguin (1989 [1608]: 298) defines porongoas "vaso de barro
cuelli largo," which Gerald Taylor (1980: 51 n.44) translates into French as "vase
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 35

4. Then the poor man proceeded to carry out his father's instruc-
tions. The contest began and the rich man was the first to take the
floor. Nearly two hundred women danced with him; when the dance
ended, Huatiacuri, the poor man, showed up alone with his wife,
just the two of them. They crossed the threshold and danced to the
rhythm of the vixen's tambor;then, all over the region, the earth
trembled. In this way, Huatiacuri triumphed totally.
5. After this, they started to drink. It is customary for guests to take the
highest seat in the assembly, so Huatiacuri and his wife went to sit
by themselves in the place of honor. Then all the men who had been
sitting there rushed to bring him chichawithout giving him a chance
to catch his breath. Huatiacuri drank all the chicha that was served
him without flinching. When it was his turn to serve, he provided
the chicha from his poronguito. When the men saw that the jar was
too small to supply such a large group, they burst out laughing. But
as soon as he had finished serving the chicha [to everyone] from one
end of the assembly to the other, all of them passed out.
6. Since Huatiacuri won the contest, the other man wanted to challenge
him again the next day. This time, the contest would consist of dress-
ing up in the finest casay cancho[feathered robe].5 Again, Huatiacuri
went to confer with his father. He gave Huatiacuri a robe of snow.6
In this way, he defeated his rival, dazzling all the spectators.
7. The other man [then] challenged him to a puma hunt. The rich man
wanted to win by wearing the [puma] furs that he had already ac-
quired.7 Following his father's instructions, the poor man went at
dawn to a spring and brought back a red puma. (When he started
to dance with the red puma, a rainbow like the ones we see today
appeared in the sky.)

en terre ayant un col allonge"; Franciscode Avila (1966 [1608]: 211) calls it a "can-
tarillo";Juan de Arona (1974 [1884]: 279) defines it as a "vasoo cantaro de barro";
and Jose Maria Arguedas (1966 [1598]: 41) defines it as "jarra pequena." The
Quechua term tinya is translated by Taylor (1987: 104-5) and by Jorge Urioste
(1983: 31) as "tambor";Avila (1966 [1608]: 211) calls it a "tamborcillo,"as does
Arguedas (1966 [1598]: 41); Gonzalez Holguin (1989 [1608]: 343), curiously, de-
fines it as "atabal, aduse, bihuela, guitarra." The Quechua term antara is trans-
lated by Avila (1966 [1608]: 211) as "flauta hecha de muchas [canas]";Gonzalez
Holguin (1989 [1608]: 28) indicates that an "antara"comprises "flautillasjuntas
como 6rgano"; Arguedas (1966 [1598]: 41) translates it as "flauta de pan," as do
Taylor (1980: 51 n.45) and Cesar Bolanos (1985: 28-29, 44); Urioste (1983: 31),
however, "translates"it as a Quechua parasynonym,pinquillo.
5. Avila (1966 [1608]: 212 n.1) translates it as "plumas galanisimas y de diversos
colores," as does Taylor (1987: 109 n.87), while Urioste (1983: 126 n.2) defines
canchoas a "tejido con plumas incorporadas."
6. Avila (1966 [1608]: 212) translates it as "camisetade nieve."
7. In Taylor's (1980: 53 n.46) translation, we find this explanation: "Siendo la po-
sesi6n de las pieles de pumas el simbolo de la prosperidad de los propietarios de
llamas, el cunado de Huatiacuricrey6 que su victoriaestaba asegurada"(Since the
possession of puma fur is a sign of prosperity among llama owners, Huatiacuri's
brother-in-law believed that his victory was assured).
36 Poetics Today 16:1

