MONSTER OF THE WEEK: The Cherufe

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The Cherufe is a monster I’ve been dying to work into my own writing for a while now. Hailing from Chile, it originates in the mythology of the Maupche people of the region. Chile has a string of volcanoes in its mountains, and wherever there are forces of nature as powerful as volcanoes, myths will invariably spring up around them, and the Cherufe is a great one.

According to the myth, the Cherufe was a hideous monster composed of living lava. You’ve probably heard the age-old clichĂ© about virgin sacrifices to volcanoes before. Well, you can blame the Cheurfe for that. He lived inside volcanoes, and if he was not appeased with the sacrifice of a virgin girl, he’d cause the volcano to erupt, destroying any local villages. Eventually, the Sun God armed his two daughter with swords of ice, and sent them to stop the Cherufe’s rampages. Once stabbed with these weapons, the Cherufe began to cool and harden, and the volcano he lived in became dormant. He would shake and writhe in his prison, though, sometimes causing minor eruptions.

This story is a creation myth, set in the long distant past, mainly revolving around gods and monsters. A version of it would make a nice bit of background or window dressing for any story, but there are some ways you could bring the Cherufe more to the forefront of a story.

For example, the Cherufe was often thought to vent his wrath by sending burning igneous rocks arcing out of his volcano, to crash to earth miles away and set things on fire. Sometimes the Cherufe himself was stated to appear as a great ball of fire flying through air. Similarly, the Cherufe was sometimes blamed for shooting stars and meteorites. In other cases, these fiery missiles were a gruesome mockery, as the Cherufe would spit the burning heads of his victims out of the volcano’s caldera, so that they would land back in the village they came from. At any rate, local folklore says that if you find one of these Cherufe stones, you should keep it, as they make potent magical charms and protections. Bolas made with Cherufe stones in the weighted ends were supposed to never miss once thrown. These little details are a great way to breathe life into a setting or culture, and you could easily base a story around someone finding these magical objects.

The more obvious way to bring the Cherufe into a story is to have somebody release it. Imprisoned evils being released is old hat, I know, but there’s something elementally powerful about the thought of a wayward traveler stumbling across an ancient lava field with two pale, glowing swords embedded in the ground at its heart, just waiting to be pulled free.

All in all, the Cherufe is a fun monster. While monsters comprised of lava are quite popular in fiction, they don’t actually crop up that often in mythology, though there certainly are a few volcano gods. The Cherufe is an exception, and his folklore and myth could be wonderful additions to a story, whether it’s set in the past, the modern day, or even in some fictional world.

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