Illustration by Raul Colon, from Once Upon a Time/Habia una vez by Rueben Martinez

“The Mother of the Jungle”

The Mother of the Jungle is a mythic woman, the spirit of nature, protector and defender of the jungle, who originated in Colombia, though her stories are told throughout Latin America. I read this version of the story in Once Upon a Time / Habia una vez by Rueben Martínez, illustrated by Raúl Colón, a fascinating book that tells traditional Latin American tales in both English and Spanish, side by side.

A peasant boy is walking through the jungle with his dog when he meets a huge bearded  man who is proud of how much money he is making by cutting down the trees of the forest. The boy knows this is wrong, a belief reinforced when he realizes a river he visits daily has dried up.

That night he hears a strange noise in the jungle, and he and his dog investigate. He finds the bearded man standing in a clearing at the center of an odd yellowish light.

Before him stood a very pale woman with extremely long hair, who seemed to be coming right out of the ground, with leaves and twigs clinging to her body.
(pg. 36)

This mysterious woman, the Mother of the Jungle, grabs the bearded man, wraps him up in leaves and twigs, and spins him spins him in the air, quickly and fiercely, until he screams, finally dropping him to the ground and disappearing. The man has been scared out of his wits and learned his lesson, that we need to take care of nature and protect her.

I love the Mother of the Jungle. She’s fierce, a force to be afraid of, she’s not going to stand by and let people destroy her jungle, her land. People who take her land and resources for granted are going to pay. She’s not the kind gentle Mother Nature we tend to think of.  She’s strong, powerful.

I was trying to think of a fairy tale I grew up with that was similar to “The Mother of the Jungle” and I can’t think of one. I’m familiar with Mother Nature, but can’t come up with a story focused on her.

This story made Tif and me think of what’s been happening with the oil spill in the Gulf. Wouldn’t you love to see a woman rise up out of the water  with seaweed in her hair and shake some fear into these oil company people and politicians? “The Mother of the Jungle” has a very powerful pro-environment message.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see what she has to say and to share your own thoughts. Next week, we’ll be looking at “Rainbow-Walker” or “Johnny Appleseed.”

Once Upon a Time/Había una vez was published Mach 1, 2010 by Royo

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.

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  • This sounds like a very timely fairytale.
    BTW –I can’t think of any Mother Nature fairytales either, but do you remember the old (maragarine?) commercials “It’s not nice to fool ith Mother Nature?” LOL

  • Once again, we are on the same page! What a great visual of Mother Nature coming out of the sea covered with seaweed and ready to wreak havoc on the latest disaster! I like the change in tales this week, particularly that this was completely new to me! I can’t think of any Mother Nature tales at all!

    And, to answer the other Carol’s question . . . I believe that this tale has been around for quite some time, but we have not been aware of it because it is not “our” culture. There are a multitude of legends and names regarding “Mother” circulating in the Latin American regions and I do not believe it to be new or recent at all!

  • Fantastic post. This was not a fairytale I was familiar with before but you guys are making me want to look at the folk tales of other countries now.

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