8. Then his rival wanted to compete with him in the construction of a

house. Since the rich man had many servants, he could almost finish
a large house in one day. The poor man laid only the foundation
and then spent the rest of the day strolling about with his wife. That
night, however, all the birds and snakes on the face of the earth built
his house. Then, the next day, when his rival saw the finished house,
he was truly startled.
9. He challenged Huatiacuri to a new contest: this time they were to
roof their houses. All the huanacos and vicunas [Andean animal re-
lated to the llama] were loaded up with straw for the rich man. Hua-
tiacuri waited on top of a rock for the llamas to arrive with loads
of straw. He asked a wildcat to help him by scaring the llamas away.
Thus he destroyed the house, as everything collapsed. In this way,
he won the contest.
10. After he had triumphed in all the contests, [Huatiacuri,] following
his father's advice, said to his rival: "Brother, I have accepted your
challenges many times already; now it is your turn to accept the chal-
lenge I am going to propose to you." The rich man agreed. Then
Huatiacuri told him: "Now, let's dance, dressed in a cusma [shirt] and
blue and white cotton huara [pants].8 The other man accepted.
11. First, the rich man started to dance as he was accustomed to doing.
While he was dancing, Huatiacuri came running in, yelling. The rich
man, being frightened, turned into a deer and ran away.
12. Then the rich man's wife went after him: "I am going to die be-
side my husband," she said. The poor man became very angry. "Go,
stupid; the two of you have tormented me so much that I am going to
kill you too," he told her. He followed, overtaking her on the road to
Anchiococha. "All the people who travel along this road will see your
genitals," he told her, while pushing her face down to the ground.
Immediately, she turned into a stone. This stone, which looks like
a human leg, including a thigh and a vagina, still exists today. Even
now, for whatever reason, people put coca on it. In the end, the man
that became a deer went up the hill and disappeared.
13. In ancient times deer ate human flesh. Later on, when there were
many deer, they were spinning a cachuaone day, asking: "What would
we have to do in order to eat more men?"9 A fawn made the mistake

8. Hip6lito Galante (in Urioste 1983: 127 n.21) translates "cusma"as "camis6n,"
while Arguedas (1966 [1598]: 43) gives "t6nica,"and Taylor (1980: 53 n.48) says
that it is "una especie de tunica o camisa larga andina." Gonzalez Holguin (1989
[1608]: 182) defines "huara"as "paneteso caraguelles estrechos,"while Galante (in
Urioste 1983: 127 n.21) translates it as "calzones"; Arguedas (1966 [1598]: 43), as
"panete que cubria la cintura y piernas";and Taylor (1980: 53 n.49), as "pantal6n
9. For Gonzalez Holguin (1989 [1608]: 129), the "cachua"(kachua)is a "bayle asi-
dos de las manos," and kachhuani means "baylaren corro asidos." Taylor (1987:
115 nn.112, 113), besides quoting Gonzalez Holguin, indicates that according to
the An6nimo of 1585 this "baile"was "pernicioso"and adds: "In this text we are
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 37

of asking: "What would men have to do in order to eat more of us?"

Upon hearing these words, the deer scattered. From then on, they
were to be food for humans. (Translated by Jose Ball6n-Aguirre)

The Structure
In this micro-recit composed of thirteen sequences, the challenge con-
stitutes the action and the effect of defying on the part of the brother-in-law
in five instances and on the part of Huatiacuri in one. A challenge
may also be defined as a provocative declaration which implies that
someone is incapable of something. It also entails the provocation of
one-on-one combat and a contest in which qualities like strength, dex-
terity, and skill are put to the test.
The concept of challenge, then, includes all of these meanings, not
just the "provocative declaration" which has been the basis for consid-
ering it a motif of narrative manipulation. Thus, the micro-recit of chal-
lenge constitutes a complete Narrative Program, with the components
of manipulation, competence, performance, and sanction appearing
in the textual sequences (Secs.), as displayed in Figure 1.
The components of the narrative which describe the confrontation
between the protagonist, Huatiacuri, and the antagonist, his brother-in-
law, do not follow the canonical order of the Narrative Program. They
are distributed among multiple sequences linked to the six (con)tests
(or performances) that occur at various points in the narrative. Ap-
parently, we are dealing with a true dissemination of the components
of the recit, typical of this ethnoliterary motif (since, ideally, the hero-
protagonist ought to show her/his sovereignty by going through not
one but several tests). Such is the case of the hero-brothers (syncretic
protagonists) in the Popol Vuh, who participate in the different trials
proposed by the Lords of Xibalba (syncretic antagonists). Curiously,
in this case the lords do not participate in the tests; they only impose
them on the hero-brothers. This fact indicates that in order for the
test to be performed within the motif, the protagonist must partici-
pate, but not the antagonist, who can function instead as observing
subject and as judging subject (or sanctioner). In this case, the test is
no longer a contest because it has become an examination, during which
the competence of the subject, his sovereignty, should be manifest and
effective, as in the following excerpt from the Popol-Vuh (1984: 157):
[Los hermanos-heroes] entraron despues a la Casa del Frio. No es posible
describir el frio que hacia. La casa estaba llena de granizo, era la mansi6n

apparently dealing with a ritual cachua, which should enable deer to find human
flesh. The fawn, by inverting the terms in the magic formula,
brings bad luck upon
38 Poetics Today 16:1


Competence Performance

I l
Secs. 1-2-6-7 Ses. 3-6-7-10 Secs. 4-5-6 Secs. 4-5-6-7-8
-8-9-10 -8-9-11 -9-11-12-13

