Hero Twins

The twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque hail from Mayan lore as Mesoamerican White-Throated Magpie Jays. They represent a refocus of public health efforts in the wake of the failure of past measures as you can see in their struggle with the Lords of the Underworld from the Popol Vuh.

Hunahpu and Xbalanque versus the Lords of the Underworld

Long ago there were twins who loved to play ball. But they made such a noise that it angered the Lords of the Underworld. They invited the twins to their realm to play ball but tricked and killed them instead. However, one of these twins had twins of his own. These were Hunahpu and Xbalanque who also loved to play ball. They also angered the Lords of the Underworld with the noise of their game, so the Lords attempted to trick them the same way as they did their father and uncle. But Hunahpu and Xbalanque were not fooled and told the Lords that if they were just going to try to kill them, they would go back home and not play the ball game. The Lords agreed to play, but the twins let them win.

Afterwards the Lords let them rest in a house, but at night deadly bats flew around. The twins hid inside a blowgun and survived the night. But Hunahpu became impatient and peeped outside to check if the sun was up. His head got chopped off and carried away. They replaced his head with a gourd and the next day they played the Lords in another game. This time though, the ball was Hunahpu’s head! The twins conspired with a squirrel and kicked Hunahpu’s head into a nearby tree where the squirrel switched it with a ball, giving Hunahpu his head back. The twins knew that the Lords would kill them anyway, so they won the game so soundly that the Lords knew that their previous wins had not been genuine.

As expected, once they lost, the Lords of the Underworld grew angry and killed the twins. But also as expected, they threw their ashes into the river. The ashes formed into fish and then back into the twins. Now they planned to trick the Lords of the Underworld! They traveled around the country performing miracles, sacrificing people and then bringing them back to life. Soon the Lords of the Underworld heard of this amazing feat and they invited the twins back, asking them to perform the trick on them. The twins sacrificed the two most important Lords, but refused to resurrect them. The remaining Lords of the Underworld knew they had been tricked and ran away.

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