10 Examples of Etiological Legends

The etiological legends They are those narratives that include fantastic events and that tell how meteorological phenomena, plants, animals and other elements of nature, such as rivers, seas, lakes, deserts and mountains, originated.

Legends are popular and anonymous stories of oral transmission that emerged to provide explanations about various events, to respond to concerns or to transmit teachings.

Although these stories include wonderful or extraordinary beings, events or places; Generally, they mention places, dates or characters that exist or existed in reality. Furthermore, many people believe that they are true stories.

Characteristics of etiological legends

  • Topics. The themes of etiological legends can be: the emergence of elements of nature and the cause or origin of the characteristics or behavior of animals.
  • Characters. The characters of etiological legends are people, animals, plants, gods and fantastic beings.
  • Time. The time of etiological legends is real, because it is usually specified when the narrated events occurred, although in some cases it is not mentioned.
  • Places. The places of etiological legends are usually places that exist or existed in reality.
  • Worldview. Etiological legends reflect the worldview of the society in which they emerged, that is, their way of thinking and conceiving the world.
  • Purpose. The purpose of etiological legends is to explain how beings or objects of nature originated and, in some cases, to transmit a moral teaching.

Examples of etiological legends

The legend of the giant stone of Paraná

This legend tells of the origin of a giant stone found in the Paraná, a river in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and which has the shape of a woman carrying a vessel on her head.

It is said that many years ago a young woman lived with her grandfather and never helped him with the housework. Once the old man was very thirsty and asked his granddaughter to go get water from the river. She protested, but finally accepted her assignment.

The girl grabbed a vessel, went to the river, filled it with water, put it on her head and began to complain about the task assigned to her. God heard the woman’s comments and turned her into stone as a punishment.

The legend of the Puna wind

This legend narrates the origin of the wind of the Puna, the plateau found in the central area of ​​the Andes mountain range.

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It is said that the hills in this region experience feelings and emotions, that is why, when they are afraid or angry, they release a very strong wind that causes people to move away.

There are other versions of this legend, for example, the one that explains that the wind lives among the hills and if it senses that a person is approaching, it expels them.

The legend of the devil stone

This legend tells the story of a stone found in Boyacá, Colombia, and which is shaped like a throne. It is said that a man was walking on the hill, he came across a child who was crying and approached him to ask him what was happening. The little boy told him that he was hungry and thirsty.

The man went to get water and food for the boy, who when he finished drinking and eating, transformed into a beast and sat on a rock. The man ran away and the stone transformed into a throne, more specifically, the devil’s throne, since the boy was truly the king of darkness.

The inhabitants of this place say that at night howls and strange sounds are heard and that it is not convenient to walk near this stone.

The legend of the volcanoes of the Valley of Mexico

This Mexican legend tells the story of how the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes were formed. It is said that Iztaccíhuatl was a princess and Popocatépetl, a warrior. The young people lived very close and the first time they saw each other, they fell madly in love.

At that time the Mexican were at war with other towns and Popocatépetl had to go fight. The battle was over, but the young man had not returned. Iztaccíhuatl was so sad about the warrior’s absence that he fell ill and later died.

A few days after the tragic event, Popocatépetl returned home, learned that his beloved had died and took her body to a valley, where she transformed into one volcano and he into another.

The legend of the hummingbird

This Mayan legend tells the origin of the hummingbird. It is said that the gods created all living beings and objects on earth with mud and corn. Each animal and each object had a specific function, but the gods realized that an entity was missing that was responsible for transporting ideas and feelings. It occurred to them that this task could be performed by a small bird, however, they had already used all the materials they had available.

They didn’t know what to do, until a god had a great idea: he took a jade stone, carved it in the shape of an arrow and gave it life. This is how the first hummingbird was born, the bird that carries good thoughts and feelings from one place to another.

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The legend of the marigold flower

This Mexican legend explains the origin of the marigold flower. It is said that two young people, Xóchitl and Huitzilin, were very in love and, therefore, they climbed to the top of a mountain to ask Tonatiuh, the divinity of the sun, to bless their union. The god, without hesitation, accepted the couple’s request and told them that their love would last forever.

Everything was going well until Huitzilin had to go to war and shortly after died in combat. Xóchitl felt very alone and sad, she returned to the mountain and asked the god of the sun to unite her forever with her beloved. Tonatiuh transformed the young woman into a flower, which remained closed for a long time.

A few months later, a hummingbird approached the flower and, upon realizing that the little bird was Huitzilin, it opened up and was happy because it had finally been reunited with its loved one.

The legend of Lake Camécuaro

This Purépecha legend narrates the origin of Lake Camécuaro, which is located in the City of Tangancícuaro, Mexico. It is said that Huanita, a princess, and Tangáxhuan, the young heir of the Purépecha empire, were very much in love.

One day a priest kidnapped the princess and locked her in the pyramid of Cutzé. Huanita was very sad, she cried non-stop and there were so many tears that came out of her eyes that a lake formed. For this reason, Camécuaro means “place of hidden bitterness.”

Soon, Tangáxhuan found out what had happened and was able to find out where his beloved was. He went to the pyramid, he saw the priest and shot an arrow that hit a sabino, a type of tree.

The young man was able to rescue the princess and a spring of crystalline green water began to flow from the tree.

The legend of the kangaroo

This Australian legend explains the origin of why kangaroos move on their hind legs. It is said that a long time ago these animals walked on all fours. But one day, everything changed. A kangaroo was resting calmly in the shade, he saw a man with a spear and thought that the human being did not have good intentions and that it was best to flee as soon as possible.

The kangaroo began to run and the man chased it for several hours, until it became night. The animal hid, but realized that the human was still stalking it. He then thought that if he went on two legs like the hunter, maybe he would walk faster. He tested the idea and not only could he move faster, but he could also make big jumps.

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This is how the kangaroo managed to escape from the man and learned to move on two legs.

The legend of the sunflower

This Guarani legend explains the origin of the sunflower. It is said that there were two neighboring tribes that were separated by the Paraná River and that they had a very good relationship. One day Mandió, the chief of one of the tribes, said to Pirayú, the chief of the other:

—For our towns to be more united, I would have to marry Carandaí, your daughter.

“That will not be possible, because my daughter is destined for the Sun God,” Pirayú answered.

Mandió did not take no for an answer and sent his men to the neighboring tribe to capture Carandaí. But they not only did that, they also set some houses on fire.

Carandaí was very distressed and to put an end to the fire, she asked the Sun God to help her tribe. The divinity put out the fire and transformed the young woman into a flower, which always spins looking for the sun.

The legend of Iguazú Falls

This Guarani legend explains the origin of the Iguazú Falls. It is said that Panambi and his mother lived very close to the river. Every day the young woman went upriver with her canoe to look for food.

One day Panambi was returning home by canoe and saw a man sailing on the river who left her hypnotized. When she came to, it was already night and the moon was reflected in the water. She hurried to go to her house, where her mother was waiting for her, very worried.

One night Panambi was sitting on the bank of the river, heard a canoe, saw the same man sailing, began to walk through the water without noticing that he was sinking, and finally drowned.

The man, who was really Pyra-yara, the god and owner of the river, grabbed the girl’s body and placed it on a stone. The rock and Panambí were transformed into a great jump and thus the Iguazú Falls emerged.


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  • Rosalía, P. and Rionda, P. (2015). Notes for conferences: The revaluation of oral traditions as an educational strategy. Stories of the Wind.
  • Vidal de Battini, B.E. (1984). Popular stories and legends of Argentina. Volumes VII and VIII. Argentine Cultural Editions.