Figure1. Narrative program of the challenge.

del frio. Pronto, sin embargo, se quit6 el frio porque con troncos viejos lo
hicieron desaparecer los muchachos.
Asi es que no murieron; estaban vivos cuando amaneci6. Ciertamente
lo que querian los de Xibalba era que murieran: pero no fue asi, sino que
cuando amaneci6 estaban llenos de salud, y salieron de nuevo cuando los
fueron a buscar los mensajeros.
"'C6mo es eso? ~No han muerto todavia?" dijo el Senor de Xibalba.
Admirabanse de ver las obras de Huanahpu e Ixbalanqu6 [los hermanos-
([The hero-brothers] entered the House of Cold. It is impossible to describe
how cold it was. The house was full of hail, it was the mansion of cold.
Soon, however, the cold went away. The boys made it disappear by burning
old logs.
So it was that they didn't die; they were alive when the sun came out.
Certainly, what the Xibalba men wanted was for the boys to die: but that
wasn't the case; at dawn they were glowing with health; and they left again
when the messengers came looking for them.
"How is this possible? Aren't they dead yet?" said the Lord of Xibalba.
Everyone was amazed at the deeds of the Huanahpu and Ixbalanqu6 [the
hero-brothers].) (Translated by Jos6 Ball6n-Aguirre)
Let us reconsider, now, the base text taken from chapter 5 of Ritos
y tradiciones de Huarochiri. The narrative program that allows the pro-
tagonist, Huatiacuri, to pass from an initial modal incompetence
(/wanting-being able-doing/) to a state of full competence (/know-
ing-being able-doing/) is achieved in all tests (either effectively or
potentially) by the intervention of his father, Pariacaca, who thus de-
fines himself as the hero's helper. However, this intervention is not
required for the configuration of the challenge motif; in a given recit,
the hero/subject/protagonist can ignore a previous narrative program
because the modal series /knowing-being able-doing/ is revealed in
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 39

his/her competence. In this series, the /doing/ is clearly the conjunc-

tive action, with the value object being /to defeat/ in the contest or
/to solve/ in the examination. Numerous ethnoliterary texts show this
attainment of full competence by the protagonist.
In five of the tests entailed by the performance, the protagonist
maintains the thematic roles of /provoked/ and /challenged/, and the
antagonist those of /provoker/ and /challenger/. In the sixth and last
test, however, these roles are reversed, indicating that during the
"antagonism" the roles of /provocation/ and /challenge/ typically per-
formed by the contenders/subjects can be reversed or redistributed.
What seems to remain a constant in the challenge motif is the protago-
nist's success in all of the tests, regardless of his different protagonist/
antagonist thematic roles. The disputed value object /to defeat/ is de-
fined by its virtual relation with the antagonistic subjects, but neither
of them is in ajunctive relationship with it beforethe /duel/: it is merely
virtual until it is revealed in the moment of its conjunction with the
/defeater/ (the hero).
In regard to the sanction, it can be limited: (a) to the /approval/ of
the protagonist's action; (b) to the declaration of his /victory/ by an
implicit or a tacit judging subject ("in this way Huatiacuri triumphed
completely"; "in this way he won the contest"); or (c) to the /failure/
of the antagonist's action and his /defeat/ at the end of each test. The
final sanction can be simple, as in sequence 11 (the antagonist's trans-
formation into a deer), or complex, as in sequences 12 and 13, where
the sanction includes "revenge" (the sanction affects the antagonist's
wife and even increases its semantic density by stressing the existential
condition of deer).
Let us turn now to the three stages of confrontation in the challenge
motif. These stages are different from the narrative classification of
enunciates (of inchoateness, duration, and terminableness). Here, we
are dealing with three stages of action in the narrative process, which
might be called:
1. Ab initio, enunciated in the first sequence when the brother-in-
law introduces the theme of the "affront" (the protagonist's mar-
riage to his wife's sister) which he has received from Huatiacuri.
This event immediately establishes the initial thematic role of the
antagonist (anti-subject or anti-hero), who has been referred to
as "cunado" (brother-in-law) and who adopts the thematic roles
of /offended/ in the cognitive dimension and of /injured/ in the
pragmatic dimension. The protagonist, Huatiacuri, on the other
hand, involuntarily assumes the thematic roles of/offender/ and
of /injurer/, respectively.
2. Media adfinem, enunciated in the first and second sequences by
the "antagonism" theme: the verbalchallenge, which determines,
40 Poetics Today 16:1

