Posted by: ayac | October 1, 2014

Aesop’s Fables 11: The Old Man and Death

This is Perry 60. Miquiztli as a personification of death doesn’t have any indigenous parallels as far as I know. The fable originally would have referred to the Greek Thanatos. Mictlanteuctli is more like Hades than Thanatos.

¶ huehuentoyhuã miquiztli .

Ce huehuenton quahquahuito quauhtla: auh ynon motlamamal/ti niman hualmocuep ynichan yieohtlica nemi cenca ciya/huia yhuan yetihcihuia yehica cecni oquiquetz ynitlama/mal, omocehui. Auh yniquac yemocehuitica, opeuh in / quilnamiqui yxquich ynetoliniliz ynicnotlacayo; auh in / yeiz quipohualxihuitl nemi: niman peuh yequitzatzilia / miquiztli, oquihto. Yio miquiztle, canmach intinemi: / macuele xinechpohpolo, xinechtlati: maxic cotona ynixquich / haqualli ynniquihiyohuia. auh in miquiztli Ynoquicac yne/ellaquahualiz huehuento: niman yxpan moquetzatihue/tzico, quitlahtlani, quilhui. tleinticnequi? caonihualla.auh / in huehuento ynoquittac miquiztli cenca omiçahui , ni/man quilhui . Caatley caçannictemohua ynma / ocachinechontoctili notlamamal, ynic yhciuhca nonã/ciz nochan.

Yniçaçanilli techittitia: Cayn miquiztli mochitlacatl yxpã/pa ehua, mochitlacatl quimacaci, yhuan caoctle centla/mantli yncenca tecoco yncenca tetonili, yehica catecha/xilia in topaecanemiliz.

Cē  huēhuēn-tōn cuahcuahui-to     cuauh-tlah.
one old_man-DIM get_firewood-went tree-place
An old man went to get firewood in the forest.

Auh in  on-mo-tlamāmal-tih-Ø,       niman huāl-mo-cuep-Ø in  ī-chān.
and SUB there-REFL-cargo-give-PST   then  here-REFL-turn SUB 3sgP-home
And when he'd loaded himself up, he started to return home.

I   ye      oh-tl=ī-ca            nemi, cencah ciyahui-ya     ī-huān    yet-ihcihui-ya.
SUB already road-ABS=3sgP-through live, very   get_tired-IMPF 3sgP-with ?-hurry-IMPF
While walking along the road, he became very tired and (was panting?).

('yeticihuia' doesn't make sense. Maybe ye is a mistake due to ye in the following word, but that still doesn't explain the t.)

Yeh=ī-ca        cecni     ō=qui-quetz-Ø      in  ī-tlamāmal; ō=mo-cēhuih-Ø.
it=3sgP-through one_place PST-3sgO-stand-PST SUB 3sgP-load   PST=REFL-rest
So he put his load down somewhere and took a rest.

Auh in ihcuāc ye      mo-cēhuih-ti-cah, 
and SUB then  already REFL-rest-LIG-be,
And while he was resting,

ō=pēuh-Ø      in  qu-ilnāmiqui  īxquich ī-netolīniliz in  ī-cnotlacayō.
PST-begin-PST SUB 3sgO-consider all     3sgP-misery   SUB 3sgP-poor_person
he started thinking about all the misery of his own poverty.

Auh in  ye      īzqui-pōhual-xihui-tl nemi,
and SUB already so_many-twenty-year-ABS live
And having already lived [for] so many decades,

niman pēuh-Ø    ye      qui-tzahtzi-lia Miquiz-tli.
then  begin-PST already 3sgO-shout-APPL death-ABS
he began to cry out to Death.

Ō=qui-htoh-Ø,    'Iyoh, miquiz-tl=é,  cān=mach       in  ti-nemi?
PST-3sgO-say-PST  woe   death-ABS=VOC where=on_earth SUB 2sgS-live
He said, 'Oh Death, where can you possibly be?

Mā=cuēleh    xi-nēch-pohpolo,  xi-nēch-tlati.
SUBJ=come_on 2sgS-1sgO-destroy 2sgS-1sgO-burn
Come on and destroy me, burn me.

Mā xi-c-cotōna       in  īxquich ah=cual-li   in  ni-qu-ihīyōhuia.
SUBJ 2sgS-3sgO-break SUB all     not=good-ABS SUB 1sgS-3sgO-endure
Put an end to all bad things that I endure.'

