One would have thought Ixkik’ would arrive at her mother-in-law’s home as to a safe haven, once the four great owls had bought her out of Xibalba and set her on the road to the ancestral home of Jun Junajpu and Wuqub Junajpu, where the two brothers Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen lived with Ixmukane their grandmother.  After all, Ixkik’ carried in her womb the last of their progeny, as well as the truth about the fate they had suffered in Xibalba at the hands of the Lords.

But Ixkik’ was met with scorn and disdain from Ixmukane, who was indeed the Grandmother of the Dawn and Dusk, counsellor to the Heart of Heaven and the Creators and Shapers; but here she was only an old woman whose sons had gone away, to their death, and her only joy was the music and things of beauty created by her grandsons, Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen.  They, of course, hated the very sight of Ixkik’.

Ixkik’ presented herself to Ixmukane as her daughter-in-law, and insisted that the children in her womb were the offspring of Jun Junajpu.  She predicted their faces would indeed show that the seed of their fathers was still alive.  Ixmukane, for all her anger, could not entirely dismiss the young woman’s words, and so put her to a test: “Go,” she said, “take this net bag and go to the cornfield, fill it with food for us and bring it back… if you are truly my daughter-in-law, as you say.” 

Ixkik’ obeyed instantly, and made her way willingly to the milpa field where Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen had sown their corn; but on arriving, she saw that there was but one sole mound, out of which was growing one lonely stalk of maize, with only a few ears of tender young corn. 

She cried out in anguish, “Woe unto me, guilty and at fault!  From where will I obtain the netful of food they have asked for?” Then she collected herself, and called upon the four goddesses of the corn. She pulled some strands of silk from the young ears and placed them carefully in the net bag, side by side. 

The bag was instantly filled with ears of corn, ripe and dry for harvesting.  Several animals took up the burden and carried it to the house because Ixkik’ was far advanced in her pregnancy. However, they did not show themselves and left the net bag to one side, so that it would seem like she had carried it herself.

When Ixmukane saw the huge load, she upbraided Ixkik’ and accused her of depleting their food supply, then ran to the field to see what damage had been done.  When she found the lone stalk intact, she realized Ixkik’ was speaking the truth and that the babies she carried were the last of her son Jun Junajpu.  She hurried home and said to the maiden, “This is a sign; you are indeed my daughter-in-law, and I will be watching you.  These, my grandchildren, have shown their power.”   

When her time came, Ixkik’ did not give birth in Ixmukane’s house, but went to the mountains and did everything herself.  When she returned with the babies, a boy she named Junajpu and a girl she called Xbalamke, perhaps because they had been birthed in the wild, or because they were not loved in that home their sleep was never peaceful and they screeched all the time. 

Ixmukane ordered them out, and the older brothers took them and put them on an ant hill.  There they slept peacefully!  Their cruelty frustrated, Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen then threw the babies onto a thorny bush, and they slept peacefully there also.  

Time passed, the children grew, and the older brothers always ignored them, as did their grandmother, who would in fact take the birds that the twins shot every day with their blowpipes and prepare them deliciously, but only for her older grandsons; the young ones ate the leftovers, after the others had eaten.

It’s hard to understand how this happened. Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen were born with great talent and powers of intelligence, and were wonderful artists and players of music; they had, themselves, suffered much as children, great afflictions, but had grown to be wise men and seers, as well as flutists, singers, writers and sculptors. Everything they put their hand to, came to beauty.  They were gifted from birth, and powerful; they knew themselves to be the heirs of their fathers who had gone to Xibalba and died there.  They were wise, their hearts clear.

But envy and jealousy clouded their minds when their young siblings were born, they showed no wisdom and allowed such rancor in their hearts that came to be turned against them. They acted wrongly towards Junajpu and Xbalamke, and that was the cause of their downfall.

Junajpu and Xbalamke, wild and happy in the mountains, spent their days shooting at birds. They were not angry at their brothers, nor resentful, and held their peace because they were aware of their true condition.  Everything was clear to them.

However, they put a plan into motion to bring their brothers down but not destroy them.  “We shall only change their nature.  This is our word, may it be done for all the great suffering they have caused us.  They wanted us to die and disappear, we their little brother and sister.  They treated us like their subjects, and so we will defeat them.  And this is only a sample of all we will do,” they said to each other. 