as before, the antagonist's second set of thematic roles of /pro-

voker/ on the cognitive plane and of/challenger/ on the pragmatic
plane, with the protagonist symmetrically adopting or accepting
the thematic roles of /provoked/ and /challenged/, respectively,
on each plane. This stage also includes the development of the
confrontation, that is, of the "contest" as such: it is the challengein
action which comprises the series of tests contained in sequences
4 and 11. In all but the last test, antagonism also determines the
thematic roles played on the cognitive plane by the antagonist
/adversary 1/ and the protagonist /adversary 2/ and on the prag-
matic plane by both, as antagonists in the /duel/ (i.e., the contest).
In the last test the thematic roles are reversed: the protagonist is
then /adversary 1/, and the antagonist /adversary 2/.
3. Adfinem, which consists of the "resolution" of the "antagonism";
it is the outcomeof the challenge, resolved only after several tests,
that is revealed in different enunciates in sequences 4 to 9 and
11. In the cognitive and pragmatic dimensions, the protagonist
performs the thematic roles of /approved/ and /defeater/, while
the antagonist performs those of /disapproved/ and /defeated/,
Figure 2 summarizes the roles just described.
The thematic roles prescribed by the armature of the action in the
recit determine the actants' performance: the antagonist-subject (S1)
performs the actant role of Idestinateurlof the challenge, giving him
the encompassing role of /defier/ (which includes the roles of /of-
fended/, /injured/, /provoker/, and /challenger/), the figurative role of
the "emission," and the figure /to utter/, with the content /to propose/
in the first five tests.
In the sixth test, the thematic narrative form and the figurative
distribution of these actants is reversed, as noted before: Huatiacuri
performs the actantial role S1 and adopts the corresponding thematic
roles-except for that of/defeated/-and the figures which, in the pre-
vious tests, were performed by S2; the "cunado," inversely, performs
these roles. In sequence 2, the intervention of a third actant (S3) is
announced: the protagonist's father, the god actorialized as Pariacaca.
In sequence 3, the thematic narrative form and the figurative distri-
bution that he assumes are established. His actantial role is /helper/
and his thematic role is /auxiliary/ (both related to S2); his figurative
role is the "revelation" and his performance implies the existence of
the figures /to listen/ and /to utter/, with the content /to reveal/.
During the entire confrontation between protagonist and antago-
nist, the disputed value object (O) is defined by the thematic role /to
defeat/, the figurative role "encounter," and the figure /to compete/,
with the content /to fight/. It is necessary, however, to distinguish the
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 41

Narrative Process

Dimensions Ab initio - Media adfinem - Adfinem

Affront Antagonism Contest Resolution

COGNITIVE Offender/ Provoker/ Advers. 1/ Approved/

Offended Provoked Advers. 2 Disapproved
PRAGMATIC Injurer/ Challenger/ Duels Defeater/
Injured Challenged Defeated

Figure2. Three stages of confrontation in the challenge motif.

value object over which the antagonists in the recit dispute from the
"objects" and "animals" that help Huatiacuri succeed in the tests. The
latter are the antagonist's helpers and the protagonist's (co-)helpers
(since Huatiacuri's main helper is embodied by the god Pariacaca).
The help that these secondary value objects give the protagonist is
conveyed within the recit's pragmatic verisimilitude. Therefore, its
thematic narrative form and its figurative distribution are organized
by an exclusive designative referentiality. (For instance, the llamas and
the huanacos that help the "cunado" build his house still perform the
same tasks today, as beasts of burden, in the Andes.) However, those
objects that operate in conjunctive relation to the protagonist perform
the thematic roles of "magic objects" and "zoemas." (Both of these
roles will be examined later.) The roles and figures described so far
are diagrammed in Figure 3.

The Helpers:Magic Objects and Zoemas

Francoise Bastide suggested that the object,besides being defined as a
syntactic actant, should be defined "inside the spatial configurativiza-
tion" (Greimas and Courtes 1986: 155); in other words, in addition
to its operational or intentional definition, it should be defined eide-
tically and extensionally. Claude Levi-Strauss (1985: 130) defines the
zoemaas "a species of animal equipped with a semantic function" (our
translation) in the recit; however, as far as we know, zoemas have not
been addressed semiotically. Since the operational function of the an-
tagonist's helpers and the protagonist's (co-)helpers has already been
described, we will now outline their eidetic and extensional meaning,
which explains the semantic density and discursive functions of these
objects and animals.
To begin with, we must organize the initial juxtaposition of ele-
42 Poetics Today 16:1

ACTANTS Actantialroles Thematicroles Figurative
roles Figures
S1 /sender/ /defier/ "emission" "toutter":
/defeated/ /to propose/
S2 /receiver/ /defied/ "reception" "tolisten":
/defeater/ /to accept/
S3 /helper/ /auxiliary/ "revelation" "tolisten,"
/to reveal/
O /object/ /to defeat/ "encounter" "tocompete":
/to fight/