Auh in  Miquiz-tli, in  ō=qui-cac-Ø  ī-neellaquahualiz huēhuēn-tō,
and SUB death-ABS  SUB PST=3sgO-PST 3sgP-agitation    old_man-DIM
And Death, hearing the old man's agitation,

niman ī-x-pan      mo-quetza-ti-huetzi-co.
then  3sgP-eyes-on REFL-stand-LIG-fall-come
suddenly came and stood before him.

Qui-tla-htlanih-Ø,     qui-lhuih-Ø,  'Tle  in  ti-c-nequi?
3sgO-something-ask-PST 3sgO-tell-PST  what SUB 2sgS-3sgO-want
He asked him, 'What do you want?

Ca  ō=ni-huāl-lah-Ø.'
IND PST-1sgS-here-go-PST
I have come.'

Auh in huēhuēn-tō   in  ō=qui-tta-c      Miquiz-tli, cencah ō=m-ihzahuih-Ø.
and SUB old_man-DIM SUB PST-3sgO-see-PST death-ABS   very   PST-REFL-astonish
And when the old man saw Death, he was astonished.

Niman qui-lhuih-Ø,  'Ca  ah=tle   ī.
then  3sgO-tell-PST  IND not-what this
Then he said to him, 'It's nothing.

Ca  zan  ni-c-tēmoa     in  mā   oc    achi   nēch-on-tocti-li        no-tlamāmal,
IND just 1sgS-3sgO-seek SUB SUBJ still little 1sgO-there-fortify-APPL 1sgP-load
I just want [someone] to support a little more of my load for me,

in=īc       ihciuh-cā n-on-ahci-z          no-chān.
SUB=thereby hurry-ADV 1sgS-there-reach-FUT 1sgP-home.
so that I can get home quickly.'

In  ī    çāçanil-li tēch-itt-itia:
SUB this fable-ABS  1plO-see-CAUS
This fable teaches us:

Ca  in  miquiz-tli mochi tlāca-tl   ī-x-pam-pa         ēhua, 
IND SUB death-ABS  all   person-ABS 3sgO-eyes-on-wards leave,
Everyone runs from death,

mochi tlāca-tl   qu-īmacaci,
all   person-ABS 3sgO-fear,
everyone fears it,

ī-huān    c=a=oc        tleh cen-tlaman-tli in  cencah tē-cocoh-Ø      in  cencah tē-tonīlih-Ø,
3sgP-with IND-not-still what one-thing-ABS  SUB very   people-hurt-PST SUB very   people-afflict-PST
and what hurt and afflicted people no longer matters,

yeh=ī-ca        ca  tēch-ahx-ilia   in  to-paeca-nemiliz.
it=3sgP-through IND 1plO-reach-APPL SUB 1plP-?-life
because our (?) life stalks us.

(No idea about that last word. The closest thing is <i>tochipahuacanemiliz</i> 'our pure life' which doesn't fit phonologically or semantically.)


  1. Hi,

    I am doing some schoolwork on the fables. I’m struggling with a couple of things in this one. Do you understand how cuacuahui-to works? I understand the suffix “to.” My guess was that the verb was cuahuitl+huia and some sort of reduplication to explain the extra “cuah”, but I cant find any verb “cuauhhuia” that means to obtain firewood. I find the one that means to hit some with a baton. I could aso see a possibility for a reflexive “mocuahhuia” meaning to cover oneself in wood (i.e. to get firewood) but that isn’t the case here.

    I also found yeticihuia a bit inexplicable. I think it’s in the imperfect (yeticihuiya). I thought it could be something like ye-ti-ihcihui, but that makes no sense. The translations I’ve found put it as “the load became very heavy,” but I can’t see how it would mean that.

    The last word is just to-pacca-nemiliz (our joyful life–pacca comes from paqui and is being used in compound.

    I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know your thoughts behind cuacuahuito!

    • I believe cuacuahui derives from an unattested verb *cuahui (cognate with Tohono O’odham ku’ag ‘get firewood’ and similar words in other Pimic languages). Cuahuitl would also derive from the same verb, rather than cuacuahui coming from cuahuitl.

      Ultimately *cuahui and ku’ag probably come from a compound involving PUA *kut ‘firewood’ and some verb.

  2. More on yeticihuia

    I found a translation that says “iba deprisa (he traveled quickly)” which would be taking the verb as ye-ti-ihcihui-ya. Of course it’s a bit weird to say “he became tired and went very quickly” but I think latin has a way of doing something like that, “Let us die and fight!” where the actions are actually reversed in speech so it could be a mark of that.

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