Ghosts of the World: El Tunche

22nd July 2022. Reading Time: 4 minutes General, Ghosts Of The World. 1293 page views. 0 comments.

Many cultures from different countries have different myths/folklores or spirits to fear or worship. This short series looks at the different ghosts from around the World! Today's ghost is El Tunche

Many cultures from different countries have different myths/folklores or spirits to fear or worship. This short series looks at the different ghosts from around the World! Today's ghost is the El Tunche.

So a little confession when it comes to this edition of Ghosts of the World.  If you notice my surname - Chumacero,  you will find it is Peruvian.  While I am Australian with a mostly British background, my husband's father is Peruvian.  I specifically wanted to explore Peruvian folklore and include something for the ghost of the world series.  My husband used to tell me his Dad would often tell him stories about duendes which are golblin/elf type creatures that were used as cautionary tales to make children behave.  I didn't really feel a duende fit in with the theme of Ghosts of the World, so I went searching deeper coming across El Tunche.

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El Tunche

Many people visit Peru for some of the iconic sites like Machu Picchu an Incan citade that sits high on the top in the Andes mountains.  Many consider it to be a very spiritual experience.  Peru also the birthplace of the Amazon river and rainforest.  The area is largely untouched, containing a large concentration of wildlife and flora in the vast protected area of Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.  The Amazon rainforest is said to hold many creatures, not all of them living.  There are many legends and supernatural beings said to hide deep within, the most well known being el Tunche.

Tunche, is an indigenous expression meaning 'fear'.  It is said to roam the jungle at night protecting nature as a lost soul condemned to walk around the same paths he walked when he was alive. He is said to collect the souls of people who died in the rainforest or takes the life of those who harm it.  In the version of the tale, many believe it was often told to Children and tourists to teach them to respect nature and to keep the rainforest intact.  Others say El Tunche can take the form of a loved one in order to get close to their victim.  The only way to distinguish the creature is to look at his goat-like feet suggesting he is seen as a form of a demon. Many recognise El Tunche by his whistle.  Those who have escaped say the whistle gets louder as he approaches while others say the whistle is a trap intending to get you to whistle back in order to give away your location. 

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There are lots of videos on Youtube with experiences and tales with El Tunche, the only problem is they are mainly in Spanish!  It seems even El Tunche has not escaped the grasp of the bright lights with many films being made based on these very tales.  While exploring the origins of El Tunche, it seems very much that it began as a cautionary tale as mentioned above to teach people to protect and respect the forest.  The protector was soon demonised by fictional movies, books, stories and even campfire tales where it evolved from protector to demon.  No matter what the story is, if you are by chance in the Amazon at night (something I really wouldn't recommend in the first place) if you hear a whistle .... run!

It does bring up another interesting aspect of ghost stories.  While we have spoken throughout the series about the influence pop culture has on these tales, it seems many began in the first place to act as a cautionary tale to get children to behave or even to influence people to act a certain way.  It often includes a dangerous outcome and has a lesson to be learned.  Perhaps this is why the word story is so important when it comes to ghost story.  It has all the elements for a good tale, including the lesson to be learned.  Although many don't have a happy ending. The most popular cautionary tale is that of Heinrich Hoffmann's Der Struwwelpeter, published in German in 1845 and then later in English in 1848. Hoffmann wrote it as a Christmas present for his young son after being disappointed by the overly moralizing and heavy-handed offerings in the Frankfurt bookstores.  I suppose it is a reminder that be it a ghost story or cautionary tale, they all have an origin and a reason for their creation.  Be it to entertain or scare, they have done their job for centuries.  It seems over time though, the stories change, evolve and integrate their way into our modern society.  They will likely continue to do so.  What will El Tunche be in another 100 years?  Perhaps the tales of El Tunche will start making waves again as the topic of preserving nature and in particular, rainforests is more important than ever.  The question is, will a ghostly cautionary tale be enough to save it?

Check out more articles from the Ghosts of The World series:

Ghosts of the World: Draugr

Ghosts of the World: Onryō

Ghosts of the World: Banshee


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