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How the King of Birds was Chosen

History Myth Project
by

Leah Kahn

on 14 October 2014

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Transcript of How the King of Birds was Chosen

Introduction
How the King of Birds was Chosen
“How the King of Birds was Chosen” is a nature myth, or a myth that explains in a supernatural manner how animals and the natural world came to be. This myth explains how the quetzal bird got its feathers.
The Myth
The Myth (continued)
Kukul tried to convince the roadrunner to share his feathers. He promised that he would return them immediately and that he would share his wealth and power with Xtuntun-kinil once he became king. The quetzal continued to assure the roadrunner of his good intentions. He kept talking and eventually convinced the trusting roadrunner.
The feathers disappeared from Xtuntun-kinil’s body and appeared on Kukul’s. In a few minutes, the feathers multiplied and grew so the quetzal was covered in beautiful long feathers.
Kukul swung his tail around, and walked proudly into the center of all of the birds. When he entered, all of the birds were quiet. At first, none of them recognized him. Then, they all cried out, praising him. This made Kukul even more proud, and he paraded around the birds one more time, showing off his beautiful feathers.
Halach-Uinic was very pleased with the amazing change. Kukul had been plain, but now he was radiant. Halach-Uinic made his choice immediately. Calling all of the birds together, the Great Spirit announced, “I proclaim the quetzal king of the birds.”
Functions of the Myth
This myth was important to Mayans because it taught Mayans the importance of the natural world. It showed that nature was designed by the gods and that they needed to respect it. These myths reminded the Mayans that they could not abuse nature, because it came from the gods. This prevented the Mayans from taking advantage of the animals and plants and driving them to extinction. Myths like these also helped the Mayans appreciate nature more because they knew that it was created by the gods.
Another function of the myth would be to teach the Mayans lessons. An example of a lesson that could be learned from this myth is that appearances can be important in influencing people. The quetzal was only chosen as king after he got his feathers, which shows that in order to influence people, your first impression must be good. Another lesson is to always use good judgement. The roadrunner gave away his feathers without really considering what could happen, so he did not get them back. This shows that before making a decision, you should always consider all of the consequences.

Modern Connection
By Leah Kahn, Fabienne van Rijssen, and Kaitlin Jacob
Long ago in Maya Land, creatures were very different. Halach-Uinic, the Great Spirit, guarded the Maya world. One day, he grew tired of the birds arguing among each other and decided needed a king. Every bird thought that he could be king.
Col-pol-che, the cardinal, sang, “Look at me, no one else is as bright red and beautiful. All of the birds admire me. I should be chosen as king.”
X-col-col-check, the tropical mockingbird, called out, “I have the loveliest voice of all.” He puffed out his chest and sang a complicated melody.
Cutz the wild turkey walked into the circle and gobbled proudly, “I should be king because I am the biggest and strongest bird. I will be a very powerful king and protect all of you!” All of the birds agreed that this was a good quality for the king to have.
For the rest of the day, all of the birds showed off their skills to the others. The only one that stayed quiet was Kukul, the quetzal. Kukul had wonderful manners and his body was graceful, but his feathers were ugly. Kukul knew that there was no way he could be chosen as king when he looked so plain. After thinking about how he could become king, he flew over to his friend, Xtuntun-kinil, the roadrunner.

Works Cited
The Myth (continued)
All of the birds were very happy and congratulated the quetzal. Kukul was excited at first to become king, but he soon learned that it was not as great as he expected. He was very busy taking care of all of the birds, and he completely forgot about his promise to the roadrunner.
One day, some birds realized that Xtuntun-kinil was missing. No one had seen him since Kukul was chosen as king. The birds though that Kukul might have had a plot against the roadrunner, so they went looking for him. The birds found Xtuntun-kinil deep in the forest, hidden behind a bush. He was naked, freezing, and almost dead of hunger. The birds fed him some honey to bring him back to full health.
When the roadrunner was able to speak, he told the other birds about how Kukul had stolen his feathers. He kept saying, “Puhuy? Puhuy?”, which means “Where is he? Where is he?” in the Mayan language.
The birds all felt very sorry for Xtuntun-kinil and decided that each of them would give him a few feathers that he could use to cover himself. Some of the birds sang him songs to help cheer up the embarrassed bird.
That is why today the roadrunner’s feathers are so oddly colored and do not have a pattern. He watches the Mayan roads, still asking “Puhuy? Puhuy?”, trying to find the quetzal who took his feathers.


A connection between this myth and today’s culture is politics. All of the birds wanted to be king, so they tried to outdo each other by praising themselves and making themselves seem better. Candidates running for offices also try to make themselves seem better than they really are so people will vote for them. All of the birds try to make themselves appealing to the Great Spirit like a campaign tries to appeal to the voters. Another similarity is that both the quetzal and candidates make promises that they do not always keep. In both cases, someone tries to appeal to an audience so they can get a position of power.

"Jungle Julie." : Mi Dia De Tecún Umán (My Tecún Umán Day). Web. 13 Oct. 2014. <http://julieinthejungle.blogspot.com/2014/02/ mi-dia-de-tecun-uman-my-tecun-uman-day.html>.
"Native American Legends." Native American Indian Legends. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/How_The_King_Of_Birds_Was_Chosen-Mayan.html>.
"Quetzal Bird Drawing." Quoteko.com. Quoteko, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.

Aztec/Mayan Creator God - Ometeotl." The Mayan Design Shop RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
""DeviantART: More Like My Quetzal by Vinylspin." DeviantART: More Like My Quetzal by Vinylspin. DeviantART, 2006. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
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