Figure3. Thematic narrative form and figurativedistributionof the actants'

roles in the recit.

ments proposed by the text and distinguish the two figurative actors
whose actantial function is to help the adversaries: (1) the protagonist's
(modal) (co-)helpers,namely, the poronguito, [the antara], the drum, the
robe of snow, the birds, the snakes, and the wildcat; and (2) the antago-
nist's (simple)helpers,namely, the two hundred women, the robe of casa
y cancho feathers, the puma furs, the people, the huanacos, and the
vicunas. The taxeme is organized as follows:
1. the sememe "poronguito," with its classeme /container/;
2. the sememes "antara" and "drum," with their classeme /musical
3. the sememes "robe of casa y cancho feathers" and "robe of snow,"
with their classeme /clothing/;
4. the sememes "two hundred women" and "people," with their
classeme /human/;
5. the sememes "birds," "snakes," "wildcat," "huanacos," and "vicu-
nas," united by the classeme /animal/;
6. the sememes "puma furs" and "fur of a red puma," with their
classemes /animal/ and /clothing/.
If we examine the fortuitous signification of each sememe, we can
see that the objects (O) donated by father Pariacaca, the "sender"
(Send), operate in conjunctive relation to Huatiacuri, the "receiver"
(Rec). These objects belong to the fortuitous categorial seme /super-
natural/, and their operations can be summarized in the following
(Send n 0 U Rec) = (Send n 0 n Rec).
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 43

The antagonist's helpers, on the other hand, according to the logic

of the recit, do not have this fortuitous quality. The unique presence
of the /supernatural/ value in the objects and animals in conjunctive
relation to the protagonist-subject "semantizes somewhat the entire
enunciate and constitutes a value for the subject who employs them;
thus, the subject's semantic existence is determined by his relation-
ship with the supernatural value when he comes into contact with the
objects. It will suffice then, in an ulterior stage, to invest the subject
with a wanting-being in order to transform the value of the subject,in a
semiotic sense, into a valuefor thesubjectin the axiological sense of the
term" (Greimas 1973: 16) [our translation]). This nicely explains the
acquisition of divine sovereigntyby Huatiacuri during the tests posed
by the challenge contract.
It is also important to note that the object abandoned by the "fox"
in sequence 2 (the antara), in spite of its potential as a conjunction and
a narrative predication vis-a-vis the hero, Huatiacuri, does not ulti-
mately perform a modalizing function, as do the objects supplied by
the "vixen" (the poronguito and the drum). Structurally, it is under-
stood that Huatiacuri will not pick up the antara, but will abandon it,
since he will not need to utilize it in the tests described in sequence 3.
But how can we justify the presence in the text of an object lack-
ing a specific function in the narrative? Is this useless element merely
descriptive "stuff," created to demonstrate the narrator's competence?
Perhaps. We cannot verify this since there are no other variants of
this recit. What becomes evident in the economy of the text is that the
noun "antara" is a "superfluous detail" in relation to the structure. Ap-
parently, objects that are "neither incongruous nor meaningful," that
do not participate "in the order of the notation" but are present in
texts of Western literature (Barthes 1972: 143-48 [our translation]),
can also be found in texts of ethnoliterature. The antara in this text
appears to be an "insignificant" object on the structural level and has
no definable aesthetic or rhetorical function (e.g., rhyme, alliteration,
symbolization, metaphorization, etc.). It becomes an authentic eventu-
ality, a "neutral, prosaic excipient," completely irrelevant.
However, as Barthes noted, "The meaning of this object does exist
and depends not on its conformity with the model, but with the cul-
tural rules of representation" (ibid.: 149). The French semiotician
added that the "meaning" of these "useless" nouns comes not only
from the narrator's idiolectic competence, but also directly from the
sociolectic competence enunciated in the recit. We have taken this
statement as a working hypothesis in our analysis.
If this strong ethnoliterary hypothesis were confirmed (a project
worth undertaking, but one which goes beyond the confines of this
discussion), it might also establish that the "realist verisimilitude," or
44 Poetics Today 16:1

