The legend of this creature is little known, even for residents of San Vicente in the country's 6th region, but this discovery returns a piece of their history to them.
The horrible creature in the etching that accompanies this article is the little-known Monster of Tagua Tagua lagoon, a legendary creature that not even the residents of San Vicente, in Chile's 6th region, have ever heard of.
The indescribably horrifying creature was relegated to oblivion for over 2 centuries until two Spanish researchers discovered the drawing among thousands of documents in the Madrid National Library. Thus, the anonymous etching made in Chile in 1784 became the poster for the exposition "Monsters and Other Imaginary Beings" that took place in the Spanish capital to great popular acclaim.
The winged, two-tailed figure with scales and a human face had a well-deserved presence among nearly 200 images, just as unreal, belonging to such artists as Goya, Durero, Ribera, Brueghel, Holbein, Picart and Kircher. Plates extracted from classics of literature and scientific texts--largely from the 15th and 18th centuries, were also on exhibit.
Under the drawing of the monster, a true bibliographic jewel, it can be read that it appeared in early 1784 at the farm of Don Próspero Elso and that "it did great damage, eating all manner of animals and drinking from the lagoon, until 100 men stealthily ambushed it with firearms and caught it alive."
The description is very detailed: "It measures three and a half rods long and its tail is bigger than its body. It legs are nearly a quarter [rod] but its claws are much larger. Its mane reaches the ground so that it entangles around its feet. The upper tail...helps it to catch its prey. The teeth are some 30 cm long and the mouth is as wide as its face. Its horns are a rod and a half long and very well-turned, and finally, it ears are are three quarters of a rod long.
Even more curious: an address -- Calle de Carretas No.8 -- is given for those interested in seeing it.
The spectacular Madrid exposition, unprecedented in Europe, featured cyclops, dwarves, giants, two headed or six-fingered creatures, hermaphrodites, lion-men, bearded or multi-breasted women. However, the organizers of this exhibit -- Javier Moscoso, a professor with the University of Murcia, and Antonio Lafuente, fellow of the Superior Center for Scientific Research -- believe that "the presence of horns is one of the definite signs of monstrosity. Our selection has been based, on the one hand, by the richness of the image and by the historical importance, on the other.
To some residents of San Vicente de Tagua Tagua, the legend that gave rise to the monster was possibly a reflection of the fears, nightmares and anguish felt at the time. After all, this wasn't the first time that the existence of fantastic creatures in the area was suspected, and sometimes quite rightly. That was where the Inca Empire came to an end, and in recent decades the remains of 14 mammoths from 11,000 years ago were discovered, making the place one of the richest sites in America for modern archaeology. However, no one imagined that the most recent discovery would be an item forgotten thousands of kilometers away, in Madrid's National Library.
San Vicente residents recall that the Tagua Tagua Lagoon -- drained in the 1930s -- was notorious for its "chivines": floating islands formed by a dense and firm network of roots, so resilient that they could bear the weight of a horse. Deceived by the large size of some of these "chivines", cattle would climb onto them to graze, realizing only too late that the floating island had been taken away by the current without any hope of escape. That's how the legend emerged among natives and Spaniards about a monster that dragged cattle into the lake. Armed groups of hunters were even organized to capture it.
Translation (c) 2005, Scott Corrales, IHU. Special thanks to Liliana Núñez.
Source: Archivos Forteanos de Latinoamérica