The Mirror of Stories: Examinations of Miguel Ángel Asturias’ “Leyenda de la Tatuana” and Ahmet Hilmi’s Awakened Dreams, and a retelling of a myth

Plan Author

  • Avellana Ross, 2019

Fields of Concentration

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Jonathan Pitcher, Bennington College


My Plan is composed of two papers, a short story, and an examination. The first paper is concerned with how stories heal a character called Raji in Ahmet Hilmi’s ​Awakened Dreams, taking away his suffering at the transience of things through changing the way in which he sees the world. The second paper is a criticism of Miguel Ángel Asturias’ adaptation of Mayan sacred text and a secular Mexican legend within the story “Leyenda de la Tatuana” of his ​Leyendas de Guatemala​. The third component is a storybook, about a woman who escapes from the world of death, and a paper that introduces the story and discusses the process of creating it.


In essence, Ahmet Hilmi’s ​Awakened Dreams​ may be read not only as a literary or religious visionary text, but also​ ​as a coherent model of how a fractured vision of reality might be healed through stories. This model can be examined through analysis of the novel and through applying critical perspectives concerning the function of sacred stories. Stories change Raji’s vision of the world through their use of patterns and familiar myths, through their representations of reality and unreality, and through revision of his ideas around nothingness.

Each of the legends in ​Leyendas de Guatemala​ builds upon a number of different sources, mainly the religious traditions and the secular folklore of the former Maya regions of Guatemala and Mexico. These are present to a different extent in each legend, but there is a constant tension between these braided strands that is held throughout the novel. If “Leyenda del volcán” seems to take place in the mythic time of the religious sources, “Leyenda del tesoro del lugar florido” is almost completely fixed in the secular or historical time. However, “Leyenda de La Tatuana,” with two main sources, moves between sacred and secular time at different points in the narrative.

Debajo de los bosques, debajo de los ríos, debajo de la tierra, vivían los señores de Xibalbá. Ellos eran los señores de las sombras, de la sangre y del pudrimiento. Si no hubiera pudrimiento, las flores no hubieran podido crecer. Si no hubiera sangre, los cuerpos no hubieran podido crecer. Si no hubiera sombras, no podríamos ver a dónde vamos. Según los maya, había una temporada para las sombras y para el pudrimiento, pero la temporada que le sigue es de luz y de semillas que brotan.


My best memory is laughing with my Plan sponsors and reading aloud parts of the novels. I also liked reading for a long while, then getting up and taking a long walk, then writing a sentence or two.

The inspiration for my Plan was simply the stories that I read as a child and their endless ocean of meanings that stayed with me all these years, combined with a long time of dipping my toes into the pools of classics, religious studies, literature, botany, chemistry, languages, and so many other things. The skills of empathy, imagination, and looking closely for deeper meaning, which I tried to cultivate in my Plan work, will help me in whatever work I do after this.