One day they brought no birds home from their hunting, and Ixmukane scolded them for their negligence.  “Why did you bring no birds?” she questioned sharply.

“Oh, grandmother,” they answered, “all the birds we shot are stuck in a tall tree, much too tall for us to climb.  We need our big brothers to come and help us reach them and bring them down, grandmother dear.” 

“Very well,” said the elder brothers, “we will go with you early tomorrow.”  And so they would be defeated.

The four of them entered the forest together.  The twins right away began shooting with their blowpipes at the countless birds chattering in the high branches, until they came to a tall tree called Q’ante’, full of singing and squawking birds.  Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen were amazed by the immense quantity of them.  Junajpu and Xbalamke shot at many, and hit them, but not one came falling out of the tree. 

“You see, our brothers, what is happening?” they sighed.  “The birds we shoot don’t fall out of the tree!  Please climb up and shake them free.”

“Very well,” said Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen, and started up the tree trunk.  But when they were a ways up, the tree began to grow taller and thicker until it was huge, and the brothers had no way down.  “Help us, please, little brother, little sister,” they called down to Junajpu and Xbalamke, “we can’t climb down from this huge terrifying growing tree!”

The young ones answered, “Just untie your sashes that hold up your pants and tie them around your belly, then stretch the length out behind you like tails.  You’ll get around just fine.”

The older brothers did this, pulling the length of their sashes out behind them; but these suddenly became real tails held up in the air, and the two men took on the appearance of monkeys.  They screeched in dismay and took off into the treetops on the small hills and the high mountains, disappearing into the forest howling and swinging from branches.

Thus were they defeated by Junajpu and Xbalambke, who alone were capable of such a prodigy.

When the twins got home, they said to their grandmother, “A strange thing had happened to our older brothers, they became shameless and ran off like animals.”


Ixmukane questioned them anxiously and said, “My heart will break if anything has happened to my elder grandsons.  I hope you didn’t do them any harm, my young ones, because you will have ruined and finished me.”

“Oh no,” said the twins, “don’t be sad, dear grandmother, you will see their faces again, our older brothers will come home.  But whatever happens you must not laugh, on any account.”

They played a tune on their flutes then, the melody called thereafter Junajpu K’oy.  They sang, played the flute and beat the drum.  While they played, their grandmother went to sit with them and wait. 

Now k’oy means monkey, and that is what came traipsing in through the door, two of them, dancing and cavorting.  When Ixmukane saw them, she burst out laughing at their funny faces and the monkeys ran away.  They scampered back into the forest and could no longer be seen.

“What have you done, grandmother dear?” the twins said, “you must not laugh.  We can only do this four times, and one has been wasted already. We will call them again with our flutes and our songs, but you must hold back and not laugh at them.”

Junajpu and Xbalamke played the melody again, and the two monkeys came back into the courtyard, dancing and capering in such a way that their grandmother burst out laughing again. They truly were funny, the two long-tailed monkeys, and she couldn’t help herself.  They ran off again back to the mountains.

“What can we do, dear grandmother?  Because this will be our third attempt,” said Junajpu and Xbalamke.

They played the flute again, and the monkeys returned dancing.  This time, Ixmukane held back her laughter.  The monkeys climbed up all over the walls and ledges of the house, with their red faces and puckered mouths, their hairy snouts, their faces dirty like no one ever cleaned them.  The grandmother did make an effort, but the sight was too much for her.  She guffawed without restraint and the monkeys disappeared for good.

“Grandmother dear, we told you we could only do this four times: this is the last,” the twins said, and played the melody again.  But the monkeys did not come back.  That fourth time they just went straight away deep into the forest forever.

Junajpu and Xbalamke said, “We did try, granny, and they did come back and we tried to call them again.  But don’t be sad,” they said, comforting her, “we are here, your grandchildren.  Just love our mother, and we will see that you lack for nothing, we will care for you both.”

They added, as an afterthought, “Our older brothers will be remembered.  So be it!  Did they not give way to vanity?  Were they not named Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen, as they would be called?”

And they were called upon in bygone times, by flutists and singers, by the ancient people; also by writers and sculptors of old; but they became animals, they were turned into monkeys because of their arrogance, for mistreating their young siblings.

The same intent on domination that Jun Batz’ and Jun Chowen had in their hearts, came back to annihilate them.  When they disappeared, they became animals and stayed that way forever.