reference to the "concrete real," enacted by the literary realism in-

herent to these nouns in Western literature pertains solely to Western
culture. The semantic armature of their fortuitous signification is not
universally applicable to all times and places: Does the antara in our
text have the same "realist" function as the barometer, say, in Flau-
bert's MadameBovary?The structural "irrelevance" of the terms is not
the same in both cases; although "the object's pure transitive situa-
tion" (Barthes 1985: 259 [our translation]) is present in both texts, the
context of each one actualizes its fortuitous signification differently,
with the antara actualizing a mythical signification and the barometer
a realist one.
We have denominated as reonimos,or discursive figures that perform
functions which are exclusively inherent (cf. Ballon-Aguirre 1989a:
76), those figures that perform semantic functions which are almost
invariable. Thus, in the recit, while "antara" is a noun with only one
constant function (musical instrument), "poronguito" is a magic ob-
ject since it simultaneously performs both a pragmatic and a mythic
function. In fact, A. J. Greimas (1973: 13-14) maintained that magic
objects are figurative actors which, "once they become available to the
hero or anti-hero, help in different ways, including the search for
values" (our translation). Figurative actors are such objects as a bag
that fills itself, a hat that transports the person who is wearing it, or
a horn that conjures up soldiers; "a hollow gourd, for instance, is not
a good in and of itself, but a provider of goods, because only when
it is filled with liquid, does it offer abundant beverage" (ibid.). As we
will see, although such terms change their references and designations
from one ethnic group to another, they nevertheless perform similar
pragmatic and mythic roles, becoming combinatory variants of one
The magic objects and the zoemas in this recit manifest their An-
dean cultural specificity: they not only produce consumable goods
(e.g., the poronguito's inexhaustible chicha) and synonymous goods
(e.g., the casa and its roof), as they do in Indo-European fabulous
recits, but they are also capable of producing natural phenomena (e.g.,
the drum causes an earthquake; the red puma generates a rainbow),
or they even constitute such extraordinary phenomena in themselves
(e.g., the dazzling robe of snow). They can, furthermore, reflect the
natural attributes of the animals they embody (e.g., the wildcat fright-
ens "real" animals).
Let us consider now, as an example, the semantic value-and the
cultural values-of one of these helpers in comparison with one taken
from an Inuit (Eskimo) recit recorded by Maurice Metayer (1973: 14-
18), "The Girl of the Magic Drum." In this r6cit, a young woman who
did not want to get married finally became attracted to two boys (who
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 45

were also bears). They took her to the bottom of the ocean, where her
body was devoured by marine animals. Reduced to only a skeleton, she
walked along the ocean floor until she found a place where the water
was illuminated by the rays of the sun. There, she rose out of the ocean
and rested on a floe. Exhausted, she fell asleep and dreamed about
all the things she needed. When she woke up, she found these objects
around her and saw some young men, who had discovered her. How-
ever, since she was still a skeleton, they were frightened and ran away.
(The following Spanish translation is by Enrique Ballon-Aguirre, with
an English translation by Jos6 Ball6n-Aguirre.)

De retorno al iglu de su anciano padre, esos hombres le dijeron:

"Encontramos un esqueleto que caminaba. jera una mujer! Vino hacia
nosotros, pero tuvimos miedo y huimos sin hablarle."
"Mis dias estan contados de todas maneras!"-respondi6-"Ire a visitarla
Al dia siguiente parti6 y encontr6 a la mujer sentada a la entrada de
su igli; ella no dio un paso hacia el, pero cuando se aproxim6 la hizo en-
trar. La lampara de piedra estaba llena de aceite y la llama de las mechas
alta y brillante. La muchacha-esqueleto y el anciano comieron y durmieron
Cuando fue de dia, ella le dijo al hombre: "Hazme un tamborcito."
Inmediatamente se puso a trabajar y una vez que termin6 el instrumento,
se lo entreg6. La mujer apag6 la llama de la lampara, tom6 el tamboril y se
puso a danzar. Cantaba un encantamiento magico y de pronto el tambor
comenz6 a agrandarse y su sonido al retumbar parecia llenar la llanura y la
Una vez que termin6 su canto, la mujer alumbr6 la lampara y baj6 las
luces de las flamas danzantes, el viejo la vio y no pudo quitar la mirada.
No era mas un lastimoso esqueleto, era una joven magnifica cuya came
generosa se adivinaba bajo los soberbios vestidos. Ella apag6 de nuevo la
limpara, cogi6 el tambor y se puso a danzar. Despues de un tiempo le
pregunt6 al hombre: "iTe sientes bien asi?"
Ante su respuesta afirmativa, ella encendi6 la lampara. Ya no era mas un
viejo quien le habia respondido que si, sino un hombre joven y aguerrido a
quien el ritmo magico del tambor le habia devuelto la fuerza y lajuventud.
(When they reached the igloo of their old father, they told him:
"We found a skeleton walking. It was a woman! She came toward us, but
we were frightened and escaped without speaking to her."
"My days are numbered anyway!"-he answered-"I'll go to visit her
The next day he left and found the woman sitting at the door of the
igloo; she didn't walk toward him. He approached her and went inside. The
stone lamp was full of oil and the flame coming out of its wick was high and
bright. The skeleton-girl and the old man ate and slept together.
When the sun came out, she said to the man: "Make me a small drum."
The man immediately got down to work, and when he finished the in-
46 Poetics Today 16:1

