How the People Obtained Fire
And they did not have fire. Only the people of Tohil had it. He was the god of the tribes which first created fire. It is not known how it was made, because it was already burning when Balam-Quitzé and Balam-Acab saw it.
“Ah, we have no fire yet! We shall die of cold,” they said. Then Tohil said to them: “Do not worry! Yours shall be the lost fire which is talked of. Yours shall be what is spoken of as lost fire,” Tohil said to them.
“Really? Oh, God, our support, our maintenance, thou, our God!” they said, returning thanks.
And Tohil answered: “Very well, certainly I am your God; so shall it be! I am your Lord; so let it be!” Thus it was told to the priests and sacrificers by Tohil. And in this manner the tribes received fire and they were joyful because of it.
Instantly a great shower began to fall when the fire of the tribes was burning. Much hail fell on all the tribes and the fire was put out because of it, and again the fire was extinguished.
Then Balam-Quitzé and Balam-Acab again asked Tohil for fire. “Oh, Tohil, we are truly dying of cold!” they said to Tohil.
“Very well, do not worry,” Tohil answered, and instantly he made fire, turning about in his shoe.
Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam were at once happy and immediately they became warm.
Now, the fire of the peoples [of Vucamag] had also gone out and they were dying of cold. immediately they came to ask Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam for fire. They could no longer bear the cold nor the ice; they were shivering and their teeth were chattering; they were numb; their legs and hands shook and they could not hold anything in them, when they came.
“We are not ashamed to come before you, to beg for a little of your fire,” they said. But they were not well received. And then the tribes were very sad.
“The speech of Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam is different! Oh! We have given up our speech! What have we done? We are lost. How were we deceived? We had only one speech when we arrived there at Tulán; we were created and educated in the same way. It is not good what we have done,” said all the tribes under the trees, under the vines.
Then a man came before Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam and [this man], who was a messenger of Xibalba, spoke thus: “This is, in truth, your God; this is your support; this is, furthermore, the representation, the memory of your Creator and Maker. Do not give your fire to the tribes until they present offerings to Tohil. It is not necessary that they give anything to you. Ask Tohil what they should give when they come to receive fire,” said the man from Xibalba. He had wings like the wings of a bat. “I am sent by your Creator, your Maker,” said the man of Xibalba.
They were filled with joy then, and Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz were also gladdened when the man from Xibalba spoke, who disappeared instantly from their presence.
But the tribes did not perish when they came, although they were dying of cold. There was much hail, black rain and mist, and indescribable cold.
All the tribes were trembling and shivering with cold when they came where Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam were. Their hearts were greatly troubled and their mouths and eyes were sad.
In a moment the beggars came before Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui- Balam and said: “Will you not have pity on us, we only ask a little of your fire? Perchance, were we not [once] together and reunited? Did we not have the same home and one country when we were created, when we were made? Have mercy, then, on us!” they said.
“What will you give us so that we shall have mercy on you?” they were asked. “Well, then, we shall give you money,” the tribes answered. “We do not want money,” said Balam-Quitzé and Balam-Acab. “And what do you want?” [asked the tribes].
“We shall ask now” [said Balam-Quitzé].
“Very well, “said the tribes.
“We shall ask Tohil and then we shall tell you,” they answered.
“What must the tribes give, oh, Tohil! who have come to ask for your fire?” said Balam- Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam.
“Well! Are they willing to give their waist and their armpits? Do they want me to embrace them? For if they do not want to do that, neither shall I give them fire,” answered Tohil.
“Tell them that this shall come later, that they do not have to come now to give me their waist and their armpits. This is what Tohil orders us to tell you, you will say.” This was the answer to Balam-Quitzé, Balam-Acab, Mahucutah, and Iqui-Balam.
Then they took Tohil’s message. “Very well, we shall join you and we shall embrace him,” they [the people] said when they heard and were told the message from Tohil. And they did not delay in acting. “Good,” they said, “but may it be soon!” And immediately they received the fire. Then they became warm….
The Cakchiquel did not ask for the fire, because they did not want to give themselves up to be overcome, the way that the other tribes had been overcome when they offered their breasts and their armpits so that they would be opened. And this was the opening [of the breasts] about which Tohil had spoken; that they should sacrifice all the tribes before him, that they should tear out their hearts from their breasts.…
[#6] The Book of the People: Popul Vuh tr. Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley, and Adrián Recino. (Los Angeles: Plantin Press, 1954), Part II chapters 12, 13, 14; Part III, chapters 5, 6. Available online at sacred-texts.org.