Magellan’s Voyage

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Know that it chanced that there had been no rain for two months before we came thither, and the day when we arrived the rain began, so that the people of the place said that we came from heaven and had brought the rain with us. Which was a great simplicity. And certainly these people would be easily converted to the Christian faith.

Besides the above-mentioned things (betraying their simplicity) the people of this place showed us another very simple thing. For they thought that the small boats of the ships were the children of the ships, and that the said ships gave birth to them when the boats were lowered to send the men hither and yon. And when the boats were lying alongside a ship, they thought that the ships were suckling them.

A beautiful young girl came one day on board our captain’s ship, in which I was, and for no purpose than to seek her fortune. Meanwhile she raised her eyes toward the master’s cabin, where she saw a nail of a finger’s length, which she took and merrily hid it, as something great and new, within her privy parts, and straightway ran off bending forward. And the captain and I saw this mystery.…

Of the Canibali who ate a captain

We tarried thirteen days in this land of Verzin, and departing thence and pursuing our way we went to thirty-four and one third degrees toward the Antarctic Pole. There we found beside a river men of the kind called Canibali , who eat human flesh.…

In the said river were seven small islands, in the largest of which precious stones are found. Which place was formerly named Cape St. Mary, and it was thought that one passed thence to the sea of Sur [i.e., the South Sea, or Pacific Ocean], and nothing more was ever discovered.

It is not known that any ships have passed beyond the said cape. And now it is no longer a cape, but a river [the Rio de la Plata] seventeen leagues in width at its mouth, where it enters the sea.

In time past [actually in the year 1516] these tall men called Canibali , in this river, ate a Spanish captain named Juan de Solis [pilot-major of Spain] and sixty men who had gone, as we did, to discover land, trusting too much in them.…

Departing thence to forty-nine and a half degrees toward the Antarctic Pole, because it was winter, we entered a port to pass the winter, where we remained two whole months without ever seeing anyone. But one day (without anyone expecting it) we saw a giant who was on the shore, quite naked, and who danced, leaped, and sang, and while he sang he threw sand and dust on his head. Our captain sent one of his men toward him, charging him to leap and sing like the other in order to reassure him and show him friendship. Which he did.

Immediately the man of the ship, dancing, led this giant to a small island where the captain awaited him. And when he was before us, he began to marvel and to be afraid, and he raised one finger upward, believing that we came from heaven. And he was so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist. [One contemporary account puts the height of these Patagonian “giants” at “ten spans,” or seven feet, six inches.] Withal he was well proportioned. He had a very large face, painted round with red, and his eyes also were painted round with yellow, and in the middle of his cheeks he had two hearts painted. He had hardly any hairs on his head, and they were painted white.

When he was brought to the captain, he was clad in the skin of a certain animal [the guanaco, related to the llama], which skin was very skillfully sewn together.…

The captain caused the giant to be given food and drink, then he showed him other things, among them a steel mirror. Wherein the giant seeing himself was greatly terrified, leaping back so that he threw four of our men to the ground. After that the captain gave him two bells, a mirror, a comb, and a chaplet of paternosters, and sent him back on shore, causing him to be accompanied by four armed men.

One of the giant’s companions, who would never come to the ship, seeing the other return with our men, advanced and ran before to the place where the other giants. lived… Whereupon our men made signs to them that they should come to the ships, and that they would help them to carry their provisions.

Then these men came, bearing only their bows in their hands. But their wives came after them loaded like asses and carrying their goods. And the women are not so tall as the men, but somewhat fatter.

When we saw them, we were all terrified and astonished. For they had teats half a cubit [about nine inches] long, and they were painted on the face and clad like the men. But they wore a small skin in front to cover their private parts. They brought with them four of those little animals of which they make their clothing, and led them on a leash with a cord.… Six days later, our men going to cut wood saw another giant, painted in the face and clad like the others, who had in his hand a bow and arrows… The captain-general … sent to fetch him in his ship’s boat, and took him to one of the small islands in the port where his ships lay.…

This giant was of better disposition than the others, and was very graceful and amiable, loving to dance and leap. And when dancing he depressed the earth to a palm’s depth in the spot where his feet touched. He was with us for a long time, and in the end we baptized him, naming him John.…