Yassí Yateré


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Lush forests surround Iguazú Falls in the province of Misiones, Argentina

Myths and legends exist in nearly every culture. They are stories, often interwoven with fantastic characters or events that explain the way a culture sees the world or how a part of the world came to be. Sometimes a mythical story conveys a moral lesson to the reader, in which case it may also be referred to as a parable.

Learning about a country’s myths and legends can offer insight into its culture, history, and even geography. As you read the following story that originated in Argentina’s northeastern provinces of Misiones and Corrientes, pay attention to details that, once examined, might lead you to learn new things about Argentina’s culture.

The legend of the Yassí Yateré has been passed down from generation to generation since the time when the Guaraní people inhabited the semitropical forests of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Mothers tell their children of a mythical creature, the Yassí Yateré, as a way to discourage them from straying away at night.

No bigger than a child, the Yassí Yateré carries a magical golden cane and wears a straw hat that covers his wiry, silver hair. During siesta time, the he walks the forests, whistling a hypnotic tune that lures wandering children to him. Once he has them under his spell, the Yassí Yateré leads the children into the deep forest, where he plays games and feeds them fruit and honey. The only way to escape his spell is to take away his golden cane, thus removing all his magical powers and rendering him harmless. According to legend, this can be very difficult, and few have ever succeeded. Most captives must wait until the Yassí Yateré tires of their company and abandons them in the depths of the forest.

The abandoned children, now free of the Yassí Yateré’s enchantment, are disoriented and do not know the way home. They must rely on their parents to find and rescue them. The legend goes on to say that once they return home, some children come down with a mysterious illness that only time can cure.

Explore More

1. To practice reading in Spanish, find another myth, parable, or fairy tale from a Hispanic culture. After you’ve read it several times, try telling the story to your Spanish class. You may even want to present the story with visuals in a slideshow presentation.

2. Find out more about the history of the Guaraní, the indigenous culture that originated the myth of the Yassí Yateré. Where did they use to live? Do they still exist today? If so, where? In what ways does their culture influence people today?


Share What You Know:

1. What myths or parables do you remember from your childhood?

2. What was the lesson the myth or parable taught?

3. Why do you think Argentine parents might tell their children the legend of the Yassí Yateré?

4. The legend tells of the Yassí Yateré’s magical whistle. What do you think might actually be the source of this sound in the forest?