Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Smoothing the Ground: Essays on Native American Oral Literature


One of the basic problems of working with Pre-Columbian literary comparisons is the irreparable loss of so much material. Extensive transcribed fragments of Nahuatl pre-conquest literature do exist, but there are, as far as we know, no extant Pueblo manuscripts of corresponding age. There are, however, the narrative myth bowls which illustrated the prevailing Pre-Columbian Pueblo myths. 1 While it is a commonplace that the sixteenth century burning of the ancient Aztec and Mayan books was disastrous, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the breakage of ancient Pueblo pottery by twentieth century treasure hunters (who use bulldozers) is equally disastrous to comparative studies of Pre-Columbian culture. We still do have some comparable literary fragments from both the northern and the southern cultures, and through them we can draw some parallels between the surviving Mesoamerican literature (recorded by Spanish churchmen in the sixteenth century) and the surviving Pueblo literature (recorded by American anthropologists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries).

Book Publisher

Berkeley: University of California Press

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Book Editor(s)

Brian Swann

Published Citation

Carr, P., & Gingerich, W. (1983). The vagina dentata motif in Nahuatl and Pueblo mythic narratives: A comparative study. Smoothing the ground: Essays on Native American oral literature, 187-203.