folklore and legends

The Tale of the Golden Bull and the Lost Calf

The Golden Bull

The anniversary of the town of Vilcabamba found me there, the 16th of November. Every year on this date they put up a small fair where all the town gathers.

While eating an exquisite chicken soup under a tent in the town’s small plaza, I met Claudio, a gentleman from Vilcabamba, who was 47 years old.  It was a chilly morning. Suddenly I overheard the lady who had sold us the soups speaking about a golden bull. With a small laugh on her her face she said that without doubt, whoever grabs the golden bull will never have to work again.

Her words made me curious. They were like the fragrant scent of her soup so I asked her about the golden bull. 

Claudio spoke Spanish very well and that surprised me a bit. Most people in Vilcabamba speak more Quechua than Spanish. He told me one night, from his fields in the middle of the valley, he had seen a robust bull of golden color running along the edge of the river, clearly shining. I should have followed it and covered it with my poncho he said with sadness.

“Why”, I asked him. He said “in the countryside or in places where globalization has not hit the Pachamama (Lady Earth) shows some people, not all, her kindness. She puts in our path animals, whether mice, toads, or serpents who are golden in color and faster than normal but who once you cover them with a cloth become stiff and convert to gold.”

I was fascinated with what he said. 

In the town of Vilcabamba there is a story told among the inhabitants about a wild golden colored bull. They say that he runs around freely at night bellowing in the dark. He is looking to mute with the strongest and largest cows.

He only appears rarely, roaming through the herds of communities near the town where there is no electricity. People talk but no one has yet been able to grab him. They say he is very fast and she you feel like you will surely get him he looses you amongst the bushes in the dark without leaving a trail. 

Claudio also told me that he was not the only person in his family who had seen this bull. The bull showed himself several times to Claudio’s uncle. He had tried to capture the bull to no avail. The bull only let Claudio’s uncle see him and not his wife or his children. “My uncle also told me that one of his cows was pregnant.  He saw no apparent difference from other times.  Everything seemed normal. It was only that his flock became more fertile and productive than before.

Sheep Grazing in a Field (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Sheep Grazing in a Field (Walter Coraza Morveli)

“Cattle, sheep, mares, and even his chickens, most of them female, became pregnant. He did not now how to explain to his neighbors what was going on with his animals. Every animal in his flocks seemed filled with life. As the young calf grew all the corral seemed fuller and he had to expand it.

My uncle had the custom of taking his animals to the canyons in the hills by the river so that it would be easier to catch them and bring them home.”

The uncle did not count the new born animals since counting them, according to rural people in Vilcabamba, brings bad luck.

For a while everything went well. All was flourishing, uncle he realized that the calf without a tail had gone missing without leaving a trace. Claudio’s uncle went looking for it for two whole weeks. He asked his neighbors if they had seen the tailless calf.

Losing hope of finding it, his uncle returned home to have a cup of coffee while thinking about what had happened. “Why didn’t I show the calf to my neighbors.  Now no one believes me. After weighing everything he came to the conclusion that the calf was the child of the golden bull since it had disappeared without leaving a trace just like the bull.  It did not give him gold but made his flocks flourish.  

People in the countryside are superstitious and have many stories like the one of the bull that brought fertility to Claudio’s uncle’s flocks.

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