Komam Q'Anil, Epic of (Xhuwan Q'Anil, El Q'Anil, El Kanil, Man of Lightning) (Writer)

(n.d.-present) Mayan epic

The Epic of Komam Q’Anil tells the story of El Q’anil, the “Man of Lightning.” Myths of El Q’anil are part of the oral tradition of the Jakaltek Maya people of Guatemala. In the epic, the narrator recounts the history of the Jakaltek Maya, explaining how their lands were given to them by the first father and how they learned the knowledge of hieroglyphics. Eventually, they were dispersed from their land by natural disasters and wandered in the wilderness until they came to Ajul, near the present-day village of Jacaltenango, which became their new land.

When the people heard news of a distant war and felt pains for those dying, they decided to join the fight. El Q’anil, the “Man of Lightning,” is introduced in the form of a boy named Xhuwan, who is chosen to carry the Jakalteks’ supplies to battle. He is forbidden, however, to return to his people after engaging in the war. Xhuwan summons lightning to save his people from destruction, undertakes a great adventure journey, and then leads the people to victory in the fight. Unable to return to Ajul, he retires to the southern volcano called El Q’Anil, from where he can watch over his people as an immortal.

The Epic of Komam Q’Anil is known today by the Jakaltek Maya and taught to all of their children to reinforce their people’s identity. It is also an important symbolic image of endurance through adversity for an indigenous people whose very existence today is challenged by the modern world.

A Work about the Epic of Komam Q’Anil

Montejo, Victor. El Q’Anil, Man of Lightning: A Legend of Jacaltenango. Translated by Wallace Kaufman and Susan G. Rascon. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.

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