Pragmatic TOPIC Mythic

dimension dimension
drum musical /tectonic/ - seism
(Quechua) instrument
drum musical /human/ - life,
(Inuit) instrument rejuvenation

Figure4. Comparative functions of a magic drum in a Quechua and an Inuit


strument, he gave it to her. The woman put out the light, took the drum,
and started to dance. She was singing a magic spell when suddenly the
drum began to expand and its sound grew louder, filling the plain and the
When she finished singing, the woman lit the lamp and lowered the danc-
ing flames. The old man, seeing her, was unable to look away. She was no
longer a pitiful skeleton, but a magnificent young woman whose generous
flesh could be seen under her superb dress. Again, she put out the light,
took the drum, and started to dance. After a while she asked the man: "Is
everything all right?"
After he responded affirmatively, she lit the lamp. It was not an old man
who had answered "yes," but a young warrior, whose strength and youth
had been restored by the magic rhythm of the drum.)
Now, let us compare the functions of the combinatory variants of
the magic drum in the Quechua and Inuit recits (Figure 4). Although
the lexeme drum shares the same lexical sememe in the Quechua
and Inuit pragmatic dimensions, its two different semes (tectonic and
human) enable us to infer the afferent social sphere of each one: in
the Quechua recit, the afferent seme /tectonic/ generates in the mythic
dimension the lexical sememe /seism/; in the Inuit recit, the afferent
seme /human/ yields the lexical sememes "life" and "rejuvenation."
Each afferent sememe constitutes the "topic," or "sociolect sector of
the thematic" (Rastier 1989a: 159), which indicates, on the semantic
plane, the two interpretants or idiomatic aspects of the magic drum.
The mythic dimension, defining the afferent spheres of each r6cit, de-
termines their cultural identity and, consequently, those of the recits in
which they are included.
But what are the modes of existence of magic objects in ethnoliter-
ary recits? It is important to remember that such objects cannot be
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 47

equated with tecnemas.Magic objects refer in discourseto practical or

to mythic objects, as we have just seen, and, designating (on the extra-
linguistic plane) everyday objects in the productive sociolects of those
texts, can have only a denotative (or an indexical) function. Such is
precisely the case with the usage of drum(among the Quechua and the
Inuit) or with that of antara (only among the Quechua). With this in
mind, we can affirm that while the discursive reference of the magic-
object nouns is mythic-pragmatic, the reference of the reonimos is
strictly pragmatic.
On the contrary, the so-called tecnemas perform practical and
mythic functions in the community's daily life: practical, in that these
objects have normal and simple uses; mythic, in that they are equipped
with supplementary functions of a symbolic character.'0 Barthes
(1985: 255) called them "anthropological symbols." Tecnemas can
also have a metaphorical or religious character: for instance, amulets
("portable objects of supernatural virtue conferred by superstition"),
talismans ("objects, characters, or figures of extraordinary virtue"),
"alidonas" ("stone concretions presumably formed in a swallow's stom-
ach"), or fetishes ("idols or superstitious cult objects in certain tribes"
Besides this difference, the existential statutes of the magic objects
and zoemas, on the one hand, and of the tecnemas, on the other, are
similar. The former statute is expressed in discourse, and the latter in
social conduct. As we know, in semiotics the modes of existence are
described canonically, that is, with the intervention of the modality
/being/ (which determines the noumenal mode of existence) or of the
modality /seeming/ (which defines the phenomenalmode of existence).
Thus, in ethnoliterary discourses, it is possible to identify a double
existential statute in the figures of magic objects (i.e., phenomenal
in the pragmatic dimension and noumenal in the mythic dimension).
The interpretation of an object's meaning depends on the /being/ at-
tributed to it in each ethnic discursive formation and on its figured or
figural /seeming/. The re6nimos mentioned in these texts, however,
have only a phenomenal-pragmatic representation.
The magic objects contained in the narrative program of the ethno-
literary recit are relevant only for the fiduciary contract (Fc) of the
mythic dimension (noumenal/phenomenal), /being 1/-/seeming/.
Different magic objects and zoemas can accomplish the same mythic
function, for instance, a variety of containers (e.g., porongos, huacos,
queros,etc., in the Andean oral tradition) or animals (e.g., in our text,

