“He was male and female…”


He was male and female, seducer and seduced. He was glutton, he was cuckold, he was weary traveller. He would claw his lizard-feet sideways, then freeze and cock his head. He would lift his lower lid to cover the iris, and flick out his lizard-tongue. He puffed his neck into goitres of rage; and at last, when it was time for him to die, he writhed and wriggled, his movements growing fainter and fainter like the Dying Swan’s.

Then his jaw locked, and that was the end.

The man in blue waved towards the hill and, with the triumphant cadence of someone who has told the best of all possible stories, shouted: ‘That … that is where he is!’

The performance had lasted not more than three minutes.

Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, Londres: Pan Books, 1988, p 117.
Illustration based on a Haida amulet (Great Blue Heron and Human), kept in the Royal British Columbia Museum