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Aztec's ballgame

  1. 1. Quetzalcoatl, the priest, gathered the children around the fire. He told them a story of the old, old days of his ancestors, Quetzalcoatl, the god. He told them first that Quezalcoatl often took the form of a feathered serpent or bird-snake and that he once fought with Tlaloc to determine who was the mightiest of all gods. This is the story that he told…
  2. 2. Dicen que (they say that) long ago there were a great quarrel between Tlaloc, the rain god, and Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. “I am the strongest of the gods,” thundered Tlaloc. “No,” said Quetzalcoatl in a most reasonable manner, “I am the mightiest of them all.”
  3. 3. “I will prove to you how strong I am,” Tlaloc boomed back in his loudest voice. “I will bring thunder and lightning and rain in the most dreadful storm the people of the earth have ever seen.”
  4. 4. “It is not right to harm the people of the earth,” said Quetzalcoatl in a quiet voice. “Surely we can think of another way to prove who is the mightiest.”
  5. 5. “All right then,” Tlaloc answered. “Instead of sending a storm, you and I will go to war.” No, Tlaloc!” Quetzalcoatl said firmly. “Let us challenge each other to a show of strength.” “What do you mean?” challenged Tlaloc. “My army will show my strength. We will have a great battle. You will be conquered, Quetzalcoatl.”
  6. 6. “We can settle this without fighting, Tlaloc,” Quetzalcoatl offered. “We will play a game. A game with a rubber ball.”
  7. 7. So Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc agreed that the winner of the ball game would be declared the mightiest of the gods.
  8. 8. The people of the earth went about building a huge ball court made of stone. They polished the floor, decorated the walls, and painted a line across the center of the court. They built many seats for the spectators. In the middle of each wall, they fixed two large stones facing one another across the open court. And in the center of each stone was a hole barely large enough for a small ball to pass through.
  9. 9. Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc agreed on the rules.  They would play the game from sunrise to sunset. The god who had the most points when the sun went down would be the winner. A god would score a point if the ball crossed the centerline and touched the other god’s court. A god could not use his hands to touch the ball. If a god were skillful enough to get a ball through the stone hoop, he would immediately be declared the winner.
  10. 10. At long last, it was the day of the game. It was early morning and already many lords and nobles were seated in the stands.
  11. 11. Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc each dressed in their protective playing gear. They put on heavy deerskin belts. They wore leather gloves to protect their hands and leather pads to protect their knees. The gods each formed a team on opposite sides of the court to stop the hard rubber ball from going out of bounds.
  12. 12. Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl faced each other in the center of the court. When the ball was tossed in the air, Quetzalcoatl rushed forward and hit it with his hip.
  13. 13. Tlaloc raced to the ball and returned it with his knee. The ball hit the ground on Quetzalcoatl’s side of the court. Tlaloc had scored a point. The two gods ran back and forth and up and down. The ball struck Tlaloc and almost knocked him over. Two of his team members rushed to his side.
  14. 14. Quetzalcoatl was hit and knocked against the wall.
  15. 15. The game went on and on all day long. People cheered and people groaned.
  16. 16. The sun was about to travel to the underworld of darkness. Tlaloc had scored fifty- two points. Quetzalcoatl had fifty. Tlaloc sent one final, powerful ball lying straight at Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl quickly stepped aside and slammed the ball with his strong, right knee.
  17. 17. The ball rose magnificently into the air and sailed directly through the stone hoop. The crowd gasped, then roared. Quetzalcoatl had won the game.
  18. 18. Tlaloc and his team bowed to Quetzalcoatl. “You are the mightiest of the gods, Quetzalcoatl,” they said. “We will now give you the greatest prize of all. You may have our gift of maíz (corn).
  19. 19. Quetzalcoatl thought about this for a moment, then said, “As the mightiest of the gods, I don’t want to take corn away from your people and make them hungry. I’ll take instead green jade from the mountains and quetzal feathers from the rare bird in the jungle cloud forests.”
  20. 20. Tlaloc was surprised, but very happy to grant what he considered to be Quetzalcoatl’s foolish wish. Tlaloc kept the maíz, gloating all the while. “The green leaves of corn are much more precious than jade or the green feathers of the quetzal bird. And the ripe kernels of corn will satisfy many hungry people. I will grind the maíz for my tamales and wrap them in the corn leaves. I have kept the real prize!”
  21. 21. The people of the earth are still wondering who really won the best prize that day. If they start to quarrel, will they settle their differences with a ball game?
  22. 22. Preguntas de comprensión: Prepárate conversar de estas preguntas 1. ¿Por qué jugaron el partido? 2. Describe la cancha (court) del partido. 3. ¿Cuáles fueron las reglas? 4. ¿Quién ganó? ¿Cuántos puntos tuvo antes de ganar? 5. ¿Qué recibió por premio? ¿Qué aceptó como premio?
  23. 23. Additional Aztec aspects to investigate in more depth…. • gods – Tlaloc – Quetzalcoatl – others • tlatchli – Ball court – Rules/objective – Who played – hoop • Jade • Obsidion • Corn • Feathers

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