10. The term tecnema, as employed here, should not be confused with "techni-
cal object," as formulated by Christian Bromberger (1979); cf.
Jean-Pierre Digard
(1979) and Jean Baudrillard (1982). See also Communications 13 (Paris: Seuil, 1969).
48 Poetics Today 16:1

the birds and snakes which built the hero's house). On the other hand,
the perception of tecnema objects initially establishes a mandatory
fiduciary relation with the /being 2/ modality, that is, the apprehension
of the object as such-a horseshoe, a rabbit's foot, strings of teeth or
garlic cloves, a strand of hair in a locket, pictures in a wallet, and so
on-by the group which uses that object (by such a process is a tec-
nema's phenomenal tangible existence determined). A relation is also
established with the /being 1/ and /seeming/ modalities, which guaran-
tee and ensure the "acknowledgment" of the tecnema on the mythic
plane (luck, fortune, protection, affection, etc.).
To summarize, the mythic /knowing/, or the identification and sig-
nification achieved through the interpretation of magic objects and
zoemas in the recits, operates as follows:
FC (/being 1/ + /seeming/) = /knowing/,

where the /knowing/ (identification and signification) of the tecnemas

is expressed as

/being 2/ + FC (/being 1/ + /seeming/) = /knowing/.

Therefore, the process which "ensures" the interpretation of magic
objects consists of identifying them with their mythic verisimilitude
(an existential statute according with /being 1/ and /seeming/) and
then with their pragmatic verisimilitude (an existential statute accord-
ing with /being 2/). If the process is reversed (i.e., first interpreting all
the tangible-existential statutes of the magic object), the object may be
confused not only with a re6nimo (given its common practical refer-
entiality), but also with a tecnema (since these share, as we have seen,
poetic-mythic functions). Therefore, the veridical and substantive mo-
dalities predetermine, in our case, the cognitive modalities.
Finally, let us summarize the conclusions we can draw from the
entire analysis.
1. It is due to the practical-mythic aspect of the magic objects and
zoemas that the cultural identityof each ethnic group can be de-
scribed via commutation.
2. The magic objects and zoemas share similar qualities that pro-
duce signification, since all of them are conjoined with the hero-
subject in the form of reflexiveenunciates of doing (not of state:
Huatiacuri is not a sovereign deity; he acquireshis sovereignty, in
a way, by doing). Both magic objects and zoemas are determined
semantically and syntactically by their objective mythic values, as
indicated by the verb to have or topossess(not by practical or extra-
linguistic values alone). These determinations are apprehended
as differencesthat clearly distinguish them (drum/antara; fur of a
red puma/puma fur).
Ball6n-Aguirre * Comparative Ethnoliterature 49

3. A mythic cycle or, more commonly, a number of recits (not

variants among themselves) that refer to the same magic object
or to the same zoema, allows one to describe the classification
of the "folk taxonomy" whence they came. This is made pos-
sible by the structure of the topic: the particular statute of each
afferent sememe in the pragmatic dimension. For instance, the
lexeme "drum" belongs to the secondary modeling system of the
Quechua culture, to the taxeme /seismic movements/, but to the
taxeme /human beings/ in the Inuit culture.
4. The process of achieving cognitive appreciation of the perfor-
mance carried out by the magic objects and zoemas in the literary
recit is the result of two intertwined readings, and the interven-
tion of the fiduciary contract established between both of them:
(1) a descriptiveand iconicizing reading, where the /being 1/-/
seeming/ modality is actualized as a result of the fiduciary rela-
tionship between the figurative format or figure (e.g., the drum)
and its mythic function ("seism"/"life," etc.); and (b) an iden-
tifying reading, where the /being 2/ modality is actualized and
determines the practical functions that separate the contextual
opposites, /the same/ and /the different/, in the recit, allowing
the magic objects and zoemas to be distinguished from the reo-
nimos (drum/antara) and animals (birds, snakes/llamas, huana-
cos). It also distinguishes the aforementioned categories from
the extralinguistic world: drum = musical instrument, fur of a
red puma = feline fur. These references are really orientational
instructions for an external interpretant, which is, as in the pre-
vious case, "a given semiotic unit, not necessarily linguistic." The
interpretant also "permits the actualization of the semantic com-
ponents (inherent or afferent) of the text being studied" (Rastier
1989b: 30 [our translation]).
These special characteristics of magic objects and zoemas in the
structure of the challenge micro-recit strongly justify the classification
of this text as motif, that is, as an independent mode that forms a con-
stellation with other, closely related discursive configurations, such as
those of controversy,friction,bellicosity,and so on, where the helpers are
not actorialized in the fashion that we